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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3766

Coal Industry

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:55): My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management. How does the government respond to claims about covert actions by overseas intelligence agencies allegedly undertaken to undermine the Australian coal industry?

Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (14:56): I thank the member for her question, because I think a lot of members in this chamber would have been concerned to hear these allegations that were very widely aired by Mr Palmer, who asserts that one of our closest intelligence allies is using its intelligence agency to stop coal seam gas investments in Australia. This is a pretty extraordinary claim and I would have thought that those opposite—I mention in particular the member for Berowra, a member of the joint intelligence committee and a distinguished former Attorney-General who had a very close relationship, as in fact many Attorneys-General have had, with our intelligence agencies in the US and in Australia—

The SPEAKER: I know the point of order that the member for Menzies is about to make. The Attorney-General, I think, is aware as well. She will become directly relevant.

Ms ROXON: The point I am making is that when allegations like this are made about one of our closest allies it is important for us to call it what it is. This is a bizarre allegation and I do have to wonder whether perhaps Mr Palmer has been watching too much Get Smart. Certainly he is working very closely with 'KAOS' over there. I just want to say that it is an important issue. Our intelligence agencies work closely with our allies. The Americans are lead allies. To have such a donor closely associated with the opposition—

Mr Hartsuyker: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the minister is again mentioning that individual. She is defying your ruling.

The SPEAKER: The minister has not been directed not to mention an individual. The minister will return to the question and will be specific.

Ms ROXON: The point that I am simply trying to make is that national security is much more than jokes about shoe phones or jokes about other things. National security is about protecting real people from real threats, about making sure that our laws are operating properly, and I would have thought that those opposite would want to dissociate themselves from comments like this that just feed conspiracy theories and do us no justice when we want to work closely with those around the world to share intelligence about real threats that are emerging across the world. What I am calling upon the opposition to do is to make sure the Leader of the Opposition calls Mr Palmer and gives him a dressing down for this sort of behaviour—and he can use his shoe phone if he thinks that is a better idea.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Attorney-General will resume her seat.

Mr Robert: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: under section 75 of the standing orders, this is tedious and repetitious. The Prime Minister does not bother attending NSC meetings; she sends her bodyguard—and the Attorney-General lectures us on national security.

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Fadden will remove himself from the chamber under the provisions of standing order 94(a).

The member for Fadden then left the chamber.