SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce, Prime Minister’s Code of Conduct, Coalition Agreement
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Labor today calls for Joyce to present himself in the House of Representatives to make a full statement about his pecuniary interests and his various travel arrangements and claims related to them. We have had a considerable protracted period where there has been mystery about Barnaby Joyce’s acceptance of various gifts and donations. We had the $40,000 gift from Gina Rinehart during the by-election campaign. Barnaby Joyce said he returned that money. We have no way of knowing whether that is the case. We have no way of knowing if Gina Rinehart subsequently, if it was returned, found another way of helping Barnaby Joyce throughout the campaign. If she did so then my view and Labor’s view is that he should declare it.
Barnaby Joyce is obviously in breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct. The gift of the rental property may have been properly declared although it was very vague and obscure, but the Ministerial Code of Conduct doesn’t allow a Minister to accept such a gift, declaring the gift of the rental property is really only declaring a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct. I think if Barnaby Joyce wants to rebuild any trust in the Australian community, he needs to walk into the Chamber, into the House of Representatives and make a full declaration.
There is something else he needs to do. He needs to, in conjunction with the Prime Minister, table the Coalition Agreement. The Coalition Agreement I have been pursuing under freedom of information now for many, many months. The Coalition Agreement the Prime Minister is trying to keep secret by fighting me in the Federal Court no less. In the West Minster System there is nothing more basic to our democracy than knowing the context of an agreement that is delivering government to a political party. In this case Malcolm Turnbull. What is so secret about that Coalition Agreement that Malcolm Turnbull is using taxpayers’ money to pay highly paid lawyers to fight me in the Federal Court to keep it a secret? While ever that remains the case, questions will remain unanswered, questions the Australian people are entitled to know the answers to.
Barnaby Joyce has one more day in the Parliament to go. He can come in and make a full declaration both about his travel expenses, explaining the legitimacy of them and fully declaring all gifts and donations he has had while a Minister and while not a Minister. I think the Australian people would find it a bit cute for someone to claim that one- they don’t have to claim a gift if it was a friend – well Gina Rinehart as I understand is a pretty good friend. And two, you don’t have to declare gifts and donations because for five minutes you were out of the Parliament and you were not a Minister. I think that might be technically right but I don’t think the Australian people would see it that way. The clear principle is that Ministers and Members of Parliament generally should be declaring gifts and donations so that people understand the extent to which they are being influenced by others outside the Parliament and that is exactly what Barnaby Joyce should be doing today.