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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5082

Dr EMERSON (RankinMinister for Trade and Competitiveness, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy) (15:35): I wish to raise a matter of privilege. In a personal explanation yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said:

The claim that I said the coalition had an agreement with Indonesia is not true. At no time did I say in an interview with The Guardian online or in any other interview that the coalition had either negotiated or reached an agreement with Indonesia.

This statement was made in response to an article published by TheGuardian Australia under the headline 'Indonesia have agreed to co-operate in turning back boats, insists Coalition'. The assertions made by the deputy leader in her personal explanation contrasts with remarks attributed to her by TheGuardian late yesterday. According to a published transcript of the deputy leader's interview with TheGuardian

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The member is raising a matter of privilege.

Dr EMERSON: She said—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order?

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, matters of privilege are very serious ones. If the minister wishes simply to have a political hit on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he can do a doorstop, like he usually does, rather than wasting the time of the House on a spurious—

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat! The minister has the call.

Dr EMERSON: This is the quote:

… one thing you understand about diplomacy and others do as well is the professional diplomats are paid to present, aah, particular views but what goes on behind the scenes can be quite different—what people say privately can be different to what they say publicly …

The deputy leader's comments were clearly calculated to imply that, regardless of the Indonesian government's public position, there was a private understanding between the Indonesian government and the coalition to support the coalition's dangerous turn-back policy.

The SPEAKER: Order! Would the minister get to the issue of privilege.

Dr EMERSON: I am, Speaker. Members owe an obligation of honesty and candour to the House. I ask you, Speaker, to consider this matter with a view to giving precedence to a motion to refer this matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests to determine whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has misled the House. In making this assessment I ask you to consider the precedent involving the former member for Chisholm, Dr Wooldridge, who was condemned by this House for making expressed statements in a personal explanation which were inconsistent with implications contained in remarks made outside of the House.