Matters of Urgency – Australian Government, Wednesday 7 February, 2024

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (17:00): Obviously, I rise here in support of Senator Lambie’s urgency motion. Of course I do. As Australians, we pride ourselves on having an open and transparent society—or at least I hope that we do. I hope there is not a single person in this place who would argue that we should act in the shadows or work to cover things up. Yet increasingly, as far as I can tell, that’s exactly what we can see. Would you call the government’s COVID inquiry ‘open and transparent’? I wouldn’t. It’s an inquiry that deliberately avoids examining key issues relating to the pandemic. It’s an inquiry that purposefully rules out questions that the public want answered. My fellow senators, don’t sit here and agree that we must be open and transparent while failing to call for a royal commission into the greatest health disaster in the history of our nation.

There are many issues in this place that are being conveniently swept under the carpet in the hope that they’ll just disappear, but they have not disappeared. The public still want and need answers, and in an open and transparent system that we, hopefully, should all aspire to have, senators like you and me must ask questions no matter where the answers might lead. By all means, let’s agree on the need for openness and transparency, but agreeing on that whilst doing nothing to facilitate it is, unfortunately, the height of hypocrisy. That’s what it is.

If we want to build trust with the people that we represent, let’s demand a royal commission into the pandemic response. Let’s demand a full inquiry into the handling of the Brittany Higgins compensation package. Openness and transparency—let’s have at it.