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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5029

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:19): I thank the member for Lyne for proposing this matter of public importance. The member for Dobell owed this parliament an explanation in the form of a statement. He acknowledged as much, and he gave one. Having offered to do so, he owed this parliament a statement of the truth: the simple, unadorned truth—not elaborately constructed plots, not fanciful alternative explanations and not highly implausible, highly dubious, unbelievable conspiracy theories naming people under parliamentary privilege. Just the truth, plain and simple.

The government argues that the parliament has no role to play in dealing with the serious findings of Fair Work Australia against the member for Dobell. These matters are not mere accusations, nor are they rumour from the world of the union movement. They are official findings by an independent investigator of a quasi-judicial government agency. There was an investigation of more than three years, resulting in a voluminous 1,100-page report that included 156 specific findings against the member for Dobell. Included in that report is a finding that the member for Dobell, at a time when he was a member of this place, provided 'information that is false or misleading' to the investigator of this quasi-judicial government agency. The findings go to the heart of the member for Dobell's legitimacy in this parliament, as the investigation found that he misused $270,000 of union funds to support his election to this parliament. His very presence in this House is based upon what the investigator found to be acts of dishonesty.

The member for Dobell must now address the further serious questions arising from his statement to the House yesterday and the discrepancies between it and his previous statements at various times. This matter of public importance asks how the parliament should respond. The member for Dobell must now clear up these questions which go to the heart of whether he misled the parliament yesterday. Given that the independent investigator found that the member for Dobell provided him with information that is false or misleading, the member for Dobell must explain why there are serious discrepancies in the version of events in the evidence he gave to Fair Work Australia and with his statement to the parliament and with some of his previous public statements, including radio interviews.

One of the key planks of the member for Dobell's statement yesterday—and I will use this as an example—was that the video surveillance footage from the brothels that put charges on his credit card would fail to show him attending the premises. He demanded, 'Get the video surveillance footage,' and therefore we were invited to conclude that it could not possibly have been him. Note: at no time did the member for Dobell deny using prostitutes paid for with union money. What the member for Dobell did not answer was the finding that the majority of credit card charges related to escort services provided off site—not at the premises of prostitutes, not at the brothel.

His statement failed to address the crux of the Fair Work Australia findings against him that he used the Health Services Union credit card to pay for prostitutes. Yes or no? He has still not denied it. If the member for Dobell is innocent, as he claims, he should make a clear, unambiguous statement that at no time has he used the Health Services Union credit card to pay for prostitutes, whether at a brothel, at his hotel or under any other circumstances. He has not done that.

The member for Dobell must also explain the findings that payments for prostitutes were transferred between credit cards in his possession and why he authorised the payments and the transfers between the cards, despite claiming to know at the time of a longstanding conspiracy underway to frame him by fixing him up with prostitutes. His claim of a grand conspiracy—this elaborate sting operation—to set him up with prostitutes also directly contradicts his previous claim in August last year:

The union reached a settlement with another gentleman who paid back $15,000 in relation to use of credit cards at an escort agency.

That claim was flatly denied by the alleged gentleman and later proven to be false after an audit of the union's finances. It was revealed that the $15,000 repaid by the gentleman in question related to an unauthorised pay rise.

The member for Dobell's statement to the House reeks of recent invention, for he made no mention of this grand conspiracy against him during his statements at the time. He made no mention of Mr Marco Bolano, whom he identified yesterday as the leader of what had to be a 'Mission: Impossible' team that undertook this most mysterious of conspiracy plots. The member for Dobell must explain why he can claim Mr Bolano began his alleged covert vendetta against him even though Mr Bolano claims not to have started work at the Health Services Union until many months after the first charges for prostitutes appeared on the credit card accounts of the member for Dobell. The member for Dobell's allegation that Mr Bolano has been complicit in a conspiracy that has included what must have been illegal conduct—if the member for Dobell is to be believed—is a very serious allegation indeed. The member for Dobell has raised these allegations of alleged dishonest and criminal conduct by Mr Bolano, and he has a responsibility to substantiate these claims with at least a shred of evidence. None was provided.

Another key plank of the member for Dobell's statement yesterday was that these alleged conspirators must have cloned his mobile phone to spoof calls to the escort agencies. The member for Dobell cannot stand in the parliament and make such outlandish claims without providing any evidence to support them. According to security experts consulted by various media organisations overnight, this cloning requires highly sophisticated techniques, equipment that is illegal in the hands of the public and would require a very high level of technical knowledge—like a government surveillance agency—as well as access to the member for Dobell's mobile phone and use of that mobile phone at the same place as the member for Dobell used it before and after the alleged cloned calls, because the records show that he was making calls at about that time. Not one shred of evidence was provided by the member for Dobell to support this allegation that somehow the members of the HSU are operating a high-tech illegal surveillance operation—the likes of which the CIA would be hard pressed to do. The member for Dobell may as well declare that aliens hacked his phone and then challenge others to disprove his hypothesis.

Another claim in his statement yesterday, relating to the reporting of the saga, was that Fairfax journalists published 12 articles without seeking his response. Yet Sydney Morning Herald investigative reporter Kate McClymont has rejected this claim and last night detailed extensive attempts to contact the member for Dobell and also revealed that he has sent her text messages on occasion complimenting her articles. Ms McClymont described his claim that Fairfax made no attempt to contact him as crazy—yet this is what he said to the parliament. The parliament deserves an honest explanation.

The parliament is not becoming judge and jury on this matter. Indeed, what the parliament deserves is a statement that is neither false nor misleading. And I find it hypocritical beyond description for the government to accuse the opposition of abandoning the presumption of innocence when the only judgments made against the member for Dobell have been by the Prime Minister and her government. The Prime Minister said in late April that 'a line has been crossed', and then she acted to suspend the member for Dobell from the Labor Party. Clearly, the Prime Minister passed judgment upon the member for Dobell and, on her version of events, concluded that he was no longer a fit or proper person to sit in the Labor Party parliamentary caucus. If he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, why not invite him back into the Labor Party until he has had his day in court?

After the member for Dobell's statement yesterday, the Prime Minister said overnight: 'I made a decision and I explained at the time about respect for the parliament and there was accumulation of issues here'—so much for the embrace of the presumption of innocence. The Prime Minister passed judgment upon the member for Dobell as being unfit to sit within the federal Labor caucus. She has found him unfit to be preselected for Dobell as the Labor Party's candidate at the next election. If he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and entitled to his day in court, invite him back into the Labor Party caucus and preselect him as the member for Dobell for the next election.

This is hypocrisy on a grand scale. The Prime Minister passed judgment on the member for Dobell and found him unfit to remain in the Labor Party; yet Labor simultaneously argues that the parliament cannot examine or scrutinise his statement in debates. Four times Labor voted to gag debate on the member for Dobell's statement and conduct. This parliament deserves an explanation. (Time expired)