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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10066

National Security


Senator SMITH ( Western Australia Deputy Government Whip in the Senate ) ( 14:06 ): My question is also to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis. Can the Attorney-General advise the Senate of the national security implications of reports in this morning's media regarding further allegations of foreign influence?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): A very important question from the man of the hour, Senator Dean Smith.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Man of the hour.

Senator BRANDIS: Yes, Senator Collins—somebody who's achieved more in his career than you would ever dream of. Senator Smith, this morning, as you would have seen, media reports have detailed further allegations regarding statements made by Senator Dastyari that, once again, are at odds with statements that he has made in this place. Today, News Corporation papers have detailed more than 115 questions put by Senator Dastyari during Senate estimates to our top Defence and Foreign Affairs officials, scripted by others, concerning Australia's defence and foreign policy position in relation to China. I know you're a good Anglican, Senator Smith, so, in this quincentenary year of the Reformation, I might say we've heard of Martin Luther's 39 articles and his 95 theses. These are Senator Dastyari's 115 questions. But, unlike Martin Luther, Senator Dean Smith, they weren't divinely inspired; they were inspired by another power, another more terrestrial power.

Senator Smith, last week, when Senator Dastyari was called to give an account of the allegations against him, including his now infamous Chinese media press conference in June 2016, he claimed that it had been a mischaracterisation, yet analysis in today's media plainly suggests otherwise. Where's he gone, old Senator Dastyari? There he is, over there. Senator Dastyari, we can see you over there now. The reports detail a long and shameful history of questions scripted, directed and inspired by someone else—not to interrogate defence and intelligence officials in Australia's national interest but to interrogate those officials in the interests of another power. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a supplementary question.





Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:08): I ask a supplementary question: can the Attorney-General advise the Senate of the national security implications of adopting another country's foreign policy position rather than our own?

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, order!

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Please resume your seat Senator Brandis. Keep going, Senator Carr. The clock will keep running.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: And Senator Cameron. This is the last question time for the year. I'm sure the opposition would like to get in as many questions as possible. Senator Brandis.





Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:09): As I noted in my previous answer, Senator Smith, Senator Dastyari has, over the years, made a number of claims and statements in relation to Australia's defence and foreign policy and its national security. In fact, on 17 March 2015, in arguing in this place for Australia's participation in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—

Senator Wong: You supported it!

Senator BRANDIS: Yes, but that's not the point, Senator Wong.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator BRANDIS: The point is why we supported it and at whose behest we supported it. What Senator Dastyari had to say—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Brandis. Senator Wong, on a point of order.

Senator Wong: Point of order—Andrew Robb argued that from the get-go. Is the same allegation going to be made of him?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, that is not a point of order. Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator Wong, that was a debating point. On what basis did Senator Dastyari argue for the adoption of that policy? He claimed to represent in his speech in this place, to quote his words, 'the Chinese view of the initiative and the challenges it faced.' Senator Dastyari should be advocating for the people of New South Wales, not for the people of a body politic much further to the north.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'm having trouble hearing Senator Brandis, who has a particularly loud voice. I'm sure down the far end of the chamber Senator Hinch will soon raise that issue with me again. Senator Smith.











Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:11): I have a final supplementary question—can the Attorney-General advise the Senate what the Turnbull government is doing to address concerns regarding foreign influence in Australia?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!



Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): What we're doing, Senator Smith—as the Prime Minister and Senator Cormann and I outlined at our press conference earlier in the week—is introducing the most comprehensive review of our foreign interference and espionage laws in history. That legislation will be introduced by the Prime Minister into the House of Representatives later this afternoon. Meanwhile, later this afternoon, Senator Cormann will be introducing into the Senate the legislation to protect the integrity of the Australian electoral system by banning foreign donations to political parties and other third-party activist groups—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator BRANDIS: while I will be introducing legislation to deal with the protection of Australia's critical infrastructure. This is all part of a package designed to show that the Turnbull government's first priority is to protect the security of Australia and to keep our people safe, including keeping them safe from foreign interference and the corruption of our political system. (Time expired)