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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5766


Mr TRUSS (2:16 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I refer the minister to the answer he gave in this House on Tuesday to my question about his advance knowledge of the government’s great big new tax on mining when he said:

… of course I was consulted.

How does the minister reconcile this statement with reports today that he ordered his own department to consult better with other departments as he had been ‘surprised’ by the mining tax announcement? Why did the minister tell the parliament that he had been consulted when obviously he had not? Apart from the ‘gang of four’, how senior does a minister have to be before he knows what is going on in this government?


Mr CREAN (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for his question. I stand by my answer of last Tuesday. I repeat what the Deputy Prime Minister has had to say. The trouble with your side of the House is that there is no attention to detail, no capacity for creativity and the only thing you ever run off is what you read in the newspaper. You do not even go past the front page and then you do not even bother to check whether or not it is accurate.


Mr Hockey interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney!

Government members interjecting—


Mr Forrest —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I draw your attention to the dreadful things you are being accused of, Mr Speaker, and ask you to direct ministers to address their remarks through the chair.


The SPEAKER —I remind the Minister for Trade of the need to address his remarks through the chair. I assure the member for Mallee that my hide is getting thicker with each day that passes.


Mr CREAN —Mr Speaker, it is true that I attended a DFAT retreat session—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The minister has the call.


Mr CREAN —I do not think they are interested in the answer, Mr Speaker.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Those on my left will come to order. The member for Canning!


Mr CREAN —If they looked at the article, they would see that the session was on 10 May. So we are not just talking about a report on the front page today which is inaccurate; it relates to a discussion I had back on 10 May. It is also true that, while that discussion was Chatham House rules, I can confirm a number of things because it is important—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Trade will resume his seat. A question has been asked. The minister is responding to that question and should be heard in silence.


Mr CREAN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is important—because people are trying to misrepresent it—that I say a number of things on the record. It is true that I had a discussion with the department about the importance of interacting more with other departments of government. That is because we take the view that trade has implications beyond just trade negotiations, that we actually understand the economic dynamics of trade and the importance of having engagement across portfolios. That is a statement I have made on a number of occasions including in this House. I also believe it is important that within the department there is more interaction and engagement with the agencies of the department—with Austrade, AusAID and EFIC. What is not accurate is that I told departmental officials that I found out about the details of the Henry tax review and the changes to the timing of the CPRS legislation in newspapers. I did not say that to the media.


Ms Julie Bishop —You said it on the radio!


Mr CREAN —I said it on the radio, did I? I think the opposition needs to understand the importance of what it stands for. Let me go to this point because, as I understand it, the question that is asked—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —The Minister for Trade will again resume his seat. A question has been asked and is being responded to. People might be seeking an early mark. We might have to accommodate them.


Mr CREAN —The truth is that had those on the other side bothered to read a statement that was put out by me earlier today they would have understood that point. But let me also go to what the thrust of this question is about. As I understand it—if I have this right—what we are being accused of is being a government that is not consulting with the full executive.


Mr Dutton —With each other!


Mr CREAN —Is that the nature of the complaint?


The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).

The member for Dickson then left the chamber.

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Members on my right are very lucky not to have been warned or dealt with. The minister will watch the reflections.


Mr CREAN —Me?


The SPEAKER —Sorry, not the minister at the dispatch box. I might just use this opportunity to say that it is a bit rich, when discipline is being exerted, for others to make it very hard at that time by intervening. It makes it very difficult for action to be taken. The Minister for Trade has the call and as I have said repeatedly throughout this question: a question was asked; the question was in order. The minister has been responding to that question but many people have not been bothered to listen to the response.


Mr CREAN —I just remind the House that the thrust of this question was about the lack of consultation. Let me just remind the House about the Leader of the Opposition being forced to apologise, back in March, to his colleagues for failing to consult them on his plan to tax big business to fund a 26-week paid maternity leave scheme. This is the person who is accusing us of putting taxes up, and he not only introduces a tax increase of 1.7 per cent, he fails to consult. What has this got to do with it? It has got to do with the fact that you have no consultation. You are a sclerotic group over there with no creativity and no ideas—


The SPEAKER —The minister will refer his remarks through the chair.


Mr CREAN —and you come into the House accusing us of it! So what was the Leader of the Opposition’s statement, then? Mr Abbott, in defence of that failure—


The SPEAKER —The minister will refer to members by their parliamentary title.


Mr CREAN —The Leader of the Opposition’s answer to his failure to consult is: sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. The next time he wanted to go into his party room with a proposal for acceptance—this was the $10,000 stay at home payment for mums—rather than showing forgiveness they just rejected him. So do not come into this place and lecture us about lack of consultation.

I said the other day that I was consulted in relation to the RSPT. I stand by that. What I do say is that this is a government that is united in the purpose of better returns to this nation of what the nation owns, and that is the resource base.