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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1640


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (15:06): My question is the Prime Minister. Given that the Prime Minister's Attorney-General could not explain what metadata is, said that everyone has a right to be a bigot and directed the secretary of his department to ask the President of the Human Rights Commission to resign, how can the Prime Minister still have any confidence in his Attorney-General?

Mr Pyne: I rise on a point of order. There were three parts to that question. Each one of them was an assertion and none of them was based on fact. Therefore, the question must be out of order.

Mr Burke: On point of order: there is no question with more precedent in this place than one asking whether the Prime Minister has confidence in one of his ministers.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will ignore the first part of the question and address the last part of the question.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (15:07): What we have seen yet again from the Leader of the Opposition is the jeering, sneering and smearing that unfortunately is all that this opposition is capable of. Jeering, sneering and smearing is all they can do. They have no policies, because they have not learnt and they cannot change. That is the problem with members opposite—they are simply incapable of rising to the challenge of being a genuine alternative government.

I have been asked about the Attorney-General. Of course I have confidence in the Attorney-General. The Attorney General is a stalwart defender of free speech in this country, but he also wants to ensure that free speech is not abused. And that is absolutely the right thing. We want people to be free to speak their mind, but we do not want them to be free to promote the sorts of activities that will be a menace to this country and its citizens. I trust the Attorney General to get that particular balance right. The Attorney-General is, in fact, the chief security officer of our country. He is the first law officer of the Crown, and he is the chief security officer of our country.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left!

Mr ABBOTT: Members opposite should be pleased, because on this particular score members opposite have actually been prepared to be constructive. The fact that we have made two very significant upgrades to our national security legislation, the fact that we are on the threshold of a further very significant upgrade to our national security legislation with metadata retention laws is, at least in part, a tribute to the good work of this Attorney. Finally, I say that the Attorney is right to say that the government has lost confidence—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Member for Griffith has been warned—

Mr ABBOTT: in the president of the Human Rights Commission, because the president of the Human Rights Commission is incapable of understanding this simple fact: it is better to get people out of detention than it is to put them into detention.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Member for Gorton and the Member for Isaacs desist!

Mr ABBOTT: It is better to stop the boats than to start the boats, and because the president was incapable of understanding this, this government has lost confidence in the president of the Human Rights Commission. But this government has an abundance of confidence in the judgement and the competence and the integrity of the Attorney-General. On that note, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.