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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 49

Minister for Home Affairs


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. I refer to former Prime Minister Turnbull, who, this morning, tweeted from New York, and I quote: 'The point I have made to Scott Morrison and other colleagues is that given the uncertainty around Peter Dutton’s eligibility, acknowledged by the Solicitor-General, he should be referred to the High Court, as Barnaby was, to clarify the matter.' Is the former Prime Minister correct?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): I thank Senator Farrell for that question. There is no uncertainty and, indeed, the House of Representatives was asked to vote on the matter and the former Prime Minister voted against such a referral.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a supplementary question?



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): Yes, I do have a supplementary question, Mr President. In this morning's Age newspaper, it's reported that former Prime Minister Turnbull has, and I quote: 'told his former colleagues, they should cross the floor of the House and vote with Labor to force a referral'. How many of his party room members does Prime Minister Morrison fear will follow the lead of the Prime Minister in exile?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:01): Firstly, I refer the honourable senator to my answer to his first question. I would also again remind Senator Farrell that the former Prime Minister voted against Labor's motion seeking to secure this sort of referral. It's, of course, up to the Labor Party in the House of Representatives to do whatever they want to do. It's up to the Labor Party. This was and would be an entirely partisan political attack. There's no legal basis on which to pursue this. There's no legal basis on which to pursue it. There's no uncertainty. The legal advice is very clear, and I refer you in particular to the Solicitor-General's advice, which states: 'Section 44(v) … applies only where there is an "agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth".' And in his opinion there is 'no agreement in which Mr Dutton could have an indirect pecuniary interest by virtue of his status as a beneficiary of the RHT Family Trust'.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a final supplementary question?



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): I do have a further supplementary question. This morning, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, declared, and I quote: 'If there's a vote … I'll make my mind up at that time'. When will Prime Minister Morrison accept the advice of the Prime Minister in exile and refer Minister Dutton to the High Court to remove any doubt about his eligibility and the validity of decisions he is making?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): Again, the position of the government is very clear. What Senator Farrell is pointing to here is one of the great differences between the Liberal and National parties and the Labor Party. In the Labor Party, if somebody pulls out of line they get kicked out. But, of course, in the Liberal and National parties, we have freedom. We have a conscience. Backbenchers have got freedom—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator CORMANN: Of course, every member of the Liberal and National parties is, of course, free to make a judgement on every vote. The member for Curtin was just stating the obvious.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Carr!

Senator CORMANN: As a conscientious member of parliament, she makes the judgement. The member for Curtin was just making a statement of the obvious, and that is that, as a member of parliament, she makes a judgement, prior to every vote, on how she votes.