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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1939

Day, Mr Bob, AO


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:26): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. Can the minister confirm that he was aware prior to the double dissolution election on 2 July that the bank account nominated to receive rental payments for former Senator Day's electorate office was linked to former Senator Day?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:26): Again, this is a matter that I directly addressed in my very comprehensive statement to the Senate earlier today. This is probably a good time to again confirm that at no stage did I ever receive any advice from the Department of Finance that the lease signed on 1 December in itself, or in the absence of rental payments, could cause a potential breach of section 44 of the Constitution. I refer you to the relevant quote in my statement to the Senate:

… subsequent to that—and aware of all the information that had emerged by then—on 18 February 2016, the Department of Finance advised me that it would be open to me to approve the payment of rent for the Day electorate office going forward from 1 March 2016. However, when seeking to put in place this payment, further information came to light—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Wong, on a point of order.

Senator Wong: Mr President: a point of order on relevance. I appreciate that the minister has made a statement. However, he was asked a very specific question by Senator Collins. That was not in relation to the issue he is now rereading, but whether or not he was aware that the bank account receiving rental payments for former Senator Day's electorate office was linked to Senator Day—whether he was aware of that fact—prior to the election on 2 July.

The PRESIDENT: I will remind the minister that that was the key element of the question.

Senator CORMANN: And it is, of course, very important, which is why I made the statement to put into context what I knew when. Going back to where I was:

… when seeking to put in place this payment, further information came to light—namely, that the bank account to receive the rental payments was an account linked to then Senator Day—

That is what I said earlier today—

Given this, a conscious decision was made that the Commonwealth would not pay rent to the owners of the 77 Fullarton Road property in the circumstances, neither by way of reimbursement for the period from 1 July 2015 nor prospectively from 1 March 2016. In fact, at no stage during then Senator Day's occupation of the 77 Fullarton Road property as his electorate office did the Commonwealth pay any rent for those electoral office premises. I understood at the time that the non-payment of rent meant that any potential breach of section 44 of the Constitution had been avoided. Indeed, at no point did I receive any advice from the Department of Finance that the lease signed on 1 December 2015 in itself—

(Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Collins, a supplementary question.







Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:21): Can the minister confirm that he was also aware of the vendor finance arrangement between former Senator Day and the new owner of 77 Fullarton Road, Kent Town prior to the double dissolution election on 2 July? Why did the minister fail to take appropriate action prior to the 2 July election?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:29): Again, as I advised the Senate earlier, information was provided by the department, after seeking evidence of rental payments by former Senator Day in relation to his electorate office. He subsequently provided information to the department—for the first time in February this year—about vendor-financing arrangements underpinning his sale of the 77 Fullarton Road property. Related financial arrangements caused concerns about whether then Senator Day in fact remained connected to the Fullerton Road property. Importantly, subsequent to that, being aware of all of the information, the department advised me that it was open to me and that it would not be a conflict to make rental payments under the lease from 1 March forward. The issue, to be frank, was not a concern to the department at that point in time. As I have said previously, it is not a matter for the government to make judgements on who is eligible and who is not eligible to sit in the Senate. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Collins, a final supplementary question.



Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:30): Minister, given the gravity of this matter, why did the government keep these matters hidden prior to the election? Was it because former Senator Day was the most reliable vote for the coalition?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:31): The answer to that question is an emphatic no. Let me just say that as Special Minister of State I treated then Senator Day in precisely the same way as I would have dealt with any member or senator in this place—Labor, Green—

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

Senator CORMANN: I reject that assertion most strongly. You will find that there are senators on your side of the chamber who approached me in relation to either electorate offices or staffing related matters. As I would always do with anyone, I treated them in good faith and in confidence. I sought to facilitate resolutions to enable all of us to do the job we were elected to do in this place, as appropriate. Then Senator Day was certainly not Robinson Crusoe when it came to expressing concern about an initial proposal or an initial preference expressed by the finance department about the location of somebody's electorate office.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator CORMANN: Senator Cameron interjects with, 'Did he own the building?' No, he did not own the building.

Senator Cameron: Yes he did.

Senator CORMANN: He did not own the building when the lease was— (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!