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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 37

Members of Parliament: Conduct


Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:53): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Yesterday, during question time, the Prime Minister said that the government whip would handle complaints about bullying and intimidation within the government's ranks, but today Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi has said, 'The Prime Minister has taken up the issue.' Does the Prime Minister stand by his answer in question time yesterday or has the Prime Minister finally accepted responsibility for investigating the bullying and intimidation within his own government?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:54): Of course the Prime Minister stands by his answer yesterday, but of course the Prime Minister also recognises that the buck stops with him. Of course he cares for all of his colleagues and of course he engages with all of his colleagues, which is entirely appropriate. So I don't think there is any inconsistency between what Senator McAllister referenced the Prime Minister saying yesterday and Senator Gichuhi's statements today.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a supplementary question?



Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:54): Did Senator Gichuhi identify those responsible for bullying and intimidation? If so, will the Prime Minister make them accountable to this parliament and the people of Australia by naming them?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:55): Senator Gichuhi is a great friend and valued colleague. The Prime Minister, myself and others of course engage with Senator Gichuhi and all of our colleagues on a regular basis. These are private conversations that we will not be speaking about. We're not going to start putting private conversations on the floor of the Senate. But every individual senator, of course, is able to express their views in relation to their own circumstances as they see fit.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a final supplementary question?



Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:55): When asked today whether bullying goes on in the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister responded, 'No, I don't believe so.' Is the Prime Minister seriously telling the female MPs in the government, including the member for Curtin and the Minister for Women, that the bullying they say they have been exposed to did not occur?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:55): I addressed these issues in some detail yesterday. As I indicated yesterday, there is never, ever a place for bullying in any workplace. We do work in a particular workplace, where exchanges of views and seeking to convince each other of the merits of our arguments on policy and personnel is part of our core business. From time to time we go through difficult periods. The Labor Party has gone through difficult periods throughout its history, we've gone through some more challenging periods throughout our history and I suspect that the same will be the case in the future. So, what I would suggest to Senator McAllister and others who are trying to opportunistically deal with these issues right now—those in glass houses—

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister on a point of order?

Senator McAllister: It goes to direct relevance. I'm asking whether the Prime Minister is telling MPs that the bullying they've been exposed to did not occur, and Senator Cormann is yet to really respond to that question.

The PRESIDENT: I cannot instruct the minister on how to answer the question. I am listening carefully. I do believe he is being directly relevant to the question, but I will continue to listen carefully.

Senator CORMANN: The Prime Minister has made clear, I've made clear and many senior colleagues have made clear that there's absolutely no place for bullying in any workplace—not in ours, not in others. There is of course a place for us to engage in debate in relation to the issues in relation to matters of policy— (Time expired)