Labor steps up attack on Angus Taylor, refuses a pair to attend energy summit


In a series of heated exchanges in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Morrison defended his decision to phone NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller about the investigation.

But Mr Taylor skirted questions about whether he or his office had any communication from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s office about the content of the phone call.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor face Parliament on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Asked about the call, Mr Taylor repeated previous answers in which he “absolutely” rejected the suggestion that he or any members of his staff altered the documents in question.

“This is a pathetic, outrageous accusation by those opposite,” Mr Taylor said.

Mr Morrison’s decision to call the police chief has been criticised as inappropriate by the former head of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, David Ipp, and by the former counsel assisting the NSW ICAC, Geoffrey Watson.

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Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Morrison was showing his “hubris” and “arrogance” by calling the police chief and refusing to require Mr Taylor to stand aside while the police investigation continues.

Mr Morrison defended his actions in Parliament by quoting Commissioner Fuller saying “the Prime Minister didn’t ask me any questions that were inappropriate” and “didn’t ask for anything that was inappropriate” during a phone call lasting only a few minutes.

“I sought to inform myself, as is entirely appropriate, of the nature and substance and instigation of that investigation,” Mr Morrison said.

“I was up front with the Parliament about doing it.

“I went and then undertook that action and then I reported back to the House on that action.”

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Mr Morrison said Mr Albanese had not objected to the plan to get in touch with the NSW Police when the Prime Minister first aired his intention.

Mr Taylor insisted in Parliament last month he relied on a document downloaded from the City of Sydney website when he claimed the council spent $15.9 million on travel when the real costs were less than $6000 for its councillors.

The City of Sydney has made a trove of computer data available to NSW police investigators to check on Mr Tayor’s claim about the download.

The city council’s legal officer has held talks with the investigators over the data but the information cannot be released to the public for privacy reasons.

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Ms Moore said on Thursday she had nothing to add to her previous comments, in which she rejected Mr Taylor’s claims about the source of the document.

The Labor attempt to force Mr Taylor to stay in Parliament next week is based on a convention in which the major parties arrange “pairs” for each other to even the votes between them when MPs have good reason to be absent.

The Labor tactic raises the risk for the government in losing votes in the House of Representatives next week if it allows Mr Taylor to attend the conference without a “pair” from Labor.

Mr Taylor said he was planning to attend the International Energy Agency’s conference “to further discussions with the US about access to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and push Australia’s case to modernise the IEA’s outdated rules that disproportionately affect Australia due to its geographic remoteness”.

“Labor have rejected that pair – they are clearly not serious about fuel security and protecting Australia’s interests.”

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