Julie Bishop, pictured at Canberra Airport earlier this year, was singled out to be scanned on her way through Melbourne Airport on September 22. Photo: Andrew MearesForeign Minister Julie Bishop’s department may have misled the Senate over the departure gate screening incident that resulted in three workers at Melbourne Airport being suspended and one later sacked.
Tasmanian Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk has called for an investigation into whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade gave “false and misleading evidence” earlier this month when it told the Senate Ms Bishop had not been involved in any screening-related incident, altercation or complaint.
Specifically, the department was asked on notice in November by Senator Bilyk: “Has the Foreign Minister ever been involved in any incidents, altercations or complaints relating to directions to subject herself to security screening at Australian ports, in relation to body scanners or other devices or procedures?”
DFAT responded: “No.”
Fairfax Media revealed last week that the office of Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss contacted Melbourne Airport to express concern at an incident in which Ms Bishop was singled out to be scanned on her way out of Melbourne in late September.
The airport acted, suspending three workers amid evidence their selection of Ms Bishop was “not random” and therefore breached airport security protocol. A male worker employed by security contractor ISS lost his job as a result.
Mr Truss’ office said it had been “informally notified” about Ms Bishop’s treatment and the Foreign Minister’s office has stuck to its initial statement, refusing to comment other than to say “no official complaint” was made.
In a letter to Liberal senator Chris Back, chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, Senator Bilyk said Fairfax Media’s reporting contained “information that is not consistent with the answer provided by the department”.
“I draw your attention to a possible contempt of the Senate relating to the giving of false and misleading evidence to foreign affairs, defence and trade committee,” she wrote.
“It is a matter of great concern to me that no correction, or explanation, has been submitted to the committee by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to this matter.”
On Tuesday, Fairfax Media submitted detailed questions about why the department said there had been no incident and whether its answer was based on direct advice provided by Ms Bishop or her office.
In a single line statement, the department said only: “Thanks for your query, DFAT has no comment to make on this.”
Ms Bishop’s office did not respond to questions.
Senator Back said on Monday that he had not yet seen Senator Bilyk’s letter. The Foreign Affairs committee was holding a public hearing in Newcastle on Tuesday and he could not be contacted.
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