All changes made to the description and title of this division.

View division | Edit description

Change Division
representatives vote 2019-11-25#1

Edited by mackay

on 2019-11-29 11:25:02

Title

  • Private Members' Business Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction
  • Private Members' Business - Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction - Let a vote happen

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Tony Burke</p>
  • <p>I seek leave to move the following motion:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the House:</p>
  • The majority voted against a motion introduced by Watson MP [Tony Burke](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/watson/tony_burke), which means it failed. The motion was to suspend the usual procedural rules of Parliament (known as [standing orders](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/representatives/watson/tony_burke)) so that a vote could take place.
  • ### Motion text
  • > *That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Manager of Opposition Business from moving the following motion immediately:*
  • >
  • > *That the House:*
  • >
  • > *(1) notes that:*
  • >
  • >> *(a) on the evening of 23 October 2019, the Guardian reported the Minister for Emissions Reduction had used incorrect figures from the City of Sydney Annual Report 2017-18 in a letter to the Lord Mayor of Sydney;*
  • >>
  • >> *(b) the next day, the Minister told the House "The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website";*
  • >>
  • >> *(c) despite the Minister's claim, all the evidence to date is that no such document ever existed on the website, the altered document has only ever been produced by the Minister's office and the doctored figures have only ever been used by the Minister in his official ministerial correspondence; including:*
  • >>
  • >>> *(i) City of Sydney metadata which shows the Annual Report on its website has not been altered since it was published on 27 November 2018;*
  • >>>
  • >>> *(ii) public archives which show the Annual Report published on the City of Sydney website contained the correct travel figures on 27 March, 20 April, 19 June and 24 October 2019;*
  • >>>
  • >>> *(iii) a Daily Telegraph report that "Mr Taylor's office had sent The Daily Telegraph the altered document"; and*
  • >>>
  • >>> *(iv) the draft letter the Minister's Department submitted to the Minister's office contained no travel figures at all; and*
  • >>
  • >> *(d) deliberately misleading the Parliament is both a contempt of the Parliament and a breach of the Ministerial Standards; and*
  • >
  • > *(2) therefore, calls on the Minister for Emissions Reduction to make a full and frank statement to the House before it rises tonight explaining how he has not deliberately misled the Parliament.*
  • <p class="italic">(1) notes that</p>
  • <p class="italic">(a) on the evening of 23 October 2019, The Guardian reported the minister for emissions reduction had used incorrect figures from the City of Sydney annual report 2017-18 in a letter to the Lord Mayor of Sydney;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(b) the next day, the minister told the House, 'The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website';</p>
  • <p class="italic">(c) despite the minister's claim, all the evidence to date is that no such document ever existed on the website, the altered document has only ever been produced by the minister's office and the doctored figures have only ever been used by the minister in his official ministerial correspondence; including</p>
  • <p class="italic">(i) City of Sydney metadata, which shows the annual report on its website has not been altered since it was published on 27 November 2018;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(ii) public archives which show the annual report published on the City of Sydney website contained the correct travel figures on 27 March, 20 April, 19 June and 24 October 2019;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(iii) a Daily Telegraph report that 'Mr Taylor's office had sent the Daily Telegraph the altered document'; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(iv) the draft letter the minister's department submitted to the minister's office contained no travel figures at all; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(d) deliberately misleading the parliament is both a contempt of the parliament and a breach of the ministerial standards; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(2) therefore, calls on the minister for emissions reduction to make a full and frank statement to the House before it rises tonight explaining how he has not deliberately misled the parliament.</p>
  • <p>Leave not granted.</p>
  • <p>I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Manager of Opposition Business from moving the following motion immediately:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the House:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(1) notes that:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(a) on the evening of 23 October 2019, the Guardian reported the Minister for Emissions Reduction had used incorrect figures from the City of Sydney Annual Report 2017-18 in a letter to the Lord Mayor of Sydney;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(b) the next day, the Minister told the House "The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website";</p>
  • <p class="italic">(c) despite the Minister's claim, all the evidence to date is that no such document ever existed on the website, the altered document has only ever been produced by the Minister's office and the doctored figures have only ever been used by the Minister in his official ministerial correspondence; including:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(i) City of Sydney metadata which shows the Annual Report on its website has not been altered since it was published on 27 November 2018;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(ii) public archives which show the Annual Report published on the City of Sydney website contained the correct travel figures on 27 March, 20 April, 19 June and 24 October 2019;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(iii) a Daily Telegraph report that "Mr Taylor's office had sent The Daily Telegraph the altered document"; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(iv) the draft letter the Minister's Department submitted to the Minister's office contained no travel figures at all; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(d) deliberately misleading the Parliament is both a contempt of the Parliament and a breach of the Ministerial Standards; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(2) therefore, calls on the Minister for Emissions Reduction to make a full and frank statement to the House before it rises tonight explaining how he has not deliberately misled the Parliament.</p>
  • <p>This entire scandal is rotten to the core. We have in front of us what I think would have to be the most clear-cut example I have ever seen of a minister misleading the House. If we want to work through an argument to say that the minister has not misled the House, we have to presume that a document that was never altered on the website&#8212;where there is metadata establishing that it has never been altered, where you can go to the public archives that are kept and which show that, on 27 March, 20 April, 19 June and 24 October, it always had the correct figures&#8212;somehow magically, at that exact moment that the minister's office accessed the document, contained figures that it never contained before and never contained after on a document that was never altered. That is the argument from the minister.</p>
  • <p>There are very few standards these days that government ministers get held to. Basically, the last one is that a minister must not mislead the House. The words were not, 'I have been advised'; the words were not, 'To the best of my understanding'. The words from the minister were an assurance to the House:</p>
  • <p class="italic">The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website.</p>
  • <p>On all the public evidence, that cannot be true. It simply cannot be true. Yet that assurance was given. It wasn't given on a day when the minister wandered into parliament with no idea that he was going to be asked about this, because the scandal had already been published. It had already been published overnight that the figures he had supplied to the City of Sydney in his letter were wrong. You only had to look at them to see they were pretty extraordinary numbers that were in his letter. But he was completely forewarned from the media that there was a fair chance that this question was going to be asked of him on the floor of parliament. And he turned up to the House, was asked the questions that he had expected would come to him and gave the assurance to the House:</p>
  • <p class="italic">The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website.</p>
  • <p>It simply cannot be true. It simply doesn't add up. And this is from someone who, we are told&#8212;and from time to time it gets reported&#8212;is one of the most talented members of the government. Now, that only tells us one of two things: either that is true&#8212;and it says something pretty depressing about the government&#8212;or that information was given to the media by the same person who published the words: 'Fantastic work. Well done, Angus!' It's (a) or (b).</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anthony Albanese</p>
  • <p>It could be both!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Burke</p>
  • <p>It could be both, this is true. But there is behind this a pretty serious issue if a minister thinks that he can say something at that dispatch box that is demonstrably untrue. It's not just a political contest; there is documentary evidence from his department on the records online from the City of Sydney, whose website he claims it came from. It is demonstrably untrue at every single level. His statement to the House was unequivocal. There was no hedging in his statement. Does he really think that the standards of Australian governance are so low now that that's okay? We will not get&#8212;we haven't seen it before and I hope we won't get it for some time&#8212;a mislead as obvious and demonstrable as this one. If the standard of the government is that it's okay to say something at the dispatch box during question time, to the parliament and therefore to the whole of Australia, that on every piece of public evidence looks a tremendous amount like a lie&#8212;are we at a point now where the government says, 'Let's just wait for the media cycle to move on'? This doesn't just say something about a deeply incompetent minister. If there's any scandal floating around, if you just hear in the news one day that there is a scandal in the government, you think, 'Ah! The minister for emissions reduction, fair bet'&#8212;most days it's a fair place to land. But are we really at the point where&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Michelle Rowland</p>
  • <p>He's embattled.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Burke</p>
  • <p>He's more than embattled. Embattled would be a step up for this minister. He could only dream of being embattled. He has been caught out, red-handed. He has such a born-to-rule attitude that he thought he could stand up with complete confidence and everyone would nod and admire him. He has been caught out. Under the ministerial standards, he has today to go to the dispatch box and tell the truth. He has today to go to the dispatch box and make clear exactly what happened. Someone created a doctored document. Someone created a forgery to embarrass a public official. Somebody did that. And we know from all the public evidence that that didn't start from the City of Sydney's website. We know from all the public evidence that that didn't come from where he says it came from. So the obligation is on the minister to tell the truth. And the obligation is on the Prime Minister to demand that the ministerial standards be upheld. If the Prime Minister won't even demand his ministerial standards be upheld on this the most obvious demonstrable example anyone can remember then there are no standards left. If that's what this government wants to become&#8212;we will know by 7.30 tonight whether they have given up on the ministerial code completely.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Maria Vamvakinou</p>
  • <p>Is there a seconder for the motion?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Butler</p>
  • <p>I second the motion. As the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out in the concluding part of his remarks, we don't think anyone expects the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction to come into the chamber voluntarily. This guy has form: whether it was 'watergate', 'grassgate' with Jam Land, or this latest scandal, he simply does not have the genetic capacity to face up to his mistakes.</p>
  • <p>This is now a test for the Prime Minister and a test for the Leader of the House. What do these ministerial standards mean if the emissions reduction minister is not forced to come into the House and either account for the statement he made on 24 October or face the consequences? That is why we have sought to suspend standing orders, because there is no more important question to the functioning of a parliament under the Westminster system than the question of ministerial accountability and the obligation not to mislead parliament.</p>
  • <p>The key statement, as the member for Watson has said, is the statement the minister made on 24 October, with full notice about what was in question:</p>
  • <p class="italic">The document was drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website.</p>
  • <p>He could not have been more definitive. He could not have been clearer when we last sat several weeks ago. But we now know that that the national and state libraries and the privately run public internet archives have confirmed that the City of Sydney's annual report has sat on the internet unaltered since November 2018&#8212;reinforcing what the city said when they released their metadata, when this parliament was last sitting, that there has not been any alternative version as is suggested by the minister.</p>
  • <p>So does the minister really suggest there was a version in March that was the same version in April, the same version in June and the same version in October, but somehow that was withdrawn in September and an alternative version was put up for a couple of days so that he could access it and then withdrawn? That is the only explanation that conforms to the minister's clear statement. Also since the parliament last sat, we have had testimony in Senate estimates from the department that confirms that the draft letter it provided to the minister and his office to send to the Lord Mayor of Sydney contained no figures whatsoever, and it doesn't know where he got the figures from. They've confirmed they have no idea where he got the figures from and that the minister did not ask for advice about the veracity of the figures included in the letter.</p>
  • <p>The question here is not whether the minister has misled the parliament, because that seems pretty clear. The question is whether the minister has been devious or bumbling or both. What I find utterly baffling is that no-one appears to have asked the question: how could 10 councillors spend $14 million on domestic travel in a year? Do some basic maths. If you're a Rhodes scholar you could do the maths. There are 10 councillors; it's pretty easy to divide figures by 10. This equals $28,000 per councillor every single week on domestic travel, which I work out as being 20 return trips to Melbourne and six or seven business class return trips to Perth every single week for every single councillor across the entire year. Every councillor would be spending 80 to 90 hours in the air every week for every week of the year. Why didn't someone say, 'I think we need to check these figures'? I've just divided the minister's figures by 10, and that is $1.4 million in domestic travel per councillor&#8212;$28,000 per week&#8212;with no time off at all.</p>
  • <p>There is a serious question about whether this minister is hopelessly bumbling or devious or both. But what every skerrick of evidence confirms about this case is that the document used by the minister to form this letter, which he sent to the lord mayor with the clear intention of influencing her public role around climate change, was not directly downloaded from the City of Sydney website. It is utterly clear that the statement he made on 24 October, a few weeks ago, is simply not right. And if the standards that the Prime Minister has outlined to his ministers mean anything, this minister must, over the course of the next several hours, come before this House, as the Westminster system requires him to do, and explain himself to the chamber.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Smith</p>
  • <p>The question is that the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business be agreed to.</p>