Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Page: 14119


Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:03): I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House

(1) notes that:

(a) yesterday, it was revealed the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld, which he booked by calling the CEO of this ASX listed company directly, just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole-of-government contract by the Minister's own Department;

(b) today, it's been reported that US Ambassador Joe Hockey - who has a million dollar shareholding in Helloworld - helped a Helloworld subsidiary lobby for the Embassy's travel contract;

(c) the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party heavyweight and current Liberal Party Treasurer, with connections to a number of Liberal Party politicians;

(d) the Finance Minister told Senate Estimates yesterday that he had "a close personal relationship" with Mr Burnes;

(e) Mr Burnes was previously a colleague of the now Prime Minister during the Prime Minister's time at Tourism Australia;

(f) since being awarded Government contracts, the share price of Helloworld has skyrocketed, making shareholders like Mr Hockey and Mr Burnes rich; and

(g) this morning, it was reported that the Herald Sun asked almost all of the 82 Liberal MPs in Parliament whether they had received free travel from Helloworld, but only 14 said they had not; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Prime Minister to investigate and report to the House how far this Helloworld scandal reaches into his Government.

Leave not granted.

Dr CHALMERS: I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Rankin from moving the following motion forthwith:

   That the House:

   (1) notes that:

   (a) yesterday, it was revealed the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld, which he booked by calling the CEO of this ASX listed company directly, just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole-of-government contract by the Minister's own Department;

   (b) today, it's been reported that US Ambassador Joe Hockey—who has a million dollar shareholding in Helloworld - helped a Helloworld subsidiary lobby for the Embassy's travel contract;

   (c) the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party heavyweight and current Liberal Party Treasurer, with connections to a number of Liberal Party politicians;

   (d) the Finance Minister told Senate Estimates yesterday that he had 'a close personal relationship' with Mr Burnes;

   (e) Mr Burnes was previously a colleague of the now Prime Minister during the Prime Minister's time at Tourism Australia;

   (f) since being awarded Government contracts, the share price of Helloworld has skyrocketed, making shareholders like Mr Hockey and Mr Burnes rich; and

   (g) this morning, it was reported that the Herald Sun asked almost all of the 82 Liberal MPs in Parliament whether they had received free travel from Helloworld, but only 14 said they had not; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Prime Minister to investigate and report to the House how far this Helloworld scandal reaches into his Government.

These are very serious issues that we're raising in the parliament. They are far too serious to be dismissed, to be laughed off and to be ignored by this arrogant and out-of-touch government.

This is a very Liberal scandal that we're dealing with. It has all of the stink and all of the stench of a very Liberal scandal. It's got all the mates at the top end of town, all the insider deals that lock out ordinary working people, and all of the ingredients of what we have come to expect from this government opposite, which always governs for the top end of the town at the expense of people who work and struggle in this country. It's a very, very Liberal scandal.

What we've seen today in this House is the alternative universe that those opposite inhabit. The alternative universe that those opposite inhabit is where it's entirely normal, when you want to book the 3.30 flight out of Perth, for you to ring up the CEO of an ASX listed company, and where you don't actually notice when someone else picks up a $3,000 tab for you—where you don't notice that it hasn't come out of your credit card. The alternative universe that those opposite occupy is where there's one set of rules for their rich Liberal Party mates and another set of rules for ordinary Australians in communities that we represent right around this country.

There are so many things today that the Prime Minister and his sidekick, his offsider, the member for Sturt, were unable to explain. There were so many things they were unable to explain. They couldn't provide a simple answer to a simple question about whether the documents exist which prove that Mr Hockey asked one of the embassy officials to take a meeting with the company at the centre of this scandal. When the member for Sturt was asked about this, he basically told the House, 'Look, when we get around to checking it out, we'll see how we go.' That's not good enough. The Australian people deserve answers about this latest grubby scandal that is engulfing the government that sits opposite us today.

There are so many aspects to this but, from his answers today, there's a lot of explaining that the Prime Minister needs to do. He has scurried out of the House. He has gone to hide in his office. He said today:

I'm advised that Mr Hockey did not instruct staff to meet QBT or any other companies in relation to the tender, and, as part of normal business …

And what the Prime Minister needs to explain when he next speaks, or when the member for Sturt does, is why he is claiming that Mr Hockey didn't request embassy staff to meet with QBT at all. This is a very serious issue here. The Prime Minister is denying something of which there are reports of documents which exist from officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That is a very, very serious matter and that's why we need to suspend standing orders, to get to the bottom of these very, very important issues.

Everybody in this House and everybody who has followed this scandal knows where it began. It began with the Minister for Finance booking the 3.30 flight out of Perth or whatever it was by ringing the CEO of a company, not understanding that the $3,000 bill was paid for by someone else—despite the fact those opposite are all chasing people on government payments, aren't they? They notice every cent that goes into a recipient's account, don't they, but $3,000 doesn't come out of the finance minister's account and it's no big deal. That's the alternative universe those opposite occupy.

We know where this scandal began but we don't yet know where it ends. And I don't think those opposite know where it ends yet either. There are a lot more questions to be asked and a lot more questions to be answered. What really gave it away in question time today, when we started asking about the travel arrangements by Mr Burnes and others, were the ashen faces right along the frontbench. All these people were desperately hoping the next question wasn't to them. I saw it. The member for Flinders, I thought, was particularly revealing. I'd love to know more about that, but we'll get to all of those questions in due course.

Those opposite have started talking a lot about a chum bucket, haven't they? This scandal, which I'm going to call 'chumgate', involves so many Liberal Party chums, doesn't it? So many Liberal Party chums were involved in chumgate. Right up and down the frontbench and beyond, all the way into the cheap seats, there are a lot of chums involved in this scandal. And we're going to get to the bottom of chumgate, aren't we? We're going to get to the bottom of this scandal, because the only difference between a chum bucket and the Liberal Party is the bucket itself. There are a lot of chums involved in this scandal.

Time won't permit me going into all the other reasons why this is important, but just think about it for a moment. Even in the last few months, talking about the awarding of big government contracts, those opposite just can't help themselves—half a billion dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation they didn't ask for; half a billion dollars to Paladin group, which is registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island or some such. They can't get it right yet they want us to trust them to make a good decision on offshore visa processing. And, when the Prime Minister's own friend is intimately involved in one of the bids, we know how this movie ends. We know how they roll on that side of the House when it comes to the awarding of big government contracts, and the Australian people are very worried about it.

While all this is going on, while this Liberal government go out of its way to look after its mates at the top end of the town, the Australian people just don't get a look in. Just today, as the shadow Treasurer, the shadow employment minister and others have spoken about, we got a wages figure—0.5 per cent; annual, 2.3 per cent. In this country, we have historically low wages growth. We have stagnant wages. People aren't getting a look in. They're not being rewarded for their work. Everything is going up except for wages. Childcare costs are up, power bills are up, people are underemployed, people are in insecure work, and those opposite spend all their time working out how they can work the angle—little insider deals for their rich Liberal Party mates—and doesn't that just say everything about those opposite? If only those opposite spent as much time caring about insecure work or stagnant wages as they spend trying to do insider deals for rich Liberal Party mates, the whole country would be better off. That's what this is about, at the end of the day.

This is a government which is so horrendously out of touch and whose priorities are so warped that when we get a wages number like we did today and have been getting for some months, when we get all the things about insecure work and underemployment, falling consumer confidence, bad business conditions—all of these things that really matter to the Australian economy—what are they up to? They're flying around on free flights, ringing up their mates getting insider deals, doing deals, awarding big government contracts to people that they are intimately involved with in the Liberal Party.

That's why standing orders need to be suspended. We know where this began, but we don't yet know where it ends, and we are going to pursue it until the Australian people get the answers that they need and deserve.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Dreyfus: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.