Jun 4, 2013

Referral of a Matter to the Privileges Committee

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:40):  Speaker, I rise on a matter of privilege. Last Friday page 1 of The Australian in an article entitled ‘Coalition pushes for early poll’ stated:

“The leader of opposition business in the lower house, Christopher Pyne, last night wrote to the independents on the threatened no-confidence motion …”

And goes on to quote from the alleged letter. This is indeed a very serious matter. The most serious matter that Members of Parliament could consider is a motion of no-confidence on the floor of this chamber. The article suggested that the crossbenchers had all been written to and had received a letter from the Manager of Opposition Business. It is clear from the Manager of Opposition Business’s own statements on Friday and the facts of the matter that at the time the article appeared no such letter had gone to any of the crossbench members of the House of Representatives.

This is a very serious matter indeed that draws into question the responsibility of those crossbench members and the responsibility that they have to carry out representation in this chamber. It was based upon a falsehood from the Manager of Opposition Business that was reported, as I said, on page 1 of The Australian. The journalist was clearly told that this was a fact. This was clearly not a fact. It is a very serious matter to state—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  which is why I am referring it to the Privileges Committee. I am glad that you acknowledge that it is—

An opposition member interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  I am referring it to the Speaker to ascertain whether there is a prima facie breach of privilege. I indicate that the government intends to pursue this serious matter, because it is serious to tell a falsehood to a journalist but even more serious when it is about an alleged no-confidence motion and goes to the responsibility and obligations of the crossbench members of this House of Representatives. I table for your information the page 1 article in The Australian entitled ‘Coalition pushes for early poll’.