Senator Brian Burston (PHONP) presented Questions On Notice re RCB submissions to the Defence Minister, Sen, Marisse Payne on 15th December 2017. The answers from the Department of Defence were provided by Sen. Mathais Cormann (in the Minister’s absence) in the Senate in February 2018
There are ten questions and answers. Each day hereafter we will post one of those questions and the answer with our response to the answer.
Question 3 – Sen. Burston (PHONP)
Is the minister prepared to take disciplinary action against public servants/Ministerial staffers found to be generating deliberate mis-information thereby putting elected Ministers into a situation of contempt of Parliament during Petition hearings now on record on the matter of the RCB petition?
Answer 3. Sen. Cormann for Sen. Payne
There is no evidence of any such prejudicial conduct in this case.
RCB Review Group Response to the Answer 3.
Try reading the official including Hansard records. On 3 March 14 a Petition was placed before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions (HRSCOP). This triggered a Nature of Service Branch (NOSB) paper dated 28 Apr 14 to assist the Assistant Minister for Defence (Robert) respond. Minister Robert duly sent a letter to the Chair HRSCOP on 29 May 14 which included the NOSB paper to maintain the clearly intransigent Defence position. This same document was then presented to Parliament and published in Hansard on 16 Jun 14 by Minister Robert. The contents of both the letter and its support NOSB paper demonstrated distortions, untruths and selective omissions that sought to ‘prove’ RCB service was not warlike when the evidence clearly showed it was: and Defence had that evidence.
On 24 Jul 14, it was brought to the attention of the HRSCOP that the NOSB paper that Minister Robert used was deliberately misleading Parliament, with evidence given to support that assertion.
The RCB Review Group repeated this advice again on 18 Aug 14 directly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence (Darren Chester), and provided an in-depth rebuttal of numerous assertions made by the NOSB in their paper. Notwithstanding, Minister Robert, with all of this material at his advisors’ fingertips still chose to present essentially the same position to the HRSCOP on 29 Oct 14. See Hansard for that data; it is clear that public servants provide the Minister material that is knowingly false and/or fails to provide the full and correct information. It is understood that such action constitutes an offence under certain Codes of Conduct.
The RCB RG provided a further rebuttal to the HRSCOP in its letter and attached document dated 1st December 2014. The response from the HRSCOP advised that the Committee considered the matter but has no role to investigate, comment on, resolve or follow-up matters relating to the subject matter of the petition, or on any petition. That means that any outcome from the Petition’s process rests with the appropriate Minister. Is this a case of Caesar judging Caesar?