Mirabella ordered to the sin bin

THE member for Indi was yesterday ejected from Federal Parliament after responding to a Labor MP who hit out at a $15,000 donation given to her support group, the Friends of Indi.

Sophie Mirabella was told by the Speaker David Hawker at 3.10pm to leave the House of Representatives for one hour when she kept interjecting after being ordered to resume her seat.

She had earlier risen to offer a personal explanation in response to a speech on Monday night by Labor MP Brendan O’Connor.

The Melbourne-based politician raised concerns about the $15,000 provided by British American Tobacco to the Friends of Indi, a donation now being investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Mr O’Connor linked the donation to the buyout of the tobacco industry last year.

“The member for Indi did not just pocket the $15,000, she championed BAT’s position in a local industry buyout,” Mr O’Connor told Parliament.

“When some tobacco growers opposed the BAT buyout, she said they were motivated by corruption or fear of criminal thugs in the industry.

“It is no wonder, then, that some locals have been outraged by the revelation of her secret relationship with BAT.”

Mr O’Connor questioned Mrs Mirabella’s appointment to a committee overseeing electoral matters, saying she needed to respond to concerns about the donation and Friends of Indi.

“This is an outrageous abuse of the laws that are currently in place and it should be investigated by the Government,” Mr O’Connor said.

In responding to Mr O’Connor yesterday, Mrs Mirabella said she had not “pocketed” the $15,000 as claimed by Mr O’Connor, clarified a point about criminality in the tobacco industry and denied she had supported buying out the sector.

“All I did was outline the Federal Government’s support package in the event that growers would accept a buyout.”

Late last night, high-profile Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop defended Mrs Mirabella, demanding Labor apologise for tainting her reputation.

Mrs Bishop said her colleague was “perfectly and properly correcting the record” and Labor should be ashamed for exaggerating the matter.

“It is a shame and it should be condemned in this place and the member for Indi deserves an apology from that side of the House for its attempt to besmirch what is a fine reputation of a hard-working member for her own constituents,” Mrs Bishop said.

But Victorian Labor backbencher Michael Danby kept the pressure on Mrs Mirabella saying her “bluster” during question time fell short of proper behaviour for an MP.

“Shouting at the speaker and getting thrown out of Parliament for disorderly behaviour is not good enough,” he said.

Mrs Mirabella got into trouble with Mr Hawker for debating the issues in her speech and after twice being told to resume her seat she was officially warned by the Speaker.

Education Minister Julie Bishop then arose to make a speech and interjections from Mrs Mirabella continued, resulting in Mr Hawker ordering her to leave the House under a standing order which governs disorderly behaviour in Parliament.

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