SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
THURSDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Christian Porter protected from Privileges Committee; National Anti-Corruption Commission; End of Scott Morrison’s Victorian lockdown.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yesterday was a disgraceful moment in the history of the Australian Parliament. We saw Government Members voting down a referral of Christian Porter's undisclosed secret donations to the Privileges Committee of the Parliament. Extraordinarily, it was the first time in 120 years of this Parliament that the Speaker's giving of precedence, saying that there was a prima facie case to be investigated against Christian Porter, it was the first time that the Speaker's giving of precedence had been voted against by a government. So extraordinarily Christian Porter's secret donations are going to remain secret.
What Mr Morrison has done is again shown us that there is no standard that he won't walk past. He's again shown us that he's indifferent to corruption, that he's indifferent to standards, that he doesn't care about the conventions of our democracy, that he doesn't care about the conventions of government, that he doesn't care at all about how to maintain integrity in our Parliament and in our government and in our ministries and among members of Parliament.
What we've had here is Mr Porter making up rules for himself. He said that what he can do is tell people who've given him up to a $1 million that he'll keep their name secret. Well, he's not allowed to do that. He is not allowed to do that because for many decades this Parliament has insisted - that's why we have something called a Register of Members Interests - this Parliament has insisted for many years that when a Member of Parliament receives a gift she or he must disclose the donor of that gift. That's what Senator Hanson-Young did with the donations that she received to fund her defamation case against another Senator, her successful defamation case. But Christian Porter says no, there's another rule for me, I can start a defamation case, which then failed. I can abandon my defamation case, but it costs me apparently up to a $1 million, and I can get the people who gave me money, big bagfulls of money, I can keep their names secret. Well, it's not good enough. It's a breach of long established rules in this place and they are rules that are there for a very good reason.
What Mr Morrison has done yesterday, by getting his Government members to vote down this reference to the Privileges Committee and prevented investigation of Mr Porter's secret donations, is to give a green light to bribery, a green light to corruption, a green light to secret gifts to MPs, a green light to foreign interference in our politics. And it's a nonsense in itself.
Mr. Porter is trying to hide behind some legal mumbo jumbo. That's probably what we'd expect from someone that pretends to be some kind of lawyer. But it's a fake. What he's saying is by giving a label, a fake label to the arrangement, calling it a blind trust, that somehow, somehow, that makes it alright. Well, it doesn't make it alright. It's still, stripped away, absolutely clear what's happening. Mr Morrison is making up rules for his mates like Mr Porter, saying 'we don't have to disclose anything if we don't want to, we decide when we can keep donation secret and that's alright'.
Well, it's not alright and that's why we need a National Anti-Corruption Commission. Mr Morrison has again shown why he doesn't want a National Anti-Corruption Commission because it would actually look into him and it would look into his ministers. It would look into things like this ridiculous arrangement that Mr Porter has entered into. We need a National Anti-Corruption Commission. You would get, and Australians know this now, a National Anti-Corruption Commission, a powerful, independent, National Anti-Corruption Commission from a Labor Government. We are absolutely committed to doing this. If ever you wanted a demonstration of why we need a National Anti-Corruption Commission it's the shameful events that occurred late yesterday in the House of Representatives. Every single Government MP should be hanging their heads in shame today for what they did yesterday in the House of Representatives.
And just a last point, I'd like to join with my colleague Ged Kearney in congratulating Victorians for their sacrifice over the more than 260 days of Scott Morrison's lockdowns. What an extraordinary time to have endured. But the sacrifice has been worth it. It has kept the loss of life to a minimum. Victorians have shown extraordinary discipline, they've borne extraordinary burdens. And make no mistake that the last lockdown, this last several months of lockdowns, shouldn't have happened and wouldn't have happened if Mr Morrison had done his job and got the vaccination rollout organised in good time, which he utterly failed to do.
REPORTER: The Government would argue that the Privileges Committee can start its own investigation into the matter. So what's your response to that?
DREYFUS: The Government are talking nonsense again. Of course the Privileges Committee can start an investigation on any matter at any time but why did the Government block the inquiry that the House of Representatives was invited by the Speaker to commence? The Speaker gave precedence to this motion. The Speaker said that there was a prima facie case to answer. For the first time in 120 years of this Parliament a government has voted down a Speaker's giving of precedence. A Government has voted against the Speaker saying this matter should go to the Privileges Committee. It's a disgraceful act and for the Government to bleat, and say 'oh the Privileges Committee can look at this and that's enough' that's not what Mr. Dutton said in the Parliament yesterday and that's not the way the Government voted yesterday. The way the Government voted yesterday was to vote down an inquiry.