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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9848


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:26): Here we are: we had plenty of opportunity for those opposite to defend the member in the lower house, Mr Brough, but what did they talk about? The NBN. They were not game to go near this cabinet minister, who is under incredible attack not only in the lower house but in the Senate and in the media. Not one coalition senator was prepared to say that they stand by this man.

Senator Bernardi: Just you wait!

Senator CAMERON: Senator Bernardi is going to stand by a cabinet minister who has misled parliament? It does not surprise me that Senator Bernardi would be getting up and supporting Mr Brough, because what Mr Brough has done trashes what is supposedly a clear obligation of a minister to act according to Westminster principles and to not mislead the parliament. He has misled parliament and the issue which is very interesting right now is that it is clear that Senator Brandis has misled the Senate. Senator Brandis said in his initial responses to the issue of what Mr Brough had done that he had no knowledge other than that which he had read in the media. That position was clarified today, and we have a different position where they received an oral briefing after the execution of the warrant. So the standard of ministerial responsibility in this place, either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, under this government, has deteriorated so badly that ministers do not find it a problem to stand up and mislead the Senate or to mislead the House of Representatives.

Senator Ruston said there was some incredible obsession on this issue and then she ran away from the issue as quickly as she possibly could. She did not want to talk about it. There is no incredible obsession. This is about ministerial accountability—a very low bar to jump when it comes to the coalition. Ministerial responsibility under this government is out the window

You can go on national television and admit to criminal activity, then come into the House of Representatives and deny it, mislead the House of Representatives and then claim that you are acting completely correctly. It is just nonsense. Ministers have a responsibility to tell the truth and not mislead either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Senator Brandis has some questions to answer here as well. Senator Brandis has some explanations to make, because he told the Senate unequivocally that he had no knowledge of anything to do with Minister Brough's position other than what he had read in the media. Then he comes in today and indicates that he had an oral briefing after the execution of the warrant. So Senator Brandis has some explanation to make. Senator Brandis is absolutely doing the same thing that has been done by Minister Brough in the House of Representatives—that is, saying something that is not accurate and misleading the Senate. He has misled the Senate.

If we talk about courage and conviction in politics, surely it is about time that the Prime Minister acted with some courage and conviction. Surely it is about time that this Prime Minister had some backbone and actually stood up for the conventions and the rules that apply in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate, because this Prime Minister has shown no courage, no conviction and no commitment to the principles that apply in both Houses. (Time expired)