ANTHONY ALBANESE – On the day of the Budget Reply, this is the priority of the Opposition, because it is their priority each and every day, each and every day getting down in the gutter.
But today we saw a step further. Today we saw questions and statements from the Manager of Opposition Business which slurred each and every member on this side of the Chamber, and each and every trade union leader.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her contribution, because it indeed belled the cat when she said very simply, ‘These are matters that are to be determined by a court, not by parliamentary members, by a court.’ It is important because when there are serious issues the judicial system determines them, not parliamentarians based upon party allegiance. That is an important Separation of Powers which is the basis of fundamental rights in this country, and it is important.
I refer to an article of 12 January 1978 in the Daily Telegraph, just as the Manager of Opposition Business spoke about past articles in the Daily Telegraph. The headline reads: Assault raised laughs and jeers, woman tells court. I table it. I refer to a follow-up article on 13 January 1978, the headline of which reads: Touching charge by girl fails. The Leader of the Opposition had accusations made against him, they went through proper processes in Court and he was found not guilty. That is the appropriate way we deal with these issues. It was not determined by Sydney Uni SRC based upon the numbers at Sydney Uni SRC. It was determined properly.
We should not support this suspension of Standing Orders, not just because we should get on with the business of government but also because of the rank hypocrisy that we have seen from those opposite.
The Leader of the Opposition was also pinged by the Daily Telegraph, a fine newspaper, in an article: $710,000 in Abbott loans not declared—Liberals cash crisis. For two years he did not declare the loan, and he has the hypocrisy to come in here and authorise these attacks. He does not have the guts to do it himself, but he comes in here and authorises these attacks. He is a bloke who has been negligent in terms of his pecuniary interests, a bloke who has sat in the dock of the Court being charged with serious offences, a bloke who knows how important the Separation of Powers is.
The reason we should not do this is that perhaps this afternoon we can hear from the Manager of Opposition Business about what he knew about the issue with James Ashby. In interview after interview he got the bucket out for the Member for Fisher, someone they preselected nine times.
On 29 April he said: “I had no specific knowledge of these claims before that”, the same words used by the Leader of the Opposition. When asked about his relationship with Mr Ashby, he said:
“I walk into the reception in the Speaker’s office with Speaker’s staffers there … I’ve said hello to all of them, so I passed the time of day with all of them.”
If this suspension motion is not carried, we could get on. We could continue Question Time and perhaps we could explore exactly what the Manger of Opposition Business’s involvement is with this, because we have heard the story change bit by bit. He said he had just passed the time with all of them. Then on 2 May he did not remember having asked for Mr Ashby’s number. Then later on he said he could well have. Then he said he met him at least three times and then he said he had not spoken to James Ashby on the phone.
The motion before the Chair is to suspend Standing Orders so that someone can come in here and talk about issues with regard to what the Manager of Opposition Business suggests they should – to direct a Member of Parliament to answer particular questions. The Manager of Opposition Business should not be supported on this, because he himself will not answer any questions about these issues at all.
Today on ABC NewsRadio he was asked seven times. I will spare you the beginning of it but his basic answer was: “I’m not going to play these games, Marius.” Asked again, he said: “It’s irrelevant.” Asked again, he said, “I’m not playing these games, Marius.” He would not answer anything today and yet he comes in here and moves a suspension of Standing Orders about these issues.
If we are going down this road, we will have suspensions of Standing Orders about the Member for Indi and court cases that are being conducted with regard to her involvement. We will have suspensions of Standing Orders about the Manager of Opposition Business, about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, about all the others that we know were involved in the Ashby incident.
We now have a new explanation. They have gone from “specific knowledge” – they got pinged on that one – to now all having a different script. The Leader of the Opposition is now saying: “The first I knew of all these things was when I read the newspapers on the Saturday morning.”
The reason why Standing Orders should not be suspended is so that we can debate the Budget and so that the Leader of the Opposition can do his Budget Reply. I do not think they have even woken up yet. By moving a motion to suspend Standing Orders, we have not even carried the procedural resolution which allows the Leader of the Opposition to do his Budget Reply tonight. If this motion is carried, you will knock over the Leader of the Opposition’s budget reply.
They just do not pay attention. They are so concerned with being in the gutter they just do not pay attention.