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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2141

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:30): I will attempt to answer a couple of those questions posed by Senator Hume. The simple facts are that, based on eminent advice given to the government, Senator Day's qualification to be a senator has been referred to the High Court based on whether or not he had a pecuniary interest in a facility. Anybody who has been elected to the Senate will know that, when you get elected, you get offered an office. They say: 'There's an office. It's been leased. Move into it.' I have been in Senator Farrell's old office, eminently fitted out and eminently suited for the work of a senator—but not for Senator Day. Senator Day says, 'No, I'm not going there. I refuse to go there' for whatever reasons he trotted out. This is why we are talking about it now. It is because of the actions of several special ministers of state in conceding to Senator Day's position that he is not moving into an office. There are other senators on this side of the chamber and on that side of the chamber who did not want to move into a particular facility, but, in order to make sure taxpayers' money was effectively used, they did. They waited until the lease expired or till an arrangement was made and then moved.

We are talking about the Hon. Simon Birmingham's position in all this, and I think it is worth putting on the record why it is worth following up another aspect of Senator Day's activity: his pursuit of this grant for this vocational training college. We know from a cursory examination of the media that the $1.84 million handed to the college chaired for a decade by Senator Day equates to $90,000 for each of the 20 construction apprentices involved in a four-year trial of Mr Day's pet project. The equivalent certificate IV in construction and building at TAFE costs just $30,000 per student. There is a huge disconnect there. The other providers of TAFE certificate IV are only charging $30,000 per student, and Mr Day's college was handed the same sum as the two industry bodies, Master Builders Australia and the National Electrical and Communications Association, who promised to train hundreds of apprentices.

So it is not that we are reinventing the wheel here; we are questioning the actions of authorised ministers in the government: special ministers of state Ronaldson, Ryan and Cormann and Senator Birmingham in respect of his role in granting this very generous provision to Senator Day—almost three times the industry standard in cost for a lot fewer students. These are legitimate questions for debate in this place. I totally reject Senator Paterson and Senator Hume's assertion that we are on the wrong track here. This is about probity. This is about taxpayers' money. This is about due diligence and governance. As Shakespeare said, there is something rotten in Denmark. There is something rotten on that side. They have not acted with due diligence, governance and probity in respect of Senator Day's office and they have not acted with due diligence and probity in respect of granting his pet project an extreme amount of money equivalent to that given to the Master Builders and the electricians, who train hundreds of apprentices, at more than twice or even three times the cost. That does not look good on their resume. It has happened on their watch.

Senator Cameron has been very vigorous in saying that they got paid for that, that Senator Day voted for them all the time. I do not know if that is the case, but you are entitled to ask the question. You are entitled to join the dots. He was able to get away with a situation which no senator that I know has been able to get away with: refusing to move into a taxpayer funded office. He has then had a project which has been funded at double the cost of the industry standard for not as many people. You are entitled to ask those ministers on the other side questions about this behaviour. They have all got sworn statements and they have something to explain. It will continue. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.