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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10068

Donations to Political Parties


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:12): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. In announcing his government's very long overdue reforms to political donations, the Prime Minister said that they would 'strengthen our democracy'. I refer to the minister, who, when asked about the Prime Minister's still undisclosed $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party just prior to the last election, said, 'I am sure the Prime Minister is compliant with all his obligations.' Can the minister confirm on what date the declaration was made?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): I don't know the precise date, Senator Farrell, but I can assure you, as I assured you earlier in the week, that the Prime Minister has made, or will make, his disclosures consistently with his obligations and in a timely fashion, as required by the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I will call Senator Farrell when there's order. Senator Farrell, on a supplementary question.



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:13): Labor, the Greens and the members of the crossbench have all introduced legislation to ban foreign donations. Why is the government the last to act?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:14): Senator Farrell, the government has introduced, as you acknowledge, legislation to ban foreign donations. It is the government's legislation that will be submitted for the deliberation of this chamber next year, and I trust it will pass with the support of the Labor Party. Later this afternoon after Senator Cormann introduces the foreign donations bill to the Senate, I will be referring it, along with the foreign interference laws to be introduced by the Prime Minister in the other place, to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which will review those laws over the summer so that it can come back with its recommendations early next year. As has been the case with other national security legislation over the last several years, we will be guided by and we will pay close and respectful heed to the views of the PJCIS. At that point, the Labor Party can make a constructive contribution.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Farrell?



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:15): Given the Prime Minister, through his merchant bank, Turnbull & Partners, has made his millions in locations such as Siberia, the Solomon Islands—

Senator Jacinta Collins: Siberia?

Senator FARRELL: Yes, Siberia—and the Cayman Islands, does this qualify the Prime Minister's donations as a foreign donation?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I will call you when there is some order, Senator Brandis. Order, Senator Carr, Senator Cameron, Senator Cormann and Senator Fifield.





Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): Honestly, Senator Farrell, I'm disappointed with you, too. I mean, seriously! You disappoint me, Senator Farrell. What an asinine question. Because an Australian citizen, the Prime Minister of Australia—who, by the way, traces his lineage back to the First Fleet—has been a successful businessman and has earned money both in Australia and in various foreign countries, it is somehow a foreign donor? Senator Farrell, you can do a lot better than that.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: A point of order, Senator Cormann?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Can we at the least have silence for points of order?

Senator Cormann: On a point of order, and I seek your guidance here, Mr President: I always understood that legal opinion was not within standing orders as a matter for questioning of ministers, and, as much as it was an obscure question, it was a question asking for legal opinion. Let me assist Senator Farrell nevertheless: the Prime Minister, being on the electoral role, is of course somebody who is permitted to donate under our proposed rules.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator Cormann. Senator Brandis, have you concluded your answer?

Senator BRANDIS: I have.

Senator Farrell interjecting

The PRESIDENT: That wasn't a point of order. I've ruled against it, Senator Farrell.

Senator Farrell: I want to raise a new point of order.

The PRESIDENT: What is it regarding? It can't be about relevance of the answer; the minister has concluded.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Well, you gave him the call! He had already sat down. You gave him the call.

The PRESIDENT: And I've checked with the minister, and he has concluded the answer.

Senator Farrell: Is it not true under this new legislation that Senator Cormann—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, please resume your seat. You don't have the call, Senator Farrell. There's an opportunity to debate this after question time. I thought Senator Brandis resumed his seat because Senator Cormann had risen. I checked that after Senator Cormann concluded.