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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8361


Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (13:02): I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Manager of Opposition Business from moving the following motion immediately—That the House:

(1) notes:

(a) the bill currently before the House is urgent and should be given precedence over all other items, other than question time and this motion, for the remainder of the day;

(b) at 11.23 am today the Minister for Home Affairs made a statement to the House in which he said, "On 26 March 2018, the shadow minister for immigration asked me a question, asserting I had granted a visa for a person to be employed by me and my wife as a nanny";

(c) however, on 26 March the actual question asked by the shadow minister for immigration, the member for Blair, made no reference to whether the minister had granted a visa to a person to be employed by him and his wife as a nanny. Instead it read: "I refer to concerns raised in the media today relating to the minister's use of his ministerial discretion to grant a tourist visa to an au pair. Was his decision based on departmental advice? If not, what prompted the minister to intervene? And will the minister undertake to provide the opposition with a department briefing at the earliest opportunity so that the facts can be made clear?";

(d) today the Minister for Home Affairs also stated, "On 27 March, the member for Melbourne, after a short preamble, asked me, 'Can you categorically rule out any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs?'";

(e) however, once again the Minister for Home Affairs changed the words of the question to make it look like he had not misled the parliament; and

(f) the question the member for Melbourne actually asked read: 'I note your recent statements in relation to your personal intervention to prevent deportation of two foreign intended au pairs. Can you categorically rule out any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs?"

(2) therefore resolves to provide an opportunity for the minister to act in accordance with the Ministerial Standards to explain why he provided the House with false information in his statement today when he next attends the House.

This resolution does two things. First of all, it declares the bill before the House as urgent. It would have the effect of suspending 90-second statements so that dealing with this motion now takes away no time from an important bill. But the second thing it does is deal immediately with the fact that the minister stood up today, allegedly to make it clear that he had not misled the parliament and, in making that speech, misled the parliament twice—twice—and not simply on matters of detail but on misquoting the Hansard. They have a history of wanting to change the Hansard.

Mr Pyne: I seek your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker, on whether you believe that this suspension of standing orders is in order at this time of the day, given that we're in the middle of a debate on the family violence legislation.

An opposition member: It didn't worry you last week.

Mr Pyne: What do you mean? That's not really a relevant objection.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The members opposite will be quiet, please.

Mr Pyne: If the Manager of Opposition Business wants to move a motion at some stage later today and move a suspension of standing orders, that's another thing. But we are in the midst of a debate and there are rules around what can be done in the midst of a debate. We're not between two items of business.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do take the point and, as the Manager of Opposition Business would know, the suspension has to be relevant to the current debate. I am yet to be convinced of that. I am happy for you to finish but at this stage I would say, 'Probably not'. But I'm happy for you to finish.

Mr BURKE: If I can make it clear again, the first paragraph of this motion deals explicitly with the bill that is in front of the House. It has the House declaring that for the rest of today, other than question time, we will deal with only two issues. The first is this bill. The second is the remainder of the motion. It is not possible to have a resolution of this nature without reference to the particular bill, but we are making a decision as a House as to what the issues will be for the remainder of the day. One of them would be, quite specifically, about the bill that is currently before the House. The other would be about the extraordinary moment we had in the House earlier today, where the Minister for Home Affairs made a statement on indulgence, allegedly to clean up having misled the House and in doing so misled the House twice.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the Leader of the House.

Mr Pyne: Thank you. The point is that this would be a very significant precedent if an opposition, or for that matter a government, could move a motion in which a bill that was currently under debate—in this case, the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018—could simply be mentioned and that would somehow make the motion relevant to the bill that was under consideration. There has never been a time when a suspension of standing orders has been allowed to interrupt a substantive debate in the House just because the first item mentions the bill that is being debated. If this precedent is allowed to stand, anytime the opposition or the government wants to move a suspension of standing orders, they will simply have to name the bill in the first item and somehow that will be enough to make it relevant to the bill. The matters that are being canvassed by the Manager of Opposition Business to do with the Minister for Home Affairs may well be legitimate matters to be canvassed but they should not be canvassed during the debate on this bill. It would be a very significant precedent if that were allowed to happen.

Mr BURKE: To the point of order, if I may?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, Manager of Opposition Business.

Mr BURKE: To the point of order, this is a procedural motion seeking to identify the issues we will deal with for the rest of the day. It's not simply a passing reference to the bill, as the Leader of the House has just described. This says that, for the rest of the day, all other items would be suspended, including 90-second statements, other than this bill and one statement to the parliament from the Minister for Home Affairs. It is impossible for the House to resolve that without explaining what the two issues would be. It cannot be determined by 'which one involves more words in the motion'. It has to be determined by the action the House is taking. The House in this motion is taking a very clear action that it will give precedence today to the bill that is currently before us and the fact that we need to deal with the Minister for Home Affairs having misled the parliament again twice this morning.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have listened to the arguments of the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the House, and I do not believe—and I have conferred with the Clerk—that this is relevant to the business being debated. The Manager of Opposition Business can certainly bring this up at a later time.