I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Regional Development, representing the Premier, about the employment status of Mr Bob Ellis.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Premier's good friend, Mr Bob Ellis, wrote an opinion piece last month in the ABC's online publication The Drum, in which he lamented the lack of fitness of Australian women in the battlefield, following the ADFA scandal. The Liberal opposition understands that Mr Ellis continues to receive taxpayer funding as a speechwriter for the Premier. My question is: given that two junior female ministers in the state government have publicly expressed their opinions that Mr Ellis is out of touch, will the Premier review Mr Ellis's 'employment'?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling) (14:28): Indeed, I think it was on 13 April, The Drum published an opinion piece by Bob Ellis about the Australian Defence Force. He wrote a range of comments that I and many others found particularly offensive. I am sure that I was not alone in finding the opinions that he expressed in that particular piece disturbing. I believe that his comments were extremely unhelpful and made light of the traumas experienced by a number of ADFA personnel.
At the time, I was accused by the opposition of remaining silent. Again, this is a very good example of the opposition getting it completely wrong. They went out and said that I had remained silent on this issue, and I hadn't at all—not at all. In fact, I had put a piece on The Drum website and also provided a piece to the Australian Associated Press (AAP) in which I was very critical of the comments made by Mr Ellis.
Again, the opposition just gets it wrong. They go public and shoot off their mouths. They do not check their facts and figures, and no-one holds them accountable. They are allowed to go out there and shoot off their mouth, saying things that are completely inaccurate, when in fact I had commented and been most critical.
I have put those comments on record, and I am happy to read them onto the record here today. The comments that I wrote and were published on The Drum on 14 April were:
Bob, in this case I have to say you are simply wrong. What happened at the Australian Defence Force Academy was disrespectful and a betrayal of trust. This type of behaviour cannot be condoned or dismissed as a youthful prank. I commend the way the defence minister Stephen Smith has handled this matter. Bob, I've admired your ability to challenge the way people think, but in this case you've completely overstepped the mark.