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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9478

Donations to Political Parties


Senator GALLACHER ( South Australia ) ( 14:09 ): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the minister's claim yesterday that responsibility for foreign donations lies within Senator Cormann's portfolio as Special Minister of State. Why then in TheAustralian Financial Review earlier this month is Senator Brandis reported to be introducing the reforms in the current sitting? Did the Prime Minister ask the Special Minister of State to take yet more responsibilities from the Attorney-General?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): No, Senator. In fact, there's a package of three bills. Two of them are in the Attorney-General's portfolio and one of them is in the portfolio of the Special Minister of State. It's as simple as that. That's always been the position. The regulation of foreign donations is a matter for the Special Minister of State. The Commonwealth Criminal Code is a matter for the Attorney-General. The transparency scheme, which I outlined in answer to Senator Macdonald's question, is also a matter for the Attorney-General's portfolio. The legislation will be introduced as a package.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gallacher, a supplementary question.



Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:11): I note that it's over a year since foreign donation reforms were supposed to be introduced by the Turnbull government. Isn't this just another example of the Prime Minister's failed leadership?

Government senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right!

Senator Wong: A year's delay!

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!





Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): Senator Gallacher, the use of money is, of course, a very important vector of foreign interference, but it's not the only one. As we saw from the conduct alleged against Senator Dastyari last week, there are other ways of mediating foreign interference in our democratic polity than through money. What the government decided to do, as I said in answer to Senator Macdonald's question, is to conduct a comprehensive review so that the entire problem can be addressed as a package. That is precisely what the government has done. While the special ministers of state—formerly you, Mr President, Senator Ryan, and now Senator Cormann—have been addressing that part of the problem that does relate to foreign donations, the Attorney-General's Department has been addressing that part of the problem that deals with other aspects of the question of foreign interference so that the parliament will be invited to consider a comprehensive and thorough package of legislation which deals with all aspects of the issue.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gallacher, a final supplementary question.



Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:12): Will the Turnbull government now join with Labor and support our legislation to ban foreign donations—legislation which has been before the House since 2016.


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:12): Senator Gallacher, if you are so concerned about this issue, will the Shorten opposition join with the Turnbull government, Fairfax Media, News Ltd and every significant media organisation in Australia and insist that one of your colleagues who sits there, Senator Dastyari, who has been credibly alleged to be a person who is under foreign interference, and who has engaged in acts of foreign interference, no longer occupy a seat in this parliament? I'll tell you what, Senator Gallacher, if Mr Shorten is so weak, so spineless and so little concerned about national security that he's prepared to sack Senator Dastyari from official positions in the Labor Party—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Brandis, Senator Wong is on her feet on a point of order.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right, so I can hear the point of order.

Senator Wong: There was a reference to national security. I invite the Attorney to consider the wisdom of what he said. I invite him to withdraw the reference to national security.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brandis, I'm not aware that there was a unparliamentary statement there.

Senator BRANDIS: Credibly alleged.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: I note what you say, Senator Wong. If Mr Shorten is prepared to conclude that Senator Dastyari is no longer fit to hold a parliamentary position in the Labor Party leadership group in the Senate on the basis of his alleged conduct, why will he, nevertheless, protect him? It is because he's too weak to rid himself of him.