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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5829

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:20): It's always entertaining watching Senator Dastyari. I have to say, if anybody was ever doing Venezuelan vaudeville, you did it very well today. But can I just start on the comments that the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gerry Brownlee, made in response to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop.

Senator Dastyari interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I know you are very exercised about that, Senator Dastyari, so let me tell you what the foreign minister of New Zealand actually said about this: 'It's a perfectly reasonable reaction, given the fact that a New Zealand member of parliament from the New Zealand Labour Party, under the influence from the Australian Labor Party, was asking questions clearly designed to remove a government supporter in Australia—that's the bigger problem here.' That was the reaction of the New Zealand government.

In the middle of an election campaign in New Zealand, engaging in this sort of action is totally and utterly reprehensible. The New Zealand Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern, has revealed that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party sought to use the New Zealand parliament to undermine our government. This is highly unethical, at the very least. More importantly, it puts at risk the very important relationship between our two countries. It shows that the Leader of the Opposition is willing to interfere in the political system of a foreign country for base political advantage. It shows you don't have any interest in section 44 of the Constitution—the uncertainty that surely raises questions about your own people.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I bet, Senator Cameron, you've got people on your side of the fence that are just sitting there, fingers crossed, anxiously watching what's happening in the High Court and hoping and praying that they're not going to be exposed. Don't tell me that you don't have people in your own ranks who are sitting there—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Fierravanti-Wells, I remind you to address your comments to the chair.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Madam Deputy President, don't tell me that they don't have people across there who are sitting there, fingers crossed, hoping that they're not going to get caught in this whole saga. But let's return to Senator Wong.

Senator Wong aspires to be the foreign minister of this country, but she has some serious explaining to do. It is unprecedented to use the officers of a foreign power to undermine a properly elected government. I remind Senator Wong that the Turnbull government was properly elected, and there are some questions that she has to answer. When did your chief of staff first discuss this matter with his labour counterparts in the New Zealand Labour Party? Did he seek your approval to make this contact? What was his purpose in making the contact? When did he tell you he had done this? What was the content of the conversation with Mr Hipkins? Did your chief of staff report that conversation back to you? Did your chief of staff help formulate the question that was asked in the New Zealand parliament? When did you first know that this was to be raised in the New Zealand parliament?

Senator Wong, you can't just adopt the Sergeant Schultz defence, 'I know nothing', which is precisely what she came in here to allege to this Senate. Are you seriously telling us that you had no idea about the actions of your chief of staff? Your closest and most trusted adviser contacts a sitting Labour member of the New Zealand parliament, and you, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, have absolutely no idea about it!

Let me remind you, Senator Wong, that politics is about perception. I can tell you that the perception out there is that you are not being truthful with the Australian public.

Both the New Zealand government and the New Zealand Labour Party have condemned what has transpired. The New Zealand Labour Party have admitted that it was wrong; it was unacceptable; it should never have happened. If they can judge what was wrong, unacceptable and should never have happened, why didn't Senator Wong take on the same judgement? The New Zealand government has been embarrassed by this, and the conduct of New Zealand Labour has been called into question. We find that the Australian Labor Party, through Senator Wong, has been put up to it. Can Senator Wong explain how using a foreign government's parliament to undermine the Deputy Prime Minister of our country is merely 'unwise'? (Time expired)