TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS - Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction

July 24, 2019

Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (15:24): Well, if Senator McGrath calls that a strong performance from Senator Cormann and Senator Birmingham, I'd hate to see a weak one! When you compare the performance of Senator Birmingham and Senator Cormann defending Minister Taylor today, compared to yesterday, that was a vastly different performance from senators Birmingham and Cormann. They obviously know that the minister has been less than truthful in terms of how he has presented himself to the House of Representatives on these important issues.

I think that, at the end of the day, what this comes down to, and what we are starting to see emerge from this government, is arrogance. We know they won the election. We saw the contribution from Senator Fierravanti-Wells, where all she could talk about was the election win. At least Senator McGrath spent a minute longer talking about the minister. But it was a very lame defence of the minister, and we saw the same from Senator Cormann and Senator Birmingham.

But this is an arrogant government and this is an arrogant minister, because they think the standards don't apply to them. We see that with former Minister Pyne and with former minister Julie Bishop, as to the way they have behaved, post-election, in terms of basically disregarding the ministerial standards. And the government has been prepared to defend them on that.

Again, this week, we've seen that the government has been prepared to defend Minister Taylor. It certainly was a different attitude today, though, in the Senate, where they were certainly not as strong in their defence of Minister Taylor in this chamber.

But what we know and what has been established is that there are basically two key phrases that Minister Taylor has used over the last couple of days. The first one is that he's had 'no association', and the second one is that he has been 'at arm's length'. I just want to go to those, because I think that they are important.

We've seen the evidence provided in question time today around 'no association'. But what we now know is that Minister Taylor was a director of Gufee, which has a joint one-third interest in Jam Land Pty Ltd, and Jam Land Pty Ltd has been investigated by the minister's own department, the Department of the Environment and Energy, as to illegal land-clearing and the poisoning of critically endangered native grassland in October 2016. So it is clear that the minister has an association with this property. So no more can the minister rely on 'no association' and to try to claim that he had no association with this property that has been under investigation by this department.

As to the second phrase, 'at arm's length': I think Minister Taylor takes 'at arm's length' literally—from the media, it seems he thinks, 'I was more than an arm's length away'! Obviously, it is a vastly different scenario when we know that he has an interest in this property and we also know that he organised a meeting that he was at with his own department where these issues were raised. So no longer can he rely on 'no association' and no longer can he say that he was 'at arm's length' when we know that he was involved in a meeting where this issue was brought up.

It became clear today from the performance of Senator Birmingham and of Senator Cormann that they changed tack from the way they answered questions yesterday, where they tried to appear quite confident. Today they were very cautious in their defence of Minister Taylor. We also saw that Senator Fierravanti-Wells did not try and defend Minister Taylor. We also saw that Senator McGrath danced around a couple of issues but wasn't prepared to defend Minister Taylor in this chamber.

We will continue to pursue these issues because we think that ministerial standards are important. We think that ministerial standards and accountability are important. But we also know that this arrogant government, if they aren't held to account, will continue that level of arrogance and will continue to go down that path where they treat the voters with contempt and don't treat issues of accountability seriously at all.

At the end of the day, where this will ultimately end up—as we continue to pursue these issues and to pursue Minister Taylor in this chamber and in the other chamber—is with the Prime Minister. He is the one who is responsible for this government. He is the one who has been arrogant post his election result. Again, I think that, on this issue of accountability, when it comes to Minister Taylor and to previous ministers, the Prime Minister needs to show some leadership on this issue and ensure that this minister answers the question. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that the motion moved by Senator McAllister to take note be agreed to.

Question agreed to.