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Reef Senate Inquiry can compel Citizen Turnbull to appear as witness

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Media Release // Senator Peter Whish-Wilson

Reef Senate Inquiry can compel Citizen Turnbull to appear as witness

Greens Senator and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program, Peter Whish-Wilson, provides the following comments on the recent change in circumstances for the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and how that may affect the process for the Inquiry.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The private meeting between Frydenberg, Turnbull and the Reef Foundation is the key to understanding what has gone on with this grant process and having Mr Turnbull leave Parliament does not diminish my intention of examining this. Mr Turnbull has information about this meeting that is critical to the Committee’s deliberations.

“The Committee was going through the process of requesting information from Mr Turnbull, a process that ultimately may have led to the Senate being asked to ‘invite’ the then Prime Minister to appear at a hearing.

“Odgers' Australian Senate Practice makes it clear a Senate Inquiry cannot compel a Member of the House of Representatives to appear before a Senate Inquiry, it can only ‘invite’ the MP. However, this immunity from being compelled does not apply to a former Member of the House.

“Once he resigns from the House, Citizen Turnbull can be compelled to appear before the Senate Inquiry. However, unlike the granting of the $443 million to the reef foundation, all due process will be followed.

“As Chair, I will be asking the Senate Environment and Communications Committee to start the process of seeking Citizen Turnbull’s appearance before a hearing at a time mutually agreeable to all.

“I can’t think of a more important reason to use these immense powers of the Senate to compel a former Prime Minister to appear than the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

“There is precedent for former Prime Ministers appearing at Senate Inquiries, particularly in relation to private, unwitnessed conversations. After his time as Prime Minister, Bob Hawke appeared at a 1994 Senate Select Inquiry,” he concluded.


Recieved by Parliamentary Library 29 August 2018

Media contact: Tim Beshara 0409164603

Relevant section from Odgers Chapter 17:

Former members of other Houses as witnesses This probable immunity of members of other houses does not apply to former members. During the course of an inquiry by the Select Committee on Certain Foreign Ownership Decisions in relation to the Print Media in 1994, evidence was taken from two former Treasurers and a former Prime Minister, all of whom had ceased to be members of the House of Representatives. One former Treasurer appeared voluntarily but the other two former members appeared only in response to summonses. The former Prime Minister subsequently reappeared before the committee voluntarily.

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Authorised by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson. Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600