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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5826

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (15:10): Senator Cameron needs to get out more. If that was an exciting question time, can I recommend he develop some hobbies, some activities outside politics, because if he was excited by that I do worry a little bit about him.

Let's put some facts on the table. The opposition leader in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has said that what happened here was inappropriate. Even Senator Wong in her contribution to the debate earlier today acknowledged that what her chief of staff had done was wrong and inappropriate. Yet there are some ALP senators, Senator Cameron among them, who have sought to defend the conduct of the opposition, Senator Wong and her chief of staff in this affair. I agree with Senator Fifield's observations this morning in the debate. It was a very interesting contribution from Senator Wong. It was perhaps the most low-key contribution I've seen her make in the parliament in the 18 months I've been here. It was very carefully worded, unlike some of the contributions of her colleagues on this question. One might wonder why that would be the case. She chose her words very carefully, and that was probably advisable.

But the best defence that those opposite have been able to mount so far has been the so-called Fairfax defence: yes, what Senator Wong's chief of staff is alleged to have done is wrong, and, yes, what the New Zealand member of parliament then did with that was also wrong, but it's not a problem, because Fairfax Media was also asking these questions at the same time.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator PATERSON: Whether Fairfax was asking questions at the same time or not is not relevant. Either it was right for Senator Wong's chief of staff to involve himself in this affair in this way or it was wrong. Fairfax Media has a very different role from that of the chief of staff to the shadow foreign affairs minister, who should behave in a very different way.

Senator Cameron: Paul Kelly said that you're gob-smacking!

Senator PATERSON: Senator Cameron, as much as I enjoy your interjections, throughout your meandering speech I listened in silence, and I would ask respectfully that you return the courtesy. The questions are these: 'What did Senator Wong know? When did she know it? What has she done about it?' These are questions she has not yet answered. When did she find out her chief of staff was involved? What did she find out about her chief of staff's involvement? What has she since done about it? Has he been disciplined? Has he been counselled? Will he be sacked? If Senator Wong regards his conduct as problematic, then we should expect to hear an announcement from Senator Wong about what she has done about it.

Imagine those opposite saying it's perfectly fine to collude with a foreign political party to bring down an Australian member of parliament, an Australian minister and perhaps even an Australian government. Imagine, as an analogy, that the shoe was on the other foot. Imagine that the coalition was colluding with, for example, the Republican Party in the United States to remove from office a Labor MP, to remove from office a Labor minister and to remove from power a Labor government. Can you imagine how hysterical the reaction would be from those opposite and their friends and allies in the media? Can you imagine how hysterical the left in Australia would be if the Liberal Party colluded with, let's say, the Republican Party in the United States to try and unseat a Labor MP? We can very easily predict how much they would lose their minds.

The truth is that Senator Canavan and Mr Joyce have acted entirely appropriately and honourably in this affair. When they became aware of their potential dual citizenship status they asked for their cases to be referred to the High Court, and it will be up to the High Court to rule appropriately on their cases. They've done the right and honourable thing. Let's wait and see what the High Court's judgement will be in that case.

I think some in this debate have leapt to premature conclusions about Senator Canavan and Senator Joyce, and also about section 44 and its appropriateness in this day and age. They have condemned it before the trial has even taken place. I would encourage them to wait, and to watch and to listen to what the High Court says before they cast their judgement about section 44.

Personally, I am very happy to defend the principle that only Australian citizens should be able to serve in the Australian parliament, and that it is not appropriate for foreign citizens to be elected to the Australian parliament and to make decisions for the Australian people—to vote on laws, to act as ministers and to be part of a government. I think that is a principle which is entirely reasonable, entirely fair and entirely worth defending. I look forward to watching very closely what the High Court decides, before any further judgements are made about this issue.