Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9941


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (one 18:50): It will come as no surprise to the House to learn that I intend to move an amendment to the Leader of the House's motion. I now formally move the amendment:

That the motion be amended to read:

That, in respect of the proceedings on the Clean Energy Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Charges—Customs) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Charges—Excise) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (International Unit Surrender Charge) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge—Fixed Charge) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Unit Issue Charge—Auctions) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Unit Shortfall Charge—-General) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy Regulator Bill 2011, the Climate Change Authority Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates Amendments) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Tax Laws Amendments) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Excise Tariff Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Fuel Tax Legislation Amendment) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Customs Tariff Amendment) Bill 2011, the Clean Energy (Household Assistance Amendments) Bill 2011, the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment Bill 2011, the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment Bill 2011 and the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011, so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the following from occurring:

(1) the resumption of debate on the second readings of the bills being called on together;

(2) at the conclusion of the second reading debate a Minister being called to sum up the second reading debate, then without delay, in respect of all the bills with the exception of the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011:

(a) one question being put on any amendments moved to motions for the second readings by opposition Members;

(b) any necessary questions being put on amendments moved by any other Member; and

(c) one question being put on the second readings of the bills together;

(3) then without delay, any questions necessary to conclude the second reading stage of the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011 being put;

(4) if the second readings of the bills have been agreed to, messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations for any of the bills being announced together;

(5) the consideration in detail stages, if required, on all the bills being taken together and, at the conclusion of consideration in detail, Government amendments that have been circulated in respect of any of the bills except the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011 shall be treated as if they have been moved together with:

(a) one question being put on all the Government amendments;

(b) one question being put on any amendments which have been moved by opposition Members;

(c) any necessary questions being put on amendments moved by any other Member; and

(d) any further questions necessary to complete the detail stage being put;

(6) then without delay, any Government amendments that have been circulated in respect the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011 shall be treated as if they have been moved together with:

(a) one question being put on all the Government amendments;

(b) one question being put on any amendments which have been moved by opposition Members;

(c) any necessary questions being put on amendments moved by any other Member; and

(d) any further questions necessary to complete the detail stage being put; and

(7) at the conclusion of the detail stage, one question being put on the remaining stages of all the bills, except the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011, together and then one question being put on the remaining stages of the Steel Transformation Plan Bill 2011.

The amendment is extraordinarily long so I will explain what it achieves. It outlines the process for dealing with the package of carbon tax legislation but has two important elements. The first element is that it removes the dates for the cutting off of the debate. The first date in the motion moved by the Leader of the House is for the debate to be cut off on 11 October, at 5 pm, and for the second reading summing-up and vote to be held at that time on the legislation, on any amendments moved by the government, any amendments moved by the opposition and any amendments moved by the crossbenches. The second date is Wednesday, 12 October, which is for the vote on the third reading of the package of 19 bills. The amendment that I have moved removes both of those dates, so it still outlines the process for dealing with this package of legislation but without the guillotine or gag that has been introduced by the Leader of the House this evening. The second element, which will be the third thing we are amending, is to remove from the motion these words:

(8) any variation to this arrangement to be made only by a motion moved by a Minister.

Dealing with the first amendment first, obviously the government could not expect the support of the opposition for this gag or guillotine motion. The government has decided to jackboot this legislation through the parliament. It has decided to make the claim that the bills have already been properly debated and scrutinised in many different ways. But I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are 19 bills in this package of legislation—over 1,000 pages of legislation—and there are members in this House who wish to debate properly the biggest change to our economy in the last 111 years since Federation. Worse than that, the government has provided a mere few hours for the consideration in detail stage of these 19 bills. The consideration in detail stage is the opportunity for members of this House to question the minister about the specifics contained in this bill.

We know that the government have not yet been able to answer our questions, whether in question time, in the media, at doorstops or at the National Press Club. They have been unable to answer the detail of how these bills will fundamentally change the lives of Australians as consumers, in their households and in their businesses. They have been incapable of handling the detail in question time, so they have decided to truncate the period of time in which the House will be able to question them in the consideration in detail stage of these bills. So, of course, we are opposing the government's attempt to gag this debate to reduce the consideration in detail stage to a mere few hours and, of course, we will oppose the attempt to have a specific time for a vote on this package of bills.

The government has decided that members of the House of Representatives, elected in my case by about 100,000 electors in north-eastern, eastern and south Adelaide, should have one minute per bill per member to debate this crucial change legislation. It is not enough that 19 bills, over 1,000 pages of legislation, have been introduced in one package. The real insult, the rubbing of salt into the wound, is that members in this place who take their job seriously are being expected to have one minute per bill to debate this legislation. That speaks volumes of the contempt in which this government holds the parliament.

We are already sitting the shortest sitting periods in the history of Federation this year, in a non-election year. The government will do anything to avoid the scrutiny of the parliament. We have already seen the unedifying spectacle of the government substituting a joint select committee for the five specialist committees of the House that these bills should be being sent to by the Selection Committee for proper scrutiny and now we see the unedifying spectacle of the government gagging this debate on the basis that these bills have already been scrutinised.

The first time this parliament saw these bills was today, yet tomorrow members of this House are expected to start debating the most fundamental change to our economy since Federation. In past parliaments, governments like the Howard government actually respected the parliament; governments like the Howard government recognised the need to scrutinise legislation not just because the opposition was opposing the bills but because it was good for the government to have that scrutiny to make sure that inadvertent mistakes were not being made by the government. After all the failures over the years, whether it was the home insulation debacle, the Building the Education Revolution fiasco, the live cattle export disaster, the Malaysian solution, the East Timor solution, the Green Loans policy, the cash-for-clunkers policy—one fiasco after another—the government believe that the people and the parliament should take them at their word that they have got the most fundamental change to our economy in 111 years right. I for one am not prepared to give them that trust. I am not prepared to accept that the government have got this legislation right when they cannot even answer questions in question time about the detail of these bills. We will not support truncating this debate to the mere week or so that the government expects the parliament to deal with it.

The great precedent is the GST legislation. Not only did John Howard take his GST, his goods and services tax, to the people to get a mandate before he introduced it, unlike the carbon tax legislation introduced by the government, but John Howard had the common decency to seek a mandate from the people and receive it and then introduce the legislation. The bills were introduced in the House on 2 December 1998. They sat on the table, as is expected for such an important piece of legislation, till 7 December. Almost 15 hours of debate was allocated to the second reading on the goods and services tax legislation and the bills were passed on 10 December 1998 after they had sat on the table for a week.

The GST legislation then spent five months in Senate committees being scrutinised by the Senate. On 25 November 1998, the Senate established the Senate Select Committee on a New Tax System. The Senate committee also referred certain matters to three separate Senate references committees, all of which reported by the end of March 1999—namely, the Community Affairs References Committee, the Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education References Committee and the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee. So the Howard government went through the correct process. It introduced the bills. They sat on the table. They did not try to rush them through the next day, having given members of parliament no time. Members have been given 12 hours to consider these 19 pieces of legislation of over 1,000 pages before they start speaking on these bills tomorrow. They have 12 hours to consider 19 bills, over 1,000 pages of legislation, in order to start debating them tomorrow. In the Howard government they had the decency to let the GST legislation sit on the table to give members of this House the opportunity to properly scrutinise the legislation and prepare their remarks. Then there were 15 hours of the second reading debate. They had Senate committees. Four different Senate committees reviewed the GST legislation before these bills were passed. This was not the jackboot democracy we are seeing from this government.

So of course we will oppose this legislation. This parliament is not a stranger to lengthy second reading debates. I have participated in many of them over the years. The research involving embryos and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill in 2002 took 23½ hours of debate. There were many amendments moved. I moved 14 amendments myself with Alan Cadman, the former member for Mitchell, and there was no gag put on that debate by the government at the time. The parliament was given the opportunity to properly consider one of the most significant issues facing that parliament.

The Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 took 23½ hours of debate. Parliament was given every opportunity to scrutinise the legislation, to go through it line by line. But in this government there are 19 bills of over 1,000 pages and members have been given 12 hours to consider their contributions to this debate before tomorrow morning—one minute per member per bill! The government should hang its head in shame.

Many other debates have occurred in this parliament where gag motions were not applied. The Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006 was not gagged. The Native Title Amendment Bill, and I was part of that debate in 1997, took about the same time as the GST bill—15 hours. The government at the time gave proper time for these debates to occur to allow proper scrutiny, because the Howard government respected the parliament. The Howard government did not hold the parliament in contempt.

In conclusion, there is a point that the Leader of the House made about how the government was prepared to give extra time to debate this legislation. Let us just examine for a minute the illogical position being put by the Leader of the House. Apparently these bills need to be gagged, guillotined, cut off from debate on 11 October and 12 October. Yet the government is admitting, because they need to give more time for the debate, that in fact they have not got the time on the schedule to deal with these bills in the comprehensive way that they should. So the illogical position of the Leader of the House is that we are going to gag the debate whilst at the same time offering more time for debate. If more time is needed for debate, why are you gagging the bills? Why are you gagging the bills if you have already admitted that we need more time for debate and offering extended hours?

We are not going to let the government off the hook by allowing them to have extended hours in this place whilst at the same time they are gagging 19 bills of over 1,000 pages, giving each member one minute per bill. We are not going to let you off the hook. You have made your bed and you are going to have to lie on it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Sidebottom ): No, no, I have not made my bed yet; I have not been in it. Please speak through the Chair.

Mr PYNE: I accept your admonition, Mr Deputy Speaker. The government has made this call that they will gag the most important pieces of legislation, the most significant economic reform in the history of Federation. We are not going to allow them to then try and wriggle out of their situation by pretending that we will somehow allow them more time when, in the first place, they should not have gagged this legislation.

I call on the Leader of the House to remove this motion from the Notice Paper, to not proceed with it, to allow the House to properly consider the 19 pieces of legislation. It is in the interests of the government. We know from their record that they have got most of their policies wrong in the last 3½ years of government. If I were them, I would rather get these bills right now, even though we oppose them, rather than have to come back here, cap in hand—which I predict they will—and have to change and amend these bills in order to make up for the mistakes that have been created because of their failure to get them right now.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr HARTSUYKER: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.