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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 560

Ministerial Staff: Code of Conduct

Ms KING (Ballarat) (14:55): Madam Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's previous answer where he has admitted that he was aware of the conflict of interest prior to the appointment of Senator Nash's chief of staff.

The SPEAKER: I will rule the question out of order if you insist on putting it in those terms.

Ms KING: Sure. My question is to the Prime Minister, and I refer to the Prime Minister's previous answer. What were the arrangements required by his office at the appointment of Senator Nash's chief of staff, and what actions did he take in ensuring that they were adhered to prior to the minister making any decisions in her portfolio area that related to the conflict of interest?

The SPEAKER: Before I call the Prime Minister, I would advise the member that the question is very close to being out of order in accordance with standing order 98. This is not a matter of public affairs—

Mr Dreyfus: What? You're joking!

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs will desist or remove himself. In terms of the standing order, a member may orally ask a question without notice, but:

A Minister can only be questioned on the following matters, for which he or she is responsible or officially connected …

The question is very close to being out of order. However, I will allow the question to stand and I will call the Prime Minister.

Mr Pyne: Just before you do, Madam Speaker—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left!

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, during your explanation to the chamber as to why you are going to allow the question to stand, the member for Isaacs, I think very rudely, reflected on the chair. I would ask him to withdraw his very rude reflection on the chair. When you were in the middle of your presentation he shouted, 'You're joking,' which is a reflection on the Speaker's position and I would ask him to withdraw it.

Mr Dreyfus: I withdraw.

The SPEAKER: Thank you.

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:57): For the benefit of the shadow minister opposite, the gentleman in question was required to divest himself of an interest in his wife's business. My understanding is that he was dilatory in doing that. When that became apparent, he resigned. That is as it should be. I would simply make this point: when people on this side of the parliament fail to act by the highest standards of propriety and decency, they go. It is as simple as that. They go, and he is gone.