‘Unelected’ PM won’t go unchecked: Labor

Labor has vowed not to let “unelected” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull head to an early election without proper scrutiny after winning Senate backing for several inquiries.


The opposition claimed several wins on Tuesday evening, after gaining the Senate’s support to suspend standing orders and vary the chamber’s schedule so all formal motions could be dealt with.

It won Senate backing:

* To set aside two days to scrutinise the Turnbull government’s May 3 budget, on May 5 and 6.

* For an inquiry into entities associated with political parties, including a provision that Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos be directed to appear before the committee and answer questions.

* For an inquiry into the outcomes of the latest Council of Australian Governments meeting between the prime minister and premiers.

* To call on Mr Turnbull to establish a royal commission into the financial services industry.

Leader of the opposition in the Senate Penny Wong said Mr Turnbull had recalled parliament to engineer an early election.

But Labor wouldn’t let him run to the polls without scrutinising his tax hikes and cuts to hospitals and schools, she said.

“Parliament is not a plaything of this unelected prime minister,” she told AAP.

Senator Wong said Senator Sinodinos had serious questions to answer regarding political donations and his involvement with the Free Enterprise Foundation.

She said the federal government had fought tooth and nail to avoid a vote on whether he should be directed to appear before a Senate committee.

The NSW Electoral Commission is refusing to pay the Liberals more than $4.4 million until it reveals the secret donors who poured about $700,000 into the party’s coffers ahead of the 2011 state election.

Senator Sinodinos was the party’s treasurer and finance director at the time.

“Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis have repeatedly refused to respond to questions on Senator Sinodinos’ involvement in the Free Enterprise Foundation,” Senator Wong said.

“If Senator Sinodinos has nothing to hide why have senior ministers used every procedural trick in the book to resist scrutiny of the Senate.”

Attorney-General George Brandis warned directing Senator Sinodinos to appear before the committee would set a “shocking” precedent.

“The consequence would be that in a chamber where the majority had control, the government could direct an opposition senator to appear before a government-controlled committee,” he said.

“That is unprecedented and a violation of a very fundamental parliamentary principle.”

The Senate committee will inquire into the adequacy of the powers of the Australian Electoral Commission when it comes to supervising the conduct and reporting of associated entities of political parties.