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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5745


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (09:31): I seek leave to move a motion of censure.

Leave not granted.

Senator BRANDIS: Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Governement in the Senate moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion to censure the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Wong).

The motion of censure is in the following terms:

That the Senate censures the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Wong) for:

(a) causing her Chief of Staff to engage in inappropriate conduct with a foreign political entity for the purpose of causing damage to Australia;

(b) causing her Chief of Staff to interfere in the political process of New Zealand for the purpose of undermining the Australian Government;

(c) misleading the Senate by suggesting that the issue of the Deputy Prime Minister's citizenship arose in New Zealand as a result of media inquiries, rather than orchestration by her Chief of Staff;

(d) embarrassing the government of New Zealand, and thereby potentially causing damage to Australia's relationship with one of our closest allies; and

(e) engaging in conduct which makes her unfit to ever hold the office of Foreign Minister of Australia.

Mr President, it has been revealed overnight in the Fairfax Media that the engagement of the New Zealand Labour Party in an attempt to undermine the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and, thereby, to undermine the Australian government was orchestrated by the chief of staff of none other than the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong. As I said in answer to a question from Senator Wong yesterday, it plainly crosses a line when a serious domestic political dispute—because the argument about the Deputy Prime Minister's citizenship plainly is a serious domestic Australian political dispute—is prosecuted by the opposition through not the processes of the Australian Parliament but the processes of the parliament of a foreign friendly nation. That is what has happened here—by conspiring in conspiracy with a foreign political party, namely the New Zealand Labour Party.

Yesterday, after question time, Senator Wong took the very unusual course of speaking in the taking note debate. In the course of the taking note debate, she suggested that this was all a matter of media inquiry by the Fairfax Media of the New Zealand authorities—nothing to do with her. And yet she made that speech to this chamber well knowing that it was her own chief of staff who was the person responsible for the matter, who was behind the matter—something that was revealed in the Fairfax Media overnight, and has been confirmed this morning, including as recently, I'm told, as a few minutes ago by Mr Albanese in an interview on Adelaide radio.

To conceal from this chamber her own direct involvement in a matter of this gravity is disgraceful—utterly disgraceful. Surely, if Senator Wong, knowing what she knew, decided to participate in the debate as she did yesterday afternoon, one would have thought that simple honesty would have caused her to at least disclose that fact to the Senate, but she did not. She remained mute about it, and we have to learn overnight from the Fairfax Media that this was the case.

Now, we've chosen the words 'inappropriate conduct' to describe Senator Wong's behaviour, not because, Mr President, those are my words, but those are the words of none other than the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, who described the conduct of her own MP—which was inspired and encouraged by Senator Wong's chief of staff, no doubt with Senator Wong's active knowledge and encouragement—as 'inappropriate conduct'. So we have the question of the inappropriateness of the conduct, and then we have the deeper question of the misleading of the Senate.

Now, this is a suspension motion. We want to have this debate, and I ask the crossbench at least to support the procedural motion moved by the government this morning to enable the Senate to debate a matter which, on any view, is a serious political scandal.