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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

CHAIR: I declare resumed this hearing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and its inquiry into the 2016-17 budget. I welcome the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Thanks very much for being with us, Ms McNamara. Did you want to make an opening statement?

Ms McNaughton : No, thank you. And my surname is McNaughton.

CHAIR: I am very sorry. That is fine. Senator Pratt, do have any questions of the DPP?

Senator PRATT: I do not have questions for the DPP, but I did want to invite Senator Brandis to table his statement regarding the Bell Group matter, which he seemed prepared to do.

Senator Brandis: I do not have anything to table. As I said at the start—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, this is a committee of the Senate where the committee is in charge. We have written down here that the Labor Party wants to question the Director of Public Prosecutions. I am going to the Labor Party—do you have any questions for the DPP?

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, can I please, by your leave, make a brief statement of less than 15 seconds?

Senator PRATT: We would support that.

CHAIR: Yes, Attorney. But, before I do that, the Labor Party asked for the Director of Public Prosecutions to be present. They are now telling me they do not have questions. Does anyone else have questions of the DPP?

Senator WONG: Chair, just so we are clear, given how much the program has blown out—

Senator WATT: Chair, a point of order.

CHAIR: Does anyone else have questions of the DPP?

Senator WATT: Point of order, Chair.

Senator WONG: If I could just indicate what I understand: given that the time has blown out due to very extensive questioning of the Human Rights Commission again—

CHAIR: What is your point of order?

Senator WONG: the Labor Party is saying that we are happy to put those on notice. I trust that that has not inconvenienced the DPP.

CHAIR: If there is nobody else, besides the Labor Party, who asked for the DPP to be here, can I apologise profusely. I get very embarrassed when Senate committees get the DPP to come when they do not have questions for them. Are you based in Canberra?

Ms McNaughton : I am based in Sydney.

CHAIR: How many of you came down from Sydney?

Ms McNaughton : Two of us came down from Sydney. The rest are based in Canberra.

CHAIR: I do apologise as much as I can, Ms McNaughton. It is an appalling practice. We try to, in private meetings of the committee, make sure that we only ask people who are wanted—

Senator WONG: It would not have happened if you had not blown out the program, Ian. It would not have happened. It would not have happened if you had not been obsessed with Professor Triggs.

CHAIR: I am very, very sorry. Sorry to bring you all the way from—

Senator WONG: It would not have happened if you had not—

CHAIR: Senator Wong, if you cannot control yourself, would you please leave the room?

Senator WONG: I am quite capable of controlling myself.

CHAIR: This is not the Senate. You are not going to be screaming and yelling all the way through this as you do in the Senate.

Senator Watt interjecting

CHAIR: In my committee, you will observe the standing orders as everyone else does. The same goes for you, Senator Watt.

Senator PRATT: You cannot blame us for the fact that we are nearly two hours behind.

CHAIR: If you cannot control yourself from interjecting, you should leave the room. Ms McNaughton, you are excused with our must abject apologies.

Ms McNaughton : Thank you very much.

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, Sarah.

CHAIR: I am so embarrassed.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, I did ask for leave to make a very—

CHAIR: Yes, I am giving you leave now. I was just dismissing the DPP.

Senator Brandis: Thank you very much indeed. By a letter I received yesterday, I was invited to make an explanation to this committee about what was alleged to be, though in fact is not, an inconsistency between what I said to the Senate on 28 November and a statement by the Attorney-General of Western Australia on Friday.

Senator WATT: They are directly inconsistent.

Senator Brandis: I am ready, willing and able to make that explanation, but I am in the hands of the committee. I do not have a statement to table. I have an explanation to give, which I will give at such time as the committee wishes me to do so.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Senator Brandis. I appreciate that, but we have determined a program for a reason.

Senator WONG: But you will not observe it!

CHAIR: That is we try to get the agencies from Sydney here—so they can return to their productive place of work. Regrettably, in this last instance, not one question was asked after the Labor Party specifically requested them to be here.

Senator Brandis: This would have cost several thousand dollars of taxpayers' money, by the way.

CHAIR: We have a program set by the committee. It is said to be indicative timings only—

Senator WATT: They were supposed to be on at 10 am.

CHAIR: If you were here yesterday, you would have seen that Senator Carr from the Labor Party spent until three o'clock in the afternoon on the first session that should have gone for an hour. That is the way the Senate rules and standing orders apply. I am only a servant of the Senate. Those are the orders, and that is the way they will remain while I am in the chair. I will now call the Federal Court—

Senator Brandis: Senator Macdonald, I am not criticising you.

CHAIR: No, I appreciate that.

Senator Brandis: But I simply wish to get this point on the record: the Labor Party asked for Sarah McNaughton to be here with her staff.

Senator WATT: On the basis she would start at 10 am.

Senator Brandis: They have flown down from Sydney at a considerable expense.

Senator WATT: It is now nearly 12 o'clock.

Senator Brandis: This is the Commonwealth DPP. This will be a whole day of work that the Commonwealth DPP and her senior staff could have devoted to the preparation of prosecutions in relation to transnational crime, terrorism offences and other senior matters which only the Commonwealth DPP and her senior staff deal with. That is one day out of their diary because the Labor Party has decided to play foolish political games with the program.

Senator WATT: We would have loved to have asked questions between 10 am and 10.30 am.

Senator PRATT: Our questions were very important, but there is no time to ask them thanks to Senator Macdonald.

CHAIR: There is time to ask them at the appropriate time in this program..

Senator WATT: We will ask them on notice.

CHAIR: It is the subject of another committee hearing which is wasting the Senate's time and money already. That committee is proceeding.

Senator WATT: Is that the ABC inquiry?

CHAIR: There was, apparently, so I am told, a letter from some senators to the Attorney-General which has nothing to do with this committee. The senators who wrote did not even bother with the courtesy of letting the committee know that they had requested this here today. Senator Brandis, if you have questions to answer about Bell or any other matter, that will come this afternoon—at 4.30 we are scheduled. That will depend upon the other witnesses before us.

Labor, the Greens, Xenophon, Hinch and Kakoschke-Moore have requested the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and I now call them to the table.