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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9845

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (15:16): I move:

Senator Collins moved—That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis), the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) and the Minister for Rural Health (Senator Nash) to questions without notice asked by Senators Cameron, Collins and Gallagher today relating to the Special Minister of State (Mr Brough) and to mental health policy.

In relation to answers provided by Senator Brandis, he maintains that we should wait until guilt is established rather than apply the ministerial standards. He knows what those standards are. Arthur Sinodinos knows what those standards are. It is not appropriate that we wait until guilt has been established when a prima facie case is very clear, even more so as Senator Brandis tries to dance around a basic contradiction. You cannot say on national television, 'Yes, I did,' and then say in the House of Representatives, 'No,' and not accept that there is a clear contradiction there.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator Heffernan it seems is again trying to say that my voice is too loud. I am sorry, Senator Heffernan, that is bad luck for you. We have every reason to be outraged by the behaviour that is occurring here.

Let me move to Senator Cormann's non-answer to questions today. What is particularly instructive is that he would not indicate confidence in his junior minister. He is not hanging himself out here.

I think I should return, though, to Senator Brandis and his various attempts to avoid answering questions and to refuse to take questions to the Prime Minister on notice earlier and, indeed, his not dealing with them comprehensively. It is tempting for senators to switch off as we are on the receiving end of Senator Brandis's odious pomposity. It happens time and time again and it is hard to continue to listen to him. But, for example, he and his interjecting colleagues burnt up close to 20 minutes of question time and time to take note of answers yesterday by misconstruing Senator Wong's paraphrasing and debating whether or not she had used the correct tense. This is what question time yesterday deteriorated into, rather than question time being about the government of the day, the executive government, answering questions.

Of course, Senator Brandis gets into trouble when he is answering questions, and we all need to ask: what is he hiding? Here is an example of what he is seeking to hide and why he is stonewalling. Senator Brandis told the Senate about his knowledge of the James Ashby affair, stating, 'I have no knowledge of the James Ashby affair beyond what I have read in the media.' We now know that Senator Brandis was briefed by the justice minister, Michael Keenan. This is directly contradictory to the evidence that he provided to the Senate. As we now know that Senator Brandis had information other than what was reported in the media, the question is: what else did he know and from what other sources? We now know why he danced around today and why he wasted 20 minutes of question time and taking note time yesterday. He is attempting to hide the real issue. The real issue was his answer that he knows nothing more than what he had gleaned from media coverage of this matter, and what we now know is very different.

Not only do we have Mr Brough misleading parliament; there are serious questions now over whether the Attorney-General is guilty of misleading the Australian parliament. That was the issue he was hiding yesterday. That is where the trickly lawyer was dancing around again with his odious pomposity. We know he is stonewalling and we know now he is clearly hiding his own knowledge and his own involvement in this tawdry matter. And, of course, it is a tawdry matter.

Other movements in the Queensland Liberal National Party do make you wonder. There are defections to the National Party. What else is yet to occur here? Others are running away from Mr Brough. Senator Bernardi does not want to indicate his confidence. Senator Cormann does not want to indicate his confidence. Senator Brandis hid behind a generalisation that Mr Turnbull would have confidence in all of his ministers. We know what the lines are behind there. I look forward to Senator Bernardi's defence of Mr Brough because it will be most— (Time expired)