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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 625


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:18): I second the motion.

The SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has the call.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: The reason this House needs to suspend standing orders and debate this matter is that it is of monumental national interest. The gossamer thread that holds this government in office is provided courtesy of the member for Dobell. Without his vote the government could fall, Australia would be heading for the polls—and what a relief that would be. So it is massively important in terms of the government of this country that the Prime Minister be called to account over the legitimacy of the member for Dobell remaining in this House. And her implausible explanations of her government's involvement in this investigation must mean that she comes into this House and explains.

The Prime Minister has a credibility problem. We know that courtesy of her colleague the member for Lyons. He said she has a credibility problem, and my God she does. Her string of broken promises, her shredding of written commitments, her repeated betrayals—her words mean so little that no-one believes her. When I was in question time, when she was standing up there saying that her staff did not ring the registrar when her staff did ring the registrar, I was reminded of Richard Nixon—'I am not a crook'! I accept that the comparison is unfair to Richard Nixon. Her answers in question time just add to her credibility problem. When she accused me of misleading people by suggesting there had been contact between her chief of staff, Mr Hubbard, and the registrar, Mr Williams, she said I was misleading people. In fact, she could not reconcile the words of the industrial registrar that he received a call from her office. The Prime Minister must explain that lapse to this House.

There is a foul odour around the Prime Minister's office, from her media unit in particular, over its grubby act of inciting a racial riot on Australia Day—one of the lowest acts of a Prime Minister's office in living memory. And it is rivalled by the collusion from another government minister's media unit into the Fair Work Australia investigation into the allegations surrounding the member for Dobell. I note that the member for Dobell denies the allegations. I also note that he is yet to give the full explanation to the House that he promised he would give months ago of allegations that relate to the misuse of at least $100,000 of union funds for the procurement of prostitutes—never specifically denied. This is $100,000 of funds of lowly-paid workers of the Health Services Union. After the member for Dobell parted from his job at the Health Services Union, the allegations were referred to Fair Work Australia in 2009—over three years ago. And yes, the hierarchy of Fair Work Australia has some explaining to do, and no doubt Justice Giudice will do that. I remind members that Fair Work was set up under legislation personally drafted by the Prime Minister as the responsible minister at the time, legislation that requires Fair Work Australia to act in a manner that is fair and just, quick and informal, avoids unnecessary technicalities and is open and transparent. Just what is quick, open or transparent about this investigation and the government's role needs to be explained.

Members will be interested in this web of intrigue. This chart shows the Labor Health Services Union family tree. We have the Prime Minister. We have Tim Lee. We have Craig Thomson. We have the connections between Labor, the Health Services Union and Fair Work Australia. With apologies to Sir Walter Scott, Albo, Labor's mission statement is:

Oh what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive!

That is the Labor Party.

This House must be concerned about the part the Prime Minister's office played in the delay of this investigation. We know that the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, Ben Hubbard, had contact with the registrar. We know from the words of the registrar. The Prime Minister must come clean. Once upon a time, back when she was in opposition, she would set standards for the government. I recall her words in 2004: 'There is an obligation of honesty and probity in public life that makes the minister responsible for the conduct of their staff.' This Prime Minister can live up to the standard that she set for others by revealing all contact of any nature between any member of the government or any staff in relation to the scope of this investigation and the time it has taken. (Time expired)