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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9801


Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (09:55): Like Senator Di Natale, I wasn't intending on making a contribution, but I've got to call out that last contribution for the poppycock that it was—absolute hypocrisy itself from the Leader of the Greens. We've got a situation where Senator Di Natale is saying everybody is acting with integrity except for members of the government that he opposes—oh, and except for this other bloke called Mr Feeney, who the Greens almost certainly will be running a candidate against in any subsequent by-election. It is all for political purposes. To everybody up there listening, to everybody watching, it's all theatre for Senator Di Natale. It's got nothing to do with integrity, nothing to do with what should happen and what is the right thing to do—it's all a political opportunity that the Greens now see in the seat of Batman.

All power to you, Senator Di Natale, and good luck down there in Melbourne if it comes off. But, I must say, your two classes, or your two buckets, don't make any sense either. Here in the Nationals party, when we found out we referred ourselves. Senator Gallagher will go to the High Court now, and that is the right and proper course of action, but let's be very clear that Senator Gallagher apparently became aware that she had issues with her citizenship in April last year, while she sat as a senator, and did absolutely nothing about it. She complains about the time taken by the British bureaucracy to get back to her. If she had done what we did in the Nationals party and had a press conference and told the world about it, I bet you the British bureaucracy would have come back a bit quicker than 118 days. They would have, because she was a sitting senator and they would have acted. But she did not do that. The facts will be established by the High Court—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Canavan, please resume your seat. Order on my left.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Carr. I am having trouble hearing the minister.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: There will opportunities for others to participate in this debate. Until there is silence I am not going to let this debate continue. This is a matter of some importance to the Senate. Could that be kept in mind as we conduct the debate? Senator Wong, there are matters subject to debate and people have an opportunity to participate in those on all sides of the chamber. Senator Canavan.

Senator CANAVAN: Thank you, Mr President. The record shows that, when any of the Nationals members or senators have been caught up in these issues, as soon as that information has come to light—

Senator Wong: That's a lie. That's a lie.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, on a point of order. Senator Wong should withdraw that interjection that Senator Canavan has told a lie. I was hoping that this debate, given the seriousness of it, would be conducted with decorum and courtesy. All of the interjections have come from the other side.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on the point of order: the assertion that Nationals senators immediately disclosed is a lie. It is a lie. And Senator Nash's evidence and the evidence before the High Court demonstrates that.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, that is a debating point. I didn't hear the interjection Senator Brandis referred to.

Senator Wong: I said it was a lie when he asserted that all Nationals disclosed as soon as they knew. That has been demonstrated in the evidence before the High Court, including the evidence in relation to his case.

Government senators interjecting

Senator Wong: And I too wish for some decorum—you should control your senators, Senator Brandis. I will take your ruling, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: I didn't hear the exact words that were used. What were the exact words used?

Senator Wong: If you wish me to withdraw the word 'lie', if it assists the chamber I will do so.

The PRESIDENT: Yes, that would assist the chamber greatly. Thank you, Senator Wong. And I will ask senators, if they wish to say something in this debate, to cease interjecting and to take the opportunity to participate. This is a matter of some gravity and standing of the Senate, and if we could conduct ourselves accordingly, that would be helpful.

Senator CANAVAN: It is a matter of record that as soon as the Nationals senators and member became aware of the legal advice on their situations, they did come clean. We all in this place have decisions to make, and it's easy to make the right decision when the consequences are good for you. It is much more difficult to make the right decision when the consequences could be bad. What we have seen from the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party is that they have run a protection racket for their members and senators, because to do otherwise would potentially have bad consequences for their political circumstances. Now, tough decisions have been made by the government—to go to a by-election in a place like Bennelong, where we could lose our majority. But it was the right decision. And it is now incumbent on everybody, now that the High Court has clarified this situation—the law is clear—to do the right thing. It may mean that people lose jobs. It may mean that governments or oppositions see changes in the power balance in this place. But the right thing is to refer any matters to the High Court and to clear it up.

We in this place have tried to do that. There have been difficult circumstances for the government. But instead of trying to clarify the situation for the Australian people, instead of providing certainty for this parliament as soon as possible, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party have played political games, not delivered what is in the national interest, which is to clear up this area of law. Now that this referral has taken place, it will be an opportunity to get to the bottom of it. And perhaps the legal advice the Labor Party has received will prevail. But that is a matter for the High Court now. That is a matter for the appropriate body to determine, and the sooner that can happen the better, so we can get back onto the job we are here to do for the Australian people.