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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5822

Deputy Prime Minister


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:52): My question is to Senator Brandis, the Minister representing the foreign affairs minister. After claiming the discovery of Deputy Prime Minister Joyce's New Zealand citizenship was a conspiracy, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said yesterday that she would find it, 'very difficult to build trust with a future New Zealand Labor government'. Given the minister has also said she does not accept the statements of conservative New Zealand minister Peter Dunne, can she confirm she would find it difficult to build a relationship with a New Zealand government of either political persuasion?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:52): Senator Wong, I think, if I may say so, that Ms Bishop has been one of Australia's outstanding ministers for foreign affairs. That is a fact, which, by the way—in a rare glimpse of personal grace—you yourself came close to acknowledging yesterday when you said Ms Bishop has been, I think your words were, 'a credible and effective Minister for Foreign Affairs'. And, indeed, she has been. I can assure you, Senator Wong, that Australia's relationship with one of our oldest and closest friends, New Zealand, will be entirely unaffected by any change of government in New Zealand.

The conduct of the public diplomacy in Australia by the Minister for Foreign Affairs over the last four years has been exemplary—and it will continue to be exemplary. The only person and the only political party that has caused embarrassment to the government of New Zealand, Senator Wong, is you and your party, by seeking to inveigle the New Zealand parliament into a domestic Australian political dispute. This is what, might I remind you, the Prime Minister of New Zealand himself, Bill English, had to say in question time in the New Zealand parliament yesterday:

These are serious issues, to interfere in another country's politics and it appears there's been significant misjudgement by the member's fellow opposition party.

He was referring to the Australian Labor Party, Senator Wong. That is the party that the Prime Minister of New Zealand was accusing of interfering in another country's politics. And, Senator Wong, Mr Bill English is right.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:54): Was it the foreign minister's decision to use her role as Australia's foreign minister for domestic political purposes, or was she asked to risk our relationship with New Zealand by someone else?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:55): Senator Wong, with respect, if you ask a question like that you are really losing touch with reality. You really are. As if! And you of all people—the person who aspires to be the foreign minister of Australia yourself—think that the relationship between Australia and New Zealand is at risk! How absurd! Of course it's not at risk, and it's absurd of you to say so. You should be embarrassed.

However, the New Zealand government has been embarrassed by the adventures of your chief of staff, as both the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr Bill English, and the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Ms Jacinda Ardern, have said in the past 24 hours. But you, Senator Wong, are the person who should hang your head in shame.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:56): How can this government now seek to defend the credibility of the office of foreign minister when she herself has politicised Australia's diplomatic relationship with New Zealand in the interests of distracting from a Turnbull government in utter chaos?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:56): What an extraordinary question! It wasn't Ms Bishop's chief of staff who rang up a member of the New Zealand parliament and put him up to asking a question in the New Zealand parliament to try to influence Australian domestic politics. It wasn't Ms Bishop's chief of staff, Senator Wong; it was your chief of staff. You know that he did the wrong thing, because you said in your doorstop this morning that your chief of staff should not have done that and that you have spoken to him. So there's even been a grudging admission from you that your chief of staff did the wrong thing and that your office did the wrong thing. We have both the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the New Zealand opposition leader saying it was the wrong thing, and you now come into this chamber and seek to defend it. How ridiculous you are! (Time expired)