Transcript: Jenny McAllister on Senate Estimates, the Coalition's Secret Agreement and Vetting of Potential Migrants

2.00pm | February 27, 2018








SUBJECT/S: Senate estimates, Coalitions secret agreement, vetting of potential migrants

MCALLISTER: I want to make some comments about the hearings that I have participated in yesterday.

What we saw were the murky workings of the Coalition on full display. Now the Prime Minister has the power, and exclusively the power, to appoint ministerial staff. Yet it became apparent yesterday that in practice the Prime Minister's office is merely a post box for the asks from the National Party. 

Minister Cormann was completely unwilling to provide any confirmation at all that the Prime Minister would use his authority to make any decisions whatsoever about the appointment of ministerial staff. What’s worse is it appears that these are the same arrangements that are in place when it comes to ministerial conduct.

Minister Cormann was pressed repeatedly about whether or not the Prime Minister had the power to dismiss the Deputy Prime Minister. He returned again and again to discussion about the fact that the Leader of the National Party is decided by the National Party.

This puts a hole, a huge hole, in the concept of the Ministerial standards and in the idea that Ministers serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.  

Now of course what underpins all of this is a piece of paper that hardly anyone in this country has seen but which Minister Cormann yesterday confirmed, goes to the running of the Government, and that is the Coalition Agreement.

It is unbelievable that Australian politics, the Australian Government is conditioned by this secret agreement which the Coalition has spent enormous amounts of money to try and keep out of the public eye. This is completely unacceptable and the agreement ought to be released.

JOURNALIST: Will you be pursuing these lines of enquiry in estimates again today?

MCALLISTER: We will be taking every opportunity to pursue this question of the Coalition Agreement. It is plain that it has a huge impact on the running of the Australian Government and it is unacceptable that it remains a secret.

JOURNALIST: In terms of Mr Joyce and Ms Campion's travel and accommodation claims, are there issues there and questions that remain to be answered?

MCALLISTER: Yesterday it was revealed that the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority is examining Mr Joyce’s travel. Given the public interest in ensuring that public money is expended in accordance with the public interest I think it is appropriate that we are examining this.

JOURNALIST: There are reports out today that the home affairs department is considering a scheme where intelligence analysts will covertly assess potential migrants before they even come to Australia - assessing them whether they would be good citizens or adhere to Australian values - in principle, what do you think of that proposal?

MCALLISTER: We already have rigorous screening checks and background checks for people seeking to migrate here. Now I understand that this proposal has been provided to a news outlet. When a detailed proposal is presented publicly by the Minister we are willing to engage with any recommendation that our agencies make, but of course we wont be responding to these things when they are presented in the newspaper.

I will make the point that Mr Pezzullo, did spend much of yesterday in an estimates hearing that might have been an occasion when these issues could have been discussed in more detail.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible- vehicle noise)