Scott Morrison has launched a withering attack on the floor of parliament, blowing up over the investigation into Gladys Berejiklian.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has slammed the anti-corruption watchdog in NSW as a “disgrace” and a “kangaroo court” that “did over” former Premier Gladys Berejiklian by probing her love life.
The ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian had a conflict of interest and breached the public’s trust by having a part in awarding money to a gun club in Wagga Wagga without disclosing her relationship with the disgraced local MP Darryl Maguire.
It’s also investigating whether she failed in her duty to report suspected corruption, and whether she encouraged that sort of behaviour by turning a blind eye.
In his strongest attack to date on the corruption probe, the Prime Minister unleashed on the investigation during Question Time on Thursday as he faced a barrage of questions over his failure to implement an election promise.
Despite promising to introduce a federal anti-corruption watchdog for years, Mr Morrison has failed to pass legislation to implement the reforms.
In parliament, Labor leader Anthony Albanese noted that the majority of Australians supported a federal anti-corruption watchdog.
“Why has the Prime Minister refused to act for more than 1000 days?” he asked.
In response, Mr Morrison said the legislation that sets out the government‘s proposed reforms had been “out there” for some time and Labor didn’t support it.
“Instead, those opposite want to support the sort of show in NSW, which has seen the most shameful, the most shameful attacks on the former premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian,” the Prime Minister said.
“What was done to Gladys Berejiklian, the people of NSW know, was an absolute disgrace.
“I’m not going to allow that sort of a process, which seeks to publicly humiliate people on matters that have nothing to do with the issues before such a commission, to see those powers abused and seek to reduce the integrity of people like Gladys Berejiklian.
“The Australian people know that the former premier of NSW was done over by a bad process, and an abuse. I’m not going to have a kangaroo court taken into this parliament.
“These things, these matters should be looking at criminal conduct, not who your boyfriend is.
“Criminal conduct! Criminal conduct is what this should look at, not chasing down someone’s love life.”
Earlier, there was chaos on the floor of parliament as a Tasmanian government MP crossed the floor to vote with the independents and opposition.
Moderate Liberal MP Bridget Archer defied her own party to support a motion from independent MP Helen Haines, calling for an urgent debate on her bill to establish a federal integrity commission.
“I don’t take this decision lightly at all. I take this decision very seriously to stand here. And it’s a difficult decision,” Ms Archer told the House.
“This is one of the most important things that we come to this place to do. I think we should suspend standing orders and have this debate.
“The time has gone on long enough.”
She said the model proposed by Dr Haines was not perfect, but should be debated.
“Why don’t we talk about it?” she asked.
“Why don’t we all come here in good faith and have those conversations and find something that we can take forward in the best interests of all Australians? It’s why we’re here. It’s why we come here. It’s the most important thing we do.
“There is a place for politics, there’s a place for the partisan point-scoring, but on something as important as trust and confidence in elected officials, that is not it.”
Ms Archer was joined in her stance by Dr Haines, Greens leader Adam Bandt, Labor, and independents Bob Katter, Zali Steggall, Rebekha Sharkie and Craig Kelly.
That left the government in the minority, but as several MPs were absent, the push to bring on debate did not achieve an absolute majority of 76 and therefore failed.
Dr Haines subsequently praised Ms Archer for her courage, describing her as “the absolute lioness of the 46th parliament”. The pair left the chamber together.
“Bridget Archer today walked across the aisle for the single most important thing that any Parliamentarian could do,” Dr Haines said.
“She walked across the aisle to vote for integrity in this parliament. She walked across the aisle to make sure that her constituents knew, that the nation knew, that she stands for accountability, transparency, decency and honour in parliament.
“She truly is a hero.”
The independent MP accused Mr Morrison and his government of obstructing the “will of the people” by opposing her proposed commission.
“It’s absolutely clear now that this Prime Minister, this government, do not wish to instigate a federal integrity commission,” she said.
“The Prime Minister and the government are standing in the way now of not only the will of the people, but the will of the parliament.
“This is an extraordinary moment.”
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