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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9651

Senator BILYK (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:24): If it were not such a serious issue, this would be extremely funny. Not only today but yesterday we had people on that side in the debate on the motion to take note of answers not even attempting to defend Mr Brough. Today we had Senator Brandis in taking note, and what did he do? He defended himself! What a joke! Yesterday we had Senator Bernardi—he could not defend Minister Brough. And today we have had Senator Fawcett who, after a lot of heckling—and I will admit: it was heckling—finally said the name, but did not go on and defend Mr Brough.

The government know they have a huge problem with Mr Brough. I do not think their memories on that side are so short that they do not remember what happened to their last leader when he failed to take action on Mrs Bishop in regard to her $5,000, 80-kilometre helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong. I do not think their memories are so short that they have forgotten that. So we know what happened to Mr Turnbull's predecessor, and I think that, if he was a half-smart man, he would actually be doing something to make sure either that Mr Brough sets himself aside or that he be sacked.

We all know that, with the Bronwyn Bishop helicopter affair, you on that side were all running around scratching your heads wondering why it took so long to make the decision. So why don't a few of you go and talk to Mr Turnbull, now that he is back, and get him to make the decision about Mr Brough, rather than just letting the ministerial code of conduct go out the door. We all know that the ministerial code of conduct gives the Prime Minister the power to make the decision to step Mr Brough aside, just on the basis of the investigation.

This member of the House of Representatives, Mr Brough, had his home raided by the AFP. That in itself should be a warning to those on that side that this is a big issue. This is a big deal. Warrants do not get given out willy-nilly.

I am not sure how long the government is prepared to let this issue drag on. Previously, Senator Sinodinos in this place stood aside, and it was for much less. But it seems Mr Brough is in some sort of protection scheme—I don't know; it is nearly a witness protection scheme.

The Prime Minister needs to start making some decisions based on what is right, because, in the court of public opinion, can I tell you: people do not think it is right that Mr Brough has not had to step aside. We know that the Prime Minister has made a lot of decisions based on possible promises that he made to people to get to the leadership and on who he has to appease. We know that. But he really needs to make a decision.

I am happy to say that Mr Turnbull is a good salesman. I will admit that. But he has got to actually deliver the goods, and if he cannot deliver the goods on the ministerial code of conduct for someone who has so obviously done something wrong—as I said, you do not get a warrant to have your house searched for no reason—and if he has not got what it takes to get Minister Brough to move aside then he should not be the leader.

When the statement was put on 60 Minutes, Mr Brough's comments were unequivocal. But then he got up and he misled the House of Representatives by blaming an editing job. That backfired on them no end, because what is going to happen when you do that? If you have a go at the media, they are going to go back and get out their footage.

I did hear Senator Conroy interjecting earlier and suggesting that maybe Minister Brandis would like to go on Laurie Oakes and try and explain his position. I do not think that is going to happen, Senator Conroy, because I do not think that Minister Brandis will be able to defend Mr Brough any more if Laurie Oakes were to ask him than he could today in question time.

It is interesting to wonder about how the court of public opinion would see this. And can I say that, in the court of public opinion, people are out there thinking, 'It took a few weeks for Tony Abbott to do something about Bronwyn Bishop. Is Malcolm Turnbull making that same mistake?' Yes, he is. He needs to—as I say—sharpen his pencil. He needs to get in there, he needs to be a leader and he need to pull Mr Brough up. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.