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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9332


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12:45): I seek leave to move a motion relating to Senator Dastyari.

Leave not granted.

Senator BRANDIS: Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Brandis moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to Senator Dastyari may be moved immediately and determined without amendment.

I'm sorry that the Leader of the Opposition has declined leave to move this motion, because the purpose of the motion is to give an opposition senator, namely Senator Dastyari, an opportunity to explain himself. The terms of the motion are these:

(1) That Senator Dastyari be required to attend the Senate chamber at 3 pm today to make a statement of not more than 20 minutes, addressing:

(a) the nature of his relationship with Mr Huang Xian-gmo;

(b) the allegations made by Fairfax media on 29 November 2017 that Senator Dastyari gave Mr Huang counter-surveillance advice and conducted a covert conversation with him during a meeting at Mr Huang's home in October 2016, including full details of the covert conversation;

(c) the press conference held by Senator Dastyari on 17 June 2016, and in particular:

   (i) the nature of Mr Huang's involvement in the decision to hold the press conference,

   (ii) full details of what was said by him at the press conference,

   (iii) the reason why he used the press conference to specifically contradict official Labor Party policy on Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea,

   (iv) the reason the press conference was restricted to Chinese language media, and

   (v) why he subsequently gave untruthful accounts of what he had said at the press conference; and

(d) the nature and value of all payments made to or on behalf of Senator Dastyari by Mr Huang or at his direction.

(2) That any Senator may move a motion to take note of Senator Dastyari's statement, and that debate on the motion may proceed for a period of up to 90 minutes.

Senator Watt interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: I heard Senator Watt interject a moment ago that Senator Dastyari has already given a statement. We all know that Senator Dastyari gave a very brief two-minute, rather self-pitying statement and then immediately left the chamber before the debate occurred. During the course of the debate, I raised a number of very specific questions in relation to Senator Dastyari. Senator Dastyari was not present in the chamber to hear those allegations, and he has not responded to those allegations. It is for that reason that it is appropriate and, indeed, it is owed and due to the Senate as a matter of proper professional conduct, not to mention professional courtesy, for Senator Dastyari to address the allegations that have been made against him.

In saying that, I might point out that it is notable that, when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate rose to her feet this morning in response to my speech and when Senator Carr also spoke on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, neither of them offered a word of defence of Senator Dastyari—not a word. So Senator Dastyari, a colleague who is the subject of very serious allegations made, in the first instance, by the media and now, quite properly, raised by the government in this chamber, has not yet afforded the Senate the courtesy of responding in detail and with particularity to those allegations. This motion provides for an opportunity in the Senate's program immediately after question time today for Senator Dastyari to respond. He should be given the opportunity to respond. We will listen very carefully to what Senator Dastyari has said, and other senators may choose to take note of Senator Dastyari's statement.

This is a commonplace procedure that this chamber has adopted on several occasions, including earlier this year in relation to myself, when allegations were made against me in relation to the Bell litigation, as senators will remember. And I had no difficulty attending the chamber and responding to a long series of questions from Senator Pratt. So, it's a proper procedure. The Senate is entitled to something more than the two-minute, self-pitying statement that came from Senator Dastyari this morning, and I would ask honourable senators to give favourable consideration to the motion.