Documents - Estimates Committees

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:37): I move:

That Senate take note of Statements of departmental and agency unanswered estimates questions on notice.

I am not sure if I can take note of that block of documents, or whether I should—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: You can, Senator, if you are talking about the numbers listed—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: No. 23.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Yes, you may.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Madam Deputy President. There are a number of departmental and agency unanswered estimates questions on notice, which are listed there. I would certainly encourage the named departments and agencies to ensure that those unanswered questions are in fact answered by the time of next week when we embark upon the next round of Senate estimates committees.

I just want to draw to the attention of the chamber, following the debate that we have just had, that the Attorney-General's Department does not appear there, which is, again, another indication of how efficient the Attorney-General is, as the minister in charge of that department, and how efficient his department is in getting questions answered on time and appropriately. And it does show that the Attorney-General administers his department well.

I must say that he has not always supported, apparently, from what we have heard in that debate by some of the officers here—I was absolutely amazed the Solicitor-General should, in a public letter to the committee, actually indicate the range of advices that he was giving to the Attorney-General. That is something which had been mentioned in that debate. That is something that I guess will be raised at the estimates committees next week, when we deal with questions that have and have not been answered. It seems just incredible to me that the Solicitor-General, in giving advice to his minister, that he is required by law to do, should then disclosed to the public that the advice he gave related to same-sex marriage and some migration act. I thought that was terribly unprofessional.

In that respect, I note one of the accusations brought against the Attorney-General—I am saying he administers his department well, but one of the accusations brought against him was that some academic had said that she did not agree with the way he had approached things. It transpired from the inquiry that the academic giving evidence, when she was asked whether she had any relationship with the Solicitor-General, indicated that she was a personal friend of the Solicitor-General's daughter. Perhaps I should say no more about that at this time.

Suffice it to say, in relation to document No. 23, that these unanswered questions—none of which, as I said, relate to the Attorney-General's Department; I particularly relate to that because it is the Senate estimates committee that I had chair, so I congratulate the department and the Attorney-General for responding and answering any questions that were put on notice. Of the other departments that appear before the estimates committee that I chair, unfortunately I see the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is on this list. I will be urging Minister Dutton to ensure that those unanswered questions are indeed answered before next week.

Question agreed to.

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