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, 12 March 2013
Page: 1422

New South Wales Labor Government


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the need for Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs to have an unblemished reputation for probity. Accordingly, I refer to the statement by former New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma: 'It took Eddie Obeid 20 years to build the power and influence that he had and, for 17 of those, Bob was leader.' I also refer to Mr Iemma's statement that he, former Premier Carr, made Obeid a cabinet minister:

… he waltzed into the caucus room when the vote was happening and very publically voted for him … To send a message …

Don't Mr Iemma's statements cast serious doubts on the minister's claims on Four Corners last night that he saw Eddie Obeid as a 'marginal figure, never to be taken seriously' and therefore reflect on the minister's reputation and our reputation overseas?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:02): What these Liberals will do, in pursuing their factional fights! In an effort to embarrass Senator Sinodinos, this matter gets raised today. The fact is that there stands—

Senator Sinodinos: Mr President—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Sinodinos, you are entitled to be heard in silence on both sides.

Senator Sinodinos: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister should answer the question. This is all about relevance. He is not getting to answer the question of Senator Abetz.

Senator Wong: Mr President, I rise on a further point of order. I would ask you to consider—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, I cannot take your point of order until the debate has ceased in the chamber.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a further point of order: whilst I have no doubt Senator Carr is quite capable of answering this question very well, I would ask you to consider whether any aspect of that question in fact related to his portfolio.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The ruling is that I draw the minister's attention to the question and the minister has one minute 41 seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator BOB CARR: This is a disgraceful attempt to embarrass a factional figure in the Liberal Party, who was nothing less than chair of an Obeid family company. Senator Sinodinos had Obeids on his payroll. He was chair of a company.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister entirely disregarded your ruling that he address the question, from the moment he resumed his answer. And I might point out, Mr President, that when you ruled against Senator Wong's point of order she continued from her seat to shout at you and dispute your ruling. You must assert your authority, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: I reject that.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on both sides! The minister has one minute 31 seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator BOB CARR: I would have thought the Obeid reputation was well known, when Senator Sinodinos of the Liberal Party chose to chair an Obeid family company, a company owned one-third by the Obeids, with the Obeids on his payroll. And, further, he pretended that—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bob Carr, when you are called to order you will resume your seat. When there is silence, we will proceed. The time to debate the issue is after three o'clock.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I raise a point of order: yet again this minister has shown you the discourtesy of continually turning his back on you and addressing others besides you. Senate requirements are that we address you and address our remarks through you. That cannot happen while the minister has his back to you. It is a lack of good manners.

The PRESIDENT: Order! That is not a point of order. I draw your attention to the standing orders. That is not a point of order. Minister, you have one minute 12 seconds remaining.

Senator BOB CARR: While Senator Sinodinos had Obeids on his payroll, of a company in which he had a five per cent interest, he knowingly hid this from the Australian public and claimed that as a one-third shareholder—

Senator Abetz: Mr President, I raise a point of order. There was a clear imputation against the character of Senator Sinodinos in that desperate answer by the minister and it needs to be withdrawn. To accuse a fellow senator of knowingly engaging in a certain activity is a clear imputation against that fellow senator's reputation and needs to be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, I ask you to withdraw that part of the response to the question.

Senator BOB CARR: I am happy to withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. Continue. You have 55 seconds remaining.

Senator BOB CARR: Apparently this question was drafted by NSW Liberal Senator Fierravanti-Wells as a way of undermining an opponent within the NSW Liberal Party—

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator Fierravanti-Wells interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I think Senator Kim Carr made a comment which reflects on my integrity and I ask you to ask him to withdraw that comment.

The PRESIDENT: I did not hear any reflection. If there was a reflection on the senator, it needs to be withdrawn.

Senator Kim Carr: Mr President, I am happy to withdraw, but what was the reflection?

The PRESIDENT: I do not enter into that; you know that.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Kim Carr: This is a question that raised matters to do with the integrity of a senator; namely, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. When he responded, all sorts of protests were made by those who drafted the question. It is somewhat hypocritical for senators now to complain when the foreign minister points out the hypocrisy of this question.

The PRESIDENT: Order! That is debating the question. There is no point of order. The minister has 45 seconds remaining.

Senator BOB CARR: One of the saddest things we witness in this chamber, or any other parliamentary chamber, is the sad effect of factionalism on a once great political party. How sad it is to see over there the factionalism of the NSW Liberal Party manifest: one senator drafts a question for her leader that raises embarrassing matters about the business affairs of another senator—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bob Carr, resume your seat.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence, we will proceed.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister is out of order for two reasons. Firstly, he is in defiance of your ruling to address the question. With only 19 seconds remaining, he has not even tried to pay you the respect of observing your ruling. Secondly, when you asked him to resume his seat while you could take a point of order, he entirely disregards your ruling and continues to speak. As I said before, and I did not say it lightly, this chamber is entitled to have you assert your authority over this minister.

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order there at all. The minister has 19 seconds remaining to address the question.

Senator BOB CARR: The question raised the issue in this Senate of the Obeid influence in politics and there is only one senator with a deep link with Mr Eddie Obeid—that is, Senator Sinodinos. He chaired the company, one-third owned—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable senators that the appropriate time to debate this is post question time. Senators on both sides are not doing themselves any credit by continuing this debate.





































Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:12): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the minister's desperate attempt to distance himself personally from Mr Obeid and ask: is it correct that he was so keen to have Eddie Obeid on his frontbench that he voted for him not once but twice and sought to dump sitting frontbenchers to make way for him? How can the minister be treated internationally as a person of probity if he cannot tell the truth about his conduct as Premier of New South Wales?

The PRESIDENT: The minister can answer that insofar as it pertains to the portfolio.



Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:13): The question implies I should relate this to my portfolio as foreign minister. There is only one thing to be said here: there is only one member of this Senate—that is, Senator Arthur Sinodinos—who was in a business partnership with Eddie Obeid, a business partnership that saw him disguise his five per cent ownership in a company owned one-third by Mr Obeid and employing Eddie Obeid Jr on its payroll. This is being asked in a desperate attempt by one faction of the Liberal Party to embarrass a member—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Carr!

Senator Abetz: I raise a point of order, Mr president. With great respect, sessional orders do require direct relevance. And direct relevance would require the minister not to seek to obscure the question by referring to others, but deal with the issue as to whether this minister can be treated internationally as a person of probity if he is not telling the truth about his conduct as Premier of New South Wales.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: When there is silence on both sides we will proceed. There is a debate going on at the other end of the chamber which is not assisting the progress of question time.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I am not giving anyone the call until there is silence, Senator Joyce. And I have got somebody on their feet ready to stand for a point of order before you.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Conroy: Mr President, on the point of order, the question from Senator Abetz was barely within standing orders. It has a clear imputation that the Minister for Foreign Affairs had been misleading and not telling the full truth, and I think Senator Bob Carr is absolutely entitled to treat a question that broad with the contempt with which I think he is treating it. He is well within relevance to the question that he was asked, and I ask you to dismiss this frivolous point of order.

The PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, Senator Brandis. I had Senator Joyce on his feet before you wanting to take a point of order.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator Joyce: Mr President, I rise on a point of order—Senator Faulkner was referring to an Ian Macdonald as a grub. I just wanted to make sure that he was referring to his former colleague and not imputing the character of Senator Macdonald, who we know is not. I can understand his factional ally is a grub. I can understand that particularly.

The PRESIDENT: That is debating the issue. There is no point of order.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I am waiting for silence on both sides. Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr President, you have not, I do not think, ruled on the previous point of order previous to Senator Joyce's. On the point of order, two things. Firstly, Senator Conroy in his contribution concedes that the question was within standing orders by conceding that it was barely within standing orders; it either is or it is not.

The PRESIDENT: That is debating.

Senator Brandis: Secondly, in your ruling I ask you to make it clear to all senators—but particularly the Leader of the Government—that it is not within sessional or standing orders for a minister to respond to a question by, to use Senator Conroy's words, 'treating it with contempt'. It must be answered.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, on the point of order, this is the third occasion—and to countless points of order from the opposition—that this issue has scurrilously been raised. There is no issue of contempt for the chair.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: It would assist question time if people on both sides settled down. If people feel so passionately about this they can debate it at the end of question time, that is the appropriate time. There is no point of order.

Senator BOB CARR: There is only one international implication of the career of Mr Eddie Obeid—late of the New South Wales parliament—and that is that a member of the Australian Senate was in business with him, in deep business with him. A member of the Australian Senate had a five per cent interest concealed and hidden from the public gaze in a company— (Time expired)

















Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:20): I ask a further supplementary question, Mr President. Does the minister agree with Labor Senator Faulkner, who said last night that Eddie Obeid 'ran Labor governments in New South Wales'? How can the minister be treated as a person of probity on the world stage while he falsely maintains that Eddie Obeid was a marginal figure, not to be taken seriously, when he publicly voted for him not once but twice, and sacked people to make room for Eddie Obeid on his very own frontbench?

The PRESIDENT: You are not required under standing orders to give an opinion on a matter, Minister, but you are entitled to answer that part of the question that applies to your portfolio.



Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:21): I thank you for your guidance, Mr President. The international implications of this, the international reputation involved here, are probity and falsity. For a member of the Australian Senate to conceal a five per cent shareholding in a company one-third owned by Mr Eddie Obeid, now the subject of some public attention, does raise matters of repute and matters of credibility.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When the Senate is ready on both sides we will proceed.

Senator Fifield: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. There is only one senator in this chamber who appointed Eddie Obeid as a minister.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. That is debating the issue. You have the time after question time to debate it.

Senator BOB CARR: To confirm that, I can reveal to the Senate that the ICAC has seized records of Australian Water Holdings relevant to the chairmanship of this company, an Obeid family company one-third owned by Mr Obeid, of the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Sinodinos.

Senator Abetz: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Sessional orders are very clear: answers need to be directly relevant. Could you please explain to the Senate and the viewing public how that answer in any way, shape or form is relevant, let alone directly relevant?

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator BOB CARR: And, when asked about this by the Sydney Morning Herald, Senator Sinodinos's response about not revealing the shareholdings, as he was required by law, was, 'I had a gentlemen's agreement with Mr Obeid.' I think that speaks for itself. Thank you for the question.

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. For the record: those shares were declared on the pecuniary interest register.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. I remind honourable senators on both sides that, if there is a desire to debate the question, the question can be debated after 3 o'clock.