Questions Without Notice: Take Note Of Answers - 25 June 2015


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (15:16): I want to refer to a couple of lines of questioning of the opposition to the Attorney-General today. It goes to their absolute desperation when it comes to the issue of national security and their desperation to try and show their credentials by trying to tear down the government through this false line of questioning. We can understand why there is that desperation given Mark Dreyfus's articulation of their national security credentials, their 'Bring the terrorists to Australia' policy, last week. With the horror fortnight that Bill Shorten has had, we can understand why they are looking for a distraction. But let's actually go to the facts rather than this attempt to try and create something where no issue exists. Let's go to the facts rather than the spin that Senator Collins has tried to put on it in a desperate attempt to cover up for the lack of national security credentials of those opposite.

 

We know that a departmental officer, at estimates on 27 May, advised that the letter of 9 October was provided to the review. The officer thought she recalled seeing that letter among the documents considered by the review. She did not consult with PM&C before providing this evidence. On 29 May that officer discussed her recollections with a fellow officer from the review at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and determined that her recollections related to a separate document. On Monday, 1 June, at 12.15, PM&C advised the department, via email, that the letter had not been received through the formal processes. There was a range of informal and less formal arrangements underway during the Martin Place Siege Commonwealth-New South Wales Joint Review for the provision of information. The department was not certain on 1 June that the letter had not been provided in some other way and advised the Attorney-General accordingly. On the same day, the secretary advised the Attorney-General that he would provide authoritative advice to the Attorney-General on this matter in that week.

The secretary subsequently instructed the department to undertake a thorough internal review to determine authoritatively that the document was not provided. This process concluded on 4 June. So on 2 June the department advised the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that it was conducting an internal review and the department also asked for PM&C's advice on whether it would have made any difference to the siege review if the documents had been provided. On 4 June, once the department had concluded from its internal review that the documents had definitely not been provided, the secretary advised the Attorney-General, by letter, of what had occurred confirming there had been an administrative error and that the Monis letter and response had not been provided. The departmental officer wrote to the chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to correct the Hansard of the proceedings of 27 May. That was sent at 2.55 pm and it was sent to the AGO at 2.57 pm. The Minister for Foreign Affairs then corrected the record at 3.09 pm on 4 June in the House of Representatives and the Attorney-General corrected the record, by letter to the chair of the committee, at 3.15 pm on 4 June.

That is the process that has been outlined. As soon as there was definitive advice, that advice was advised in various ways to both the Senate and the House of Representatives by the relevant ministers. This is nothing but a tawdry attempt to try and distract from where the Labor Party is on national security and a whole range of other issues, not least of which is Bill Shorten's credibility when it comes to the AWU and telling the truth to Neil Mitchell and a whole range of other issues and questions of judgement. Another example of that, which played out in question time today, was in relation to documents in relation to ASIO that were discussed today. I again quote from Duncan Lewis in relation to the claims made by the opposition in relation to those documents:

There has been reporting in some quarters of the media regarding the sensitivity of documents used in briefing the Prime Minister yesterday. The Director-General of Security confirms the documents used in the briefing were not the subject of a national security classification. The documents were carefully edited and were unclassified. The content of the documents did not compromise national security

 

Again, this is another pathetic attempt to try and score points on national security which has been thoroughly refuted by Duncan Lewis. I think the Labor Party should apologise to him and I think they should stop playing ridiculous politics on this issue. (Time expired)