The federal Coalition has decided it is onto a winner with the embattled junior Senator for New South Wales. The name “Dastyari” appears in yesterday’s Hansard no fewer than 24 times as the government attempted to shoehorn him into just about every answer in question time. Here are five things that seem to be about something else but are actually about Sam Dastyari.
Mr SHORTEN: My question is to the Prime Minister. How does the Prime Minister respond to reports that he told his cabinet last night to keep the details of the plebiscite very close to their chests — directly warned them not to leak the details of cabinet’s discussions — details which were then almost immediately leaked to David Lipson of Lateline? Is his leaking cabinet what the Prime Minister means when he says, ‘So far, so good’? …
Mr TURNBULL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. And this highly political question turns to issues of solidarity. Of course, there is no greater solidarity than that between the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Dastyari. Oh yes, they stuck together! There he was, taking payments — cash for comment. And when it was revealed that he had sought and obtained money from a Chinese company to pay his debt — all Australians would be astonished to see a member of parliament use their position, use that eminence to which they have been raised by the electorate, to extract money from somebody to pay their debt — he said there was nothing untoward about it. He described —
Public funding for the Yes and No campaigns in the plebiscite
Mr SHORTEN: My question is to the Prime Minister. The Herald Sun reports today that the Attorney-General originally proposed to cabinet that neither side would receive public funding but that a group of conservatives, including the Treasurer, the Deputy Prime Minister and the immigration minister, rolled the Attorney-General. Is this civil war what the Prime Minister means when he says, ‘So far, so good’?
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Mr TURNBULL: It is interesting the member for Grayndler is sitting there stony-faced as talk about civil war ensues. The honourable member knows very well indeed that cabinet processes are confidential. He knows very well. But what he should know — what he should understand — is that, when it comes to civil war and factional politics, the Labor Party is in a league of its own. So frightened of his opponents in the Labor Party, he cleaved to Senator Dastyari like a drowning man clinging to a piece of wood in a shipwreck. He hung onto him — nothing untoward!
The committee to determine how to allocate money for the plebiscite
Mr DREYFUS: My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to reports that a 10-person committee will decide how money is allocated for his expensive, divisive and damaging plebiscite on marriage equality, consisting of five private citizens and MPs. What MPs will be on this committee? Will it be the Prime Minister or the member for Warringah or the member for Menzies or Senator Abetz or Senator Bernardi?
Mr Dutton: It won’t be Senator Dastyari!
Mr TURNBULL: I can say, Mr Speaker, that listening to my colleagues there seems very little support for Senator Dastyari being on the committee. The 10-person committees are based on the model used in ’99 where committees were established by the Howard government to plan and manage expenditure for the yes-and-no case in the republic referendum.
Ms FLINT: My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry. Will the minister outline to the House why it is critical to take a consistent approach to the defence of Australia’s national interest?
Mr PYNE: I thank the member for Boothby for her question. It is certainly true that Australia does have critical national interests. The first of those is maintaining international rules based order. It needs to maintain the capability to be a good ally to the United States and to others, and we need to have stability in our region, particularly in the South China Sea. They are three key national interests. And it is vital that both the government and the opposition adopt a consistent approach to those national interests. And until recently there has been a consistent national approach, but Senator Dastyari’s statements about the South China Sea have altered that. After receiving payments from businesses associated with the Chinese government, Senator Dastyari publicly repudiated the ALP’s policy on the South China Sea and took China’s side rather than Australia’s side for our national interests.
But what is interesting is that, at that time, Senator Dastyari suffered no consequences. At no point did the Leader of the Opposition feel that Senator Dastyari’s role was untenable as a shadow minister or manager of business in the Senate. It was only when it became a public issue, when there was a controversy, that in fact Senator Dastyari resigned; it was not the Leader of the Opposition requiring him to resign.
Australia’s growing services sector
Mr TIM WILSON: My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Will the minister update the House on how the government is supporting the rebalancing of the economy by promoting Australia’s growing services sector?
Mr CIOBO: I thank the member for Goldstein for his question. I know he takes a very strong interest in Australia’s services sector and in the operation of free trade and markets and, no doubt, follows on from the very strong footsteps of the previous member for Goldstein, who also has a very strong track record in this respect. I note, as well, that in his first speech he raised the importance of services exports. They are important, because the Turnbull coalition government recognises that, as the Australian economy continues to rebalance, we need to make sure that we put a strong focus on driving services exports. The fact is that services account for about 80 per cent of the Australian workforce and make up about 70 per cent of our GDP, yet only 21 per cent of our exports are in fact services. So herein lays a tremendous opportunity for Australia. One way, in particular, that we are focusing on it is in relation to the Trade in Services Agreement or TISA. TISA is an opportunity for Australian education exports, in particular, to be brought to the forefront, when it comes to powering the Australian economy, so we continue to see the strong growth the coalition has delivered of some 3.3 per cent. Education is also an important opportunity with respect to investment. We see, for example, where foreign businesses will look at investing in Australia to capitalise on education export opportunities. We see, for example, that Top Education Institute invested in Australia hoping to maximise, no doubt, the opportunities that flow from full-fee paying international students. Unfortunately for Top Education Institute that has not always been the case. The Labor Party have not been the strongest advocates when it comes to full-fee payment, and they have not been the strongest advocates when it comes to some of those investment opportunities either. We also see other opportunities around foreign trade. In particular, under the China-Australia Fair Trade Agreement we have a clause called ‘most-favoured nation treatment’. This effectively means that Australia ensures that our economic competitiveness with our largest trading market is maintained. With the rising middle class in China, the opportunity for Australians has never been better. I suspect that Senator Dastyari recognised some of these benefits in the Senate during an adjournment debate, when, in 2014, he explained that few countries were better placed than Australia to capitalise on the rise of China for their own economic benefit. Little did we know that when he was referring to ‘own economic benefit’ he was taking it on a very personal level indeed.