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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8311

Minister for the Environment

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (14:22): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Fifield. In a radio interview last night the Minister for the Environment responded to Senator Fierravanti-Wells's opinion piece that labelled her an L-plate minister by saying:' Good for her, good for her. I'm not an L-plate minister. I'm going to be asking why she would say those comments.' Can you confirm that this phone call took place? Or did Senator Fierravanti-Wells dodge the call?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:23): I must admit that I don't personally monitor the phone traffic between my parliamentary colleagues. I may be the minister for communications, but I don't monitor phone calls between colleagues. The only L-plate political aspirant that I'm aware of is one Mr Latham. I think we recall the banner wrap around polling booths more than a few elections ago when those opposite put forward Mr Latham to be the Prime Minister of Australia. We at the time said that Mr Latham was an L-plater. We had that on our booth wrap.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong on a point of order.

Senator Wong: Mr President, it's on direct relevance. This is a statement made by a cabinet minister. It's a public statement about one of your colleagues. We are entitled to ask the minister about public statements. I would ask him on the basis of direct relevance to return to the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. Senator Fifield, I think Senator Wong has reminded you of the question that one needs to be directly relevant to.

Senator FIFIELD: I admit I was taking to heart the theme of the question of those opposite! But, as I said, I don't monitor phone communication between my parliamentary colleagues, and, although I do try and follow as much as I possibly can of what my colleagues say in radio interviews, I'm not aware of that particular interview, so I can't be of any further assistance.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Keneally, a supplementary question.

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (14:25): When asked what year emissions in Australia will begin to drop, the minister said:

At this point I cannot pinpoint.

When will emissions in Australia begin to drop under this government? Given the minister was unable to answer a question in her own portfolio, isn't Senator Fierravanti-Wells right to describe her as an L-plate minister?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:25): Our emissions trajectory is good and we are on par to meet our objectives. Australia's 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent to below 2005 levels is strong. It's responsible. Colleagues who follow this closely would probably be aware it's the equivalent of a 52 per cent reduction of Australia's per-person emissions, amongst the highest of any G20 country. Australia's cumulative emissions reduction task to 2030 is projected to be 868 million tonnes, 26 per cent of the target. This is an improvement of over 120 million tonnes over the last estimate, published in December 2016.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Keneally, a final supplementary question.

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (14:26): The L-plate minister, as her colleagues are now calling her, in her now-infamous interview said of the now-infamous restaurant incident: 'I am deeply, deeply wounded by this.' Did Senator Fierravanti-Wells apologise to the minister for causing this hurt?

The PRESIDENT: On a point of order, Senator Cormann?

Senator Cormann: Point of order: I'm sure it is against standing orders to audition for the leadership during question time!

The PRESIDENT: On the point of order: if that was the case, I doubt it's the first time it's happened! Senator Fifield.

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:27): I must say I'm deeply moved by Senator Keneally, who is taking a pastoral interest in the emotional welfare of colleagues on this side. And can I just say what a good thing it is that we have this care and concern expressed from those opposite! But all my colleagues on this side are just focused on one thing, and that is transacting the people's business.