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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9351

National Security


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:08): My question is to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General update the Senate on the national security implications of media reporting over the last 24 hours relating to foreign political influence?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): Yes, I can. In the last 24 hours, we have seen a rerun of the events of last year, over a year ago now, when the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, provided a wholly inadequate response to the conduct of Senator Dastyari—and I note that Senator Dastyari is not in the chamber at the moment. We know that he has been here today, because he came in to make a very brief resignation statement and then left immediately. He didn't come into the division before, which was a division to require him to appear before the chamber at three o'clock, and he's not here for question time. It is time that Senator Dastyari actually showed his face and—

Senator Farrell: On a point of order: the government has demanded that Senator Dastyari present himself at three o'clock to answer questions. That's exactly what he's doing.

The PRESIDENT: That's not a point of order; it's a point of information.

Senator BRANDIS: Going more directly to your question, Senator Fawcett: the seriousness of this matter is obvious to almost everyone who follows Australian political affairs, but it still does not seem to have dawned upon Mr Shorten. This, for example, is what Mr Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said yesterday, and I quote, 'As a senior public servant, if you found yourself in a situation where you were seen to be collaborating with a foreign power and endangering the operations of the Australian intelligence community, there would be career-ceasing implications that would flow from that, and quite possibly criminal sanctions as well.' I think it puts Senator Dastyari into, frankly, an impossible position as far as continuing his political role is concerned—not from the coalition, not even from the media, but from Mr Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and he is, of course, correct.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a supplementary question?






Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:11): Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate on the adequacy of the response from the opposition to these allegations?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): The response has been wholly inadequate. Senator Dastyari had to be compelled by a resolution of the Senate to give an account of himself and respond to the serious allegation made by Fairfax Media and the ABC, and I accept Senator Farrell's assurance that he will do so. But Senator Dastyari seems otherwise to have been put in witness protection by the Labor Party. Yesterday, the Australian Labor Party published on its website 'Christmas Trivia with Hon. Kristina Keneally and Senator Sam Dastyari'. It says:

… the night is set to be very entertaining—

and—

filled with laughter and joy. So book a table—

$150 a table—

with your friends today!

That sounded like a very interesting function, so imagine my disappointment when we looked at the same webpage this morning to discover that 'This page was not found'!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, we all know that props are not allowed in the chamber. I remind senators of that provision of the standing orders.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Order on my right! Order around the front of the chamber!

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I called attention to all sides of the chamber but not the rear of the chamber today; they've been very well behaved. Senator Fawcett, a final supplementary question?





Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:13): Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate of the implications for national security of recent media reporting by Fairfax and the ABC?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): They are potentially, if these allegations are true—and they have been made by serious journalists and therefore they must be regarded as credible allegations. They are very serious allegations made by serious journalists and serious media organisations. Potentially, if the allegations are true, they are very serious indeed. In these circumstances, it is just not adequate for the alternative Prime Minister of Australia, the alternative chairman of the National Security Committee of Cabinet, Mr Shorten, merely to think that giving Senator Dastyari a slap on the wrist is enough. Last time Senator Dastyari misconducted himself, he was benched for less than five months—as I said this morning, barely a summer semester. For the Leader of the Opposition to think that benching Senator Dastyari again for a few months is an adequate response, it just goes to show how unfit for high office Mr Shorten is.