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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2494

Minister for Jobs and Innovation

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:01): My question is to the Prime Minister. All of our staff, regardless of which political party their MP belongs to, work incredibly hard and should have a respectful workplace. In Senate estimates yesterday, Senator Cash made disgraceful comments which cast aspersions on every woman working in this building. A number of Liberal MPs, to their credit, have publicly and privately repudiated these comments. Will the Prime Minister direct his minister to apologise for her statement so we can send a clear message of support to all of the staff who work in this building?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:01): All of us should show respect to the staff in this building, and indeed we should show respect to each other—although, obviously, as we will see no doubt in the next 70 minutes, that principle can sometimes be challenged in practice. The honourable member refers to some remarks made by Senator Cash during a very heated exchange in Senate estimates, where she was being bullied and provoked by Senator Cameron.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TURNBULL: She was. She was. She has withdrawn those remarks, and withdrawn them unreservedly, and—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat. Members on both sides will cease interjecting. A number of members are shouting. They will not shout, and, if they do, they will not stay in the chamber. As I've said, members expect me to be able to adjudicate on answers and questions, and members on both sides are making that job impossible. They should be the last to complain if we have a repeat of that situation and I'm unable to hear an exchange of interest.

Mr Watts interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Gellibrand never misses an opportunity to have himself thrown out. He can leave under 94(a).

The member for Gellibrand then left the chamber.

Mr TURNBULL: Respect is absolutely essential in all of our dealings. It is why I made the recent change to the ministerial code. As I was saying, Senator Cash was in a heated session in estimates—not the only one we've seen this week, I might add; the remarks that Senator Carr directed to Senator James Paterson were disgraceful. But Senator Cash was being bullied and provoked by Senator Cameron, who was making insinuations about staff. She made a response which she has unreservedly withdrawn, and if members opposite—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TURNBULL: She has withdrawn those remarks, and, if members opposite want to mitigate any offence to the persons referred to, they would treat this matter as having dealt with by the senator in the manner that is the practice in both houses of this parliament—that is, when words that are regarded as objectionable have been uttered, they are withdrawn.