Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:22): If this was a strategy by the Australian Labor Party to divert attention from the horrendous difficulty that Senator Dastyari is in at the moment, with his failure to answer very reasonable questions put to him, then it has failed completely. Senator Scullion has been an exemplary Minister for Indigenous Affairs. And, more than being a good minister, I know that Senator Scullion through all of his life has been a great friend of Indigenous people right across Australia but particularly in the Northern Territory. There are allegations being made about Senator Scullion's answering of questions today. I thought he answered every question exactly. He answered the questions that were asked and he gave a bit more information than he was asked for. He indicated clearly the course of events that occurred.
The allegation is made that somehow Senator Scullion as the minister and as a Northern Territory senator should have been aware of what was happening in this particular centre. As I recall it, this centre was set up by the Northern Territory government when Labor was in charge—I might be wrong, but I think it was when Labor was in charge. They set up this centre. The opposition are accusing Senator Scullion of not knowing what was happening. I wonder aloud: when Senator Peris was a senator for the Northern Territory was she aware of this, and if she was why didn't she raise it, and if she was not aware of it then why don't you blame her the same way that you blame Senator Scullion? Senator Trish Crossin, who was a wonderful senator for the Northern Territory—
Opposition senators interjecting—
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald has the right to be heard in silence. Please respect that right
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Madam Deputy President. I appreciate your protection but I do not really need it. These sorts of things do not ever worry me. Former Senator Trish Crossin, who we all knew and loved in this chamber, was done over by a captain's pick by the leader of the Labor Party.
Senator Brandis: She's the greatest waste of space ever to enter this chamber.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am not going into that, Senator Brandis, but I take your interjection. Senator Crossin was a great friend of Indigenous people, and a great friend of all Territorians. Are you suggesting that, because she did not know, she is in some way at fault? What if she did know but did not report it? At least have some consistency in your criticism.
Senator Scullion understands the issues; he understands the portfolio. As I understand it this is an establishment run by the Northern Territory government. Am I wrong? Is that correct? Can someone help me? It is run by the Northern Territory government, so why the Labor Party are attacking a coalition federal minister escapes me a bit, except that it is just a very poor attempt to divert attention from the horrendous position that Senator Dastyari is in because of his failure to disclose money given to him for private debt by some company associated, as I understand it, with the Chinese government. The attack on Senator Scullion was the dampest squib I have ever seen. But that avoids the question of what a significant, careful and caring minister Senator Scullion has been in his portfolio, in his responsibilities for the Indigenous and other people of the Northern Territory.
I congratulate Senator Scullion on what he has done. I congratulate him on and admire him for his answers to the questions in question time today. As I remarked to my colleague next door to me, I think he is giving too much information—he is answering the question and more. Senator Scullion was quite keen to lay out the facts, and those facts clearly show that he has acted appropriately, as any minister should and would do, and I congratulate him on that.