Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2133

Robb, Hon. Andrew, AO


Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (14:59): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to former member Mr Andrew Robb and his appointment to the Chinese owned Landbridge Group less than seven months after stepping down as Minister for Trade and Investment. Given the Landbridge Group has cited Mr Robb's influence as a leading factor in his appointment, has the Prime Minister sought to clarify what role this new appointment will take and whether this represents a conflict with his previous role as a government minister?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:00): The short answer to your question is: no, it does not. Might I remind you, Senator McCarthy—I do not think you served in the parliament when Mr Robb was the Minister for Trade and Investment—that Mr Robb was an outstanding Minister for Trade and Investment and one of, if not, I daresay, the greatest ministers for trade Australia has ever seen and is widely acknowledged as having been so, including by some on your side of politics. It was Mr Robb, after all, who presided over the signing of not one, not two, but three historic free trade agreements with South Korea, Japan and China—all of which eluded the previous Labor government, which pursued those agreements with no success over six years.

Mr Robb is now pursuing his postministerial career, and it is up to Mr Robb, just as it is up to all former ministers, to ensure that it is compliant with ministerial standards. I am completely satisfied that Mr Robb is a man of integrity, he is a man of honour, he was an exemplary minister and he is having an exemplary postministerial career.

I might remind you, Senator McCarthy, that Mr Robb is not the first former minister to have had a successful postministerial career. Former Labor trade minister Craig Emerson started up his own Asian regional consultancy business even before he had left the parliament.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right!

Senator BRANDIS: So be careful, Senator McCarthy, what you wish for. We are entirely satisfied that Mr Robb is upholding the ministerial standards of conduct in his postministerial career. The same cannot be said for Dr Craig Emerson.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McCarthy, a supplementary question?





Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (15:02): I refer to the Prime Minister's own statement of ministerial standards which prohibits former ministers lobbying, advocating or conducting business meetings with members of the government for an 18-month period after ceasing to be a minister. What action has the Prime Minister taken to assure himself that no meetings have taken place between Mr Robb and any member of the government?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:02): As I have said to you, Senator McCarthy, in my answer to your primary question: the government are satisfied that Mr Robb is adhering to the ministerial standards. The government do rely on the integrity of Mr Robb, and we are very confident in doing so.

Senator Wong: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question related to what action the Prime Minister has taken. So whatever the senator thinks about Mr Robb is really very interesting, but that is not the question. We did not ask about his integrity. We asked what action the Prime Minister is taking to satisfy himself that the statement of ministerial standards, which prohibits lobbying, has been complied with. They are the Prime Minister's standards. What action has he taken to ensure they have been complied with? It is a very simple question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. The minister is only 15 seconds into his answer.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator McCarthy, if you wish to suggest that there has been some noncompliance by Mr Robb with the ministerial standards, please do so. But please do not seek to besmirch by innuendo an honourable man.

The PRESIDENT: Point of order, Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: It is the same point. We are simply asking a question. The only person talking about 'besmirching' is this minister, this senator, this so-called leader. The question is: how is Mr Turnbull ensuring that there has been compliance with his own statement of ministerial standards? Why is that such a difficult question to answer?

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. I will draw to the attention of the Attorney-General the nature of the question.

Senator BRANDIS: Senator McCarthy, in the absence of any evidence to suggest in any respect that there has not been compliance, I am not even aware what it is you are pointing to. Do you suggest that Mr Robb has not been compliant? If you want to suggest that, please do, but please give us the particulars of your allegation.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McCarthy, a final supplementary question?










Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (15:04): How can the Prime Minister assure the Australian public that this is not a clear breach of these ministerial standards given he only learned about it two months after it occurred and Mr Robb deemed him unworthy of being notified?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:05): Again, by innuendo you are trying to smear an honourable man's reputation. You point to nothing in your primary question or your supplementary question to suggest that Mr Robb has not been compliant. If you have any evidence whatever to bring to the chamber that Mr Robb has not been compliant with any obligation in the pursuit of his post-ministerial career, then please present it; but if you have not—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a point of order?

Senator Cameron: Mr President, Senator Brandis should address his remarks to the chair. He should not harangue and bully a fellow senator in the way he is attempting to do now.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senators on my right, your behaviour is not becoming. In relation to the point of order, I do take note that a number of senators do speak directly to senators across the chamber. That is disorderly—you are correct—but I dismiss the rest of your point of order.

Senator BRANDIS: Through you, Mr President: Senator Cameron, after his inglorious career in the trade union movement, would know all there is to know about being a bully and a thug. Mr President, through you to Senator McCarthy—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Can we all come to order on both sides, particularly on my right. Senator Cameron, you have a further point of order?

Senator Cameron: The point of order is that the senator has accused me of being a bully and a thug. He should withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: I was listening very closely, Senator Cameron, and the Attorney-General did not accuse you of the actions that you have just depicted. So there is no point of order. As I said, I was listening very carefully, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron: On the same point of order, Mr President: I would ask you to have a look at the Hansard. It was pretty noisy and you may not have heard exactly what he said. So I would ask you to have a look at Hansard and come back to us on that.

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right! You are not assisting on my right—

An opposition senator interjecting

The PRESIDENT: and my left. The Attorney-General was speaking clearly into the microphone. I will review Hansard, and if I need to come back to the chamber, I will. Attorney-General, you have 19 seconds in which to complete your answer.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr President, through you to Senator McCarthy: you have pointed to no single fact, circumstance or even grounded suspicion that Mr Andrew Robb is not entirely in compliance with the ministerial code of conduct. If you have an allegation to make, make it; if not, you should not raise this issue. Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.