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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9138


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:04): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to questions without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) and Senator Collins today relating to ministerial standards.

Well, the days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his contempt for democracy have not faded in Queensland. The contempt for due process in Queensland, the contempt for the law by politicians in Queensland and the contempt for the parliament by politicians in Queensland are there to be seen from the behaviour of the member for Fisher, Mal Brough, and the member for Longman, Wyatt Roy.

Senator Brandis: On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, the senator is plainly reflecting upon those two members of the House of Representatives. This is a flagrant breach of the relevant standing order, and he should be brought to order.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, I remind you of the standing order that forbids members adversely reflecting on members of the other place, and I would ask you to consider that in your contribution.

Senator CAMERON: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. If there is any view that I am reflecting on the member for Fisher or the member for Longman and breaching parliamentary standing orders, I withdraw. Let me indicate clearly that there is a lineage in Queensland—a lineage that comes from Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Russ Hinze—and that lineage is straight back down into the current Liberal National Party in Queensland. We see how this party has contempt for due process and how this party in Queensland has contempt for the law and contempt for the parliament—the same contempt that Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Russ Hinze exercised in their standing over democracy in Queensland. And we have the same contempt for due process and democracy being seen right now. We have two judges of the Federal Court who have indicated that Mr Brough did conspire in his—

Senator Brandis: Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. That is a reflection upon Mr Brough. It is also, I take it, an intended reference to judicial proceedings, which, as you know, Mr Deputy President, ought not to be commented upon in the Senate.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The difficulty for me, Senator Brandis, is that Senator Cameron directly referred to a matter before the court and a statement allegedly made by a judicial officer. It is not a matter for me to determine whether that is true or not, and at this point I do not think Senator Cameron is actually in breach of the standing order that I think you refer to, which would be 193(3). So, Senator Cameron, you can continue.

Senator CAMERON: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I am always very aware of how sensitive this is to Senator Brandis, why Senator Brandis would be so sensitive about the behaviour of his colleagues in Queensland and why the lineage from Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Mal Brough seems to have filtered down quite significantly into the activities and behaviour of current Queensland politicians and the Liberal Party in Queensland. What is going on is quite disgusting. Two of four Federal Court judges found that Mr Brough had engaged in a conspiracy to bring down the federal government through legal action. That is on the public record.

Senator Brandis: Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order—and, please, Senator Cameron, what I am sensitive about is your contempt for the standing orders of the Senate. Mr Deputy President, rule 193(3) provides:

A senator shall not use offensive words against either House of Parliament or of a House of a state or territory parliament, or any member of such House …

It goes on to say:

… all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on—

among other things—

… members … shall be considered highly disorderly.

Senator Cameron has told us enough now for it to be perfectly apparent that he is both using offensive words in relation to Mr Brough and reflecting upon him and casting an imputation. There have been no criminal or civil proceedings against Mr Brough. There have been proceedings concerning the Ashby matter which have been a matter of public record. Having read the reasons for decision in those matters, I can tell you, Mr Deputy President, that neither Federal Court judge who dealt with those matters said of Mr Brough what Senator Cameron has said of him, so he is not quoting the words of a Federal Court judge. He is attributing words to a Federal Court judge which were not uttered by that judge, and in doing so he is reflecting upon Mr Brough.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Again the difficulty I have, Senator Brandis, is that I am unaware of the case and the matters referred to. I do not know whether Senator Cameron is accurately reflecting or not. As you say, in your view he clearly is not. But in any case it is not a matter for the chair to determine the truth or accuracy of statements made by senators. That is a matter for debate.

Senator Brandis: On the point of order, Mr Deputy President: I accept that. I entirely accept that it is not for you to determine the truth or accuracy. The point I make to you, sir, is that, if a statement that would be within the standing orders because it quotes from a judgement of a federal judge were in fact a misattribution of words to that federal judge so that it is therefore not protected by the standing orders, it therefore falls within standing order 193(3). I can tell you, Mr Deputy President, that no federal judge has said of Mr Brough the words that Senator Cameron has attributed to him. If Senator Cameron wants to be honest with the Senate, he should read from the reasons for judgement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, did you want to also speak to the point of order?

Senator CAMERON: In relation to the point of order, it is quite clear that what I was doing was discussing and putting forward what two Federal Court judges have indicated in relation to Mr Brough, and I am not surprised that there is a bit of panic in relation to Senator Brandis on these issues.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is true that simply repeating something that is unparliamentary that is said by somebody else here in the chamber does not make it any less unparliamentary. But I have been listening carefully, and I am not sure—you see, I think I am limited to look at offensive words, and I am not sure—that anything Senator Cameron has said in repeating some of the judgements goes to those offensive words. Going to the issue of improper motives is again asking me to judge whether Senator Cameron is either interpreting or quoting the federal justices accurately, and I am not sure I am in a position to do so, Senator Brandis, but I am happy to hear more.

Senator Brandis: Thank you very much, Mr Deputy President. I think this is an important point. The word in standing order 193(3) which is, if I might say so with respect, too often overlooked is the word 'imputations'. Imputations, like innuendos, include what might broadly be called suggestions of impropriety. An outright allegation of impropriety is not the operative concept. An imputation of impropriety may be made other than by direct allegation.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: How I intend to proceed is that I will now take advice on this matter, and it may be something that the President wishes to give further consideration to and a more substantial ruling on in due course. Senator Cameron, before I take the advice?

Senator CAMERON: I would seek your indulgence in relation to the point of order so that if you are taking advice you have a full understanding of my position on this. I just draw your attention to Thursday, 29 November 2012, when Senator Brandis said in this place, 'You're the ones with a criminal in the Lodge.' That was the position Senator Brandis took in this place, and he defended that position and would not withdraw. So the pot calling the kettle black is a bit rough.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: We are now probably moving too far towards debate. Regardless of that matter, Senator Cameron, all I can deal with is the question and the point of order that is before me at the moment. So the Senate might just bear with me for one moment while I take advice. My advice is that I will in fact uphold Senator Brandis's point of order. As I said earlier, it may be something that the President may wish to revisit and make a more substantive ruling on down the track. I simply ask you at this point, Senator Cameron, to ensure that your comments do not impugn the motives of a member in the other place.

Senator CAMERON: Let me go to some statements that were made in the other place by Mr Mark Dreyfus MP in relation to this issue. He said in that place that between 23 March—and he was quoting a so-called visit to Mr Brough's property—

Senator Jacinta Collins: A raid.

Senator CAMERON: which was actually a raid on Mr Brough's home. It says:

Between 23 March and 13 April 2012, Malcolm Thomas Brough, born 29 December 1961, counselled and procured James Hunter Ashby, being a Commonwealth officer, to disclose extracts from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Peter Slipper's 2009 to 2012 official diary, and provide those extracts to third parties without authority, contrary to section 70(1) of the Crimes Act …

It also outlined:

Between 23 March and 13 April 2012, Malcolm Thomas Brough … counselled and procured James Hunter Ashby, to access restricted—

Senator Brandis: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Plainly, what is now being imputed to Mr Brough is criminality. Senator Cameron is quoting language which he said was used by the shadow Attorney-General in the House of Representatives. But he has not identified the source of the document which Mr Dreyfus was quoting. I believe that the document was a search warrant, which is not a document that constitutes a charge or allegation of the commission of a criminal offence. But the implication in Senator Cameron's remarks is that it is. It therefore is plainly in breach of standing order 193(3).

Senator CAMERON: On the point of order: these are exact words quoted word for word, used in the House of Representatives and not challenged by the coalition in the House of Representatives. I am not imputing anything; I am detailing what that search warrant said.

Senator Brandis: So you admit it is a search warrant?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: In any case, let me just say that in quoting a document a senator is not permitted to utter words which would not be permitted under the rules of debate. This principle ensures senators cannot circumvent the rules of debate by simply quoting documents. That is one element of what is being said. But Senator Brandis, do I take it you are arguing that if the origins of the document Senator Cameron was quoting from were clarified, you may not have a point of order?

Senator Brandis: Close. The point I was making was this: Senator Cameron did not, until his intervention a moment ago, make it clear that what he was quoting from was Mr Dreyfus quoting from a search warrant. As I think all honourable senators know, for a person to have a search warrant executed on their premises is not an allegation against them of criminality. By quoting words from the search warrant—

Senator Jacinta Collins: We cannot even quote a search warrant now? This is how farcical you are, George.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Brandis: By quoting words from a search warrant without identifying the document from which he was quoting as a search warrant, Senator Cameron was imputing guilt against Mr Brough in respect of the language that he quoted without identifying the source.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: If he has now in fact identified the source, I am less concerned about a potential breach—

Senator Brandis: I would not have taken the point of order had he identified the source at the start.

Senator CAMERON: Just to clarify the situation even further, I seek leave to table the search warrant.

Leave granted.

Senator CAMERON: This is a member of parliament who has indicated that the police visited his home. If we want to talk about being accurate: according to Mr Brough, this was a 'visit' to his home, but really it was a search warrant being implemented at his home. This is a situation where we have a Prime Minister who has appointed an individual to one of the most important offices in this country—that is, minister of state. The Special Minister of State is supposed to act with integrity and is supposed act completely in line with the rules and regulations that apply to that office. This is a real problem for this government. This minister should resign. (Time expired)