Greens Senator and Chair of the Senate Inquiry into Great Barrier Reef 2050 Partnership Program, Peter Whish-Wilson, provides the following comments on the recent change in circumstances for the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and how that may affect the process for the Inquiry.
Senator Whish-Wilson said, “The private meeting between Frydenberg, Turnbull and the Reef Foundation is the key to understanding what has gone on with this grant process and having Mr Turnbull leave Parliament does not diminish my intention of examining this. Mr Turnbull has information about this meeting that is critical to the Committee’s deliberations.
“The Committee was going through the process of requesting information from Mr Turnbull, a process that ultimately may have led to the Senate being asked to ‘invite’ the then Prime Minister to appear at a hearing.
“Odgers' Australian Senate Practice makes it clear a Senate Inquiry cannot compel a Member of the House of Representatives to appear before a Senate Inquiry, it can only ‘invite’ the MP. However, this immunity from being compelled does not apply to a former Member of the House.
“Once he resigns from the House, Citizen Turnbull can be compelled to appear before the Senate Inquiry. However, unlike the granting of the $443 million to the reef foundation, all due process will be followed.
“As Chair, I will be asking the Senate Environment and Communications Committee to start the process of seeking Citizen Turnbull’s appearance before a hearing at a time mutually agreeable to all.
“I can’t think of a more important reason to use these immense powers of the Senate to compel a former Prime Minister to appear than the future of the Great Barrier Reef.
“There is precedent for former Prime Ministers appearing at Senate Inquiries, particularly in relation to private, unwitnessed conversations. After his time as Prime Minister, Bob Hawke appeared at a 1994 Senate Select Inquiry,” he concluded.
Media contact: Tim Beshara 0409164603
Relevant section from Odgers Chapter 17:
Former members of other Houses as witnesses