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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8935


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (10:02): Before I start on the motion to vary the hours this week, I advise I will be seeking leave to amend the motion before moving it. I seek leave to make a short statement as well to explain the circumstances.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Do you want to seek leave to speak to your proposed amendment and then seek leave to have it amended?

Senator LUDWIG: I know the Clerk of the Senate will be horrified at what I am doing. To make sure that the week goes forward as planned, I think it would be helpful to explain first.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Minister, you are seeking leave to make a short statement?

Senator LUDWIG: Yes, first.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Is leave granted?

Senator Ian Macdonald: I don't think so. Does Mitch know about this?

Senator Fifield interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Leave is granted.

Senator LUDWIG: It will be helpful to put this in context. This week we will endeavour, through cooperation from the other side and from the crossbenchers, to complete our legislative program. There are a range of bills that require finalisation this week. In addition, we have an important debate today dealing with Afghanistan. It was to be scheduled between 7.30 and 9.00. However, there is a view around the chamber that it would be better to be held at the end of the urgency motion today, which would put the debate around five o'clock. It will then proceed for an hour and a half. That will allow the debate to receive the proper attention it deserves.

I seek the cooperation of the chamber to grant leave to amend the motion to allow that to occur. I thought it would be worthwhile to explain the reason behind this. It is an important debate and I seek the cooperation of the Senate to undertake that endeavour.

In addition, I have ensured that there is an open-ended adjournment on Tuesday night so that if people want to contribute to the particular debate or raise other matters then that is the opportunity for the Senate to do that. Normally, we would truncate it and have an ordinary 40-minute adjournment. But I think there are a range of issues that people want to raise throughout this week, so that will give an opportunity for senators to do that. Turning to the substantive motion, I seek leave to amend the motion before moving it.

Leave not granted.

Senator LUDWIG: At the request of Senator Arbib, I move:

That—

(1)   In the week beginning Monday, 21 November 2011, the following government business orders of the day shall be considered:

Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011

Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Business Names Registration (Application of Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011

Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Social Security Amendment (Student Income Support Reforms) Bill 2011

National Health Reform Amendment (Independent Hospital Pricing Authority) Bill 2011

Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 and Work Health and Safety (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011

Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011

Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Bill 2011

Higher Education Support Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Corporations (Fees) Amendment Bill 2011

Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 8) Bill 2011 and Pay As You Go Withholding Non-compliance Tax Bill 2011

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011

Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2011

Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 7) Bill 2011

Navigation Amendment Bill 2011

Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Air Cargo) Bill 2011

Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Participants in British Nuclear Tests) Bill 2011

Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oils in the Antarctic Area) Bill 2011

National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Amendment (Deer) Bill 2011

Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Personal Property Securities Amendment (Registration Commencement) Bill 2011

Competition and Consumer Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2011

Broadcasting Services Amendment (Review of Future Uses of Broadcasting Services Bands Spectrum) Bill 2011

Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 and Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2010

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011.

(1A)   On Monday, 21 November 2011, the routine of business from 7.30 pm to 9 pm, shall be debate relating to a ministerial statement concerning Afghanistan.

(2)   On Wednesday, 23 November 2011 and Thursday, 24 November 2011, any proposal pursuant to standing order 75 shall not be proceeded with.

(3)   On Tuesday, 22 November 2011:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 2 pm to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to adjournment;

   (b)   the routine of business from 7.30 pm shall be government business only; and

   (c)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 10 pm.

(4)   On Wednesday, 23 November 2011:

   (a)   consideration of the business before the Senate be interrupted at approximately 5 pm, but not so as to interrupt a senator speaking, to enable Senator Sinodinos to make his first speech without any question before the chair; and

   (b)   consideration of government documents shall not be proceeded with.

(5)   On Thursday, 24 November 2011:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.40 pm;

   (b)   consideration of general business and consideration of committee reports, government responses and Auditor-General's reports under standing order 62(1) and (2) shall not be proceeded with;

   (c)   the routine of business from 12.45 pm till not later than 2 pm, and from not later than 3.45 pm, shall be government business only;

   (d)   divisions may take place after 4.30 pm; and

   (e)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 10 pm.

(6)   The Senate shall sit on Friday, 25 November 2011 and that:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to adjournment;

   (b)   the routine of business shall be:

      (i)   notices of motion, and

      (ii)   government business only; and

   (c)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall not be proposed until a motion for the adjournment is moved by a minister.

(7)   The bills listed in paragraph (1) be considered under a limitation of debate and the allotment of time for consideration of the bills be as follows:

Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011

Business Names Registration (Application of Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011

Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

National Health Reform Amendment (Independent Hospital Pricing Authority) Bill 2011

Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 7) Bill 2011

Navigation Amendment Bill 2011

Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

All remaining stages: on Monday, 21 November 2011, from not later than 9 pm to 9.30 pm

Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011

Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Air Cargo) Bill 2011

Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Participants in British Nuclear Tests) Bill 2011

Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oils in the Antarctic Area) Bill 2011

All remaining stages: on Tuesday, 22 November 2011, from not later than 9 pm to 9.40 pm

Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Bill 2011

Higher Education Support Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 8) Bill 2011 and the Pay As You Go Withholding Non-compliance Tax Bill 2011

National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Amendment (Deer) Bill 2011

Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011

Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

All remaining stages: on Wednesday, 23 November 2011, from not later than 6 pm to 7 pm

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011

Work Health and Safety Bill 2011 and Work Health and Safety (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011

Corporations (Fees) Amendment Bill 2011

Auditor-General Amendment Bill 2011

Personal Property Securities Amendment (Registration Commencement) Bill 2011

Competition and Consumer Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2011

Broadcasting Services Amendment (Review of Future Uses of Broadcasting Services Bands Spectrum) Bill 2011

All remaining stages: on Thursday, 24 November 2011, from not later than 9 pm to 9.40 pm

Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 and the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2010

Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

Social Security Amendment (Student Income Support Reforms) Bill 2011

All remaining stages: on Friday, 25 November 2011, from not later than 1 pm to 1.50 pm

(8)   Paragraph (7) operates as a limitation of debate under standing order 142.

This motion will allow the Senate to operate in a focused and effective manner for the next five sitting days, and it will ensure that we complete the consideration of the government's legislative program for this year. There is some disappointment in having to move this motion, because the government has very few options available to it.

Senator Ian Macdonald: You don't want any legislation scrutinised.

Senator LUDWIG: I listen to you in silence when you contribute to these debates in Senate and you should return the favour one day—

Senator Ian Macdonald: When you are destroying what parliament is about, you can put up with my interjections.

Senator LUDWIG: although I will not hold my breath waiting for you to return that favour.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald, interjections are disorderly and, Minister, could you direct your remarks through the chair.

Senator LUDWIG: I apologise, Mr Deputy President. In the past two weeks, the Senate spent almost 30 hours debating the clean energy package. Without doubt this is significant legislation deserving scrutiny. Unfortunately, the Senate has also spent far too many hours on procedural motions—MPI debates—that are, quite frankly, simply variations of a tired theme. Senator Macdonald has been one of those who has contributed significantly to that tired theme, debating bills that all senators recognise are noncontroversial. By convention, as agreed by all parties and Independent senators, non-controversial bills are put through at a particular time on Thursdays. Why? Because they are, by their nature, noncontroversial.

However, we now have some 13 non-controversial bills carrying over from the last three sitting periods. This has led to the government seeking, in this motion, to have them dealt with at the end of this week. Why? Because they are non-controversial bills. Those on the other side have sought to debate those non-controversial bills at length, ad nauseum.

Senator Ian Macdonald: How outrageous for the Senate to debate bills!

Senator LUDWIG: In usual times, when the opposition and the government—and when we were in opposition—treated them as non-controversial bills, senators spoke to them in a way which would ensure their passage during the period usually set. However, there has been a lack of cooperation in that regard. We even have one non-controversial bill that has been held over from July. It highlights what has happened—those opposite treating non-controversial bills as full debating bills when we have agreement that they are noncontroversial. It seems that that convention has worn quite thin of late.

There are also 20 or so bills listed on the draft program for the week. The majority of these bills have commencement dates on or before 1 January 2012. These bills need to be completed this week to ensure that they can commence by their start-up date of 1 January 2012. It is not unusual for the Senate to deal with about this number of bills in its final sitting week. It is not unusual for the Senate, with a level of cooperation, to organise its business so that we can sit a few extra hours this week and organise its business with a motion which provides certainty for those in the chamber that we will progress through the bills this week.

Senator Ian Macdonald: But we won't be able to debate them.

Senator LUDWIG: Unfortunately—and I think the interjection highlights this fact—the government is not able to rely on the informal and constructive cooperation that it has had in the past. I note as well that, when we were in opposition, we offered informal and constructive assistance to ensure that the Senate completed a number of bills at the end of sitting periods. However, again, that position seems to have worn quite thin of late. In the spring sittings we have seen, quite frankly, self-indulgence, repetition and debate with, usually, only tenuous connections to the substantive matters contained in the bill. This is an opposition which has become ill-disciplined and does not use the Senate's time in an effective and constructive way to deal with bills. We find instead interjections and debate with only tenuous connection to the substance of the topic. Instead, the opposition has been hell-bent on thwarting the ability of this Senate to scrutinise legislation effectively.

We have a motion today that lists the bills to be debated and completed each day. That allows senators to take the appropriate time to debate a bill and finalise their contribution to it so that the bill can be finalised in the evening.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Why can't we sit next week and debate these bills?

Senator LUDWIG: The motion allows for some 30 hours of debate on legislation this week, assuming that the opposition does not continue to use its time to debate procedural motions. This motion provides additional sitting hours on Tuesday night and Thursday this week, and a sitting day on Friday. It is the government's intention not to sit on 28, 29 and 30 November. I foreshadow that at this point and will inform the Senate through the usual processes in due course.

The House of Representatives has decided likewise not to sit next week. While it is not unusual for the Senate to sit without the House also sitting, if the Senate were to set in path legislation which requires consid­eration of the House before it is finalised, this would mean that the House would have to come back before the end of the year to finalise any amendments that were passed through the Senate. It would require an additional cost. In those circumstances, it is the government's view that it is better to structure the sitting this week so that the whole program can be completed this week. There are hours available to allow this to occur—to ensure that government business is finalised.

I note that the last time this type of motion was used to structure Senate business was in 1999, when the current opposition was in government. It is not the typical motion that I would usually have used. A motion that would allow the opposition to continue until a bill was finalised is another approach that could have been adopted. However, given the opposition's position that I outlined earlier, speaking on procedural motions and speaking on a range of bills that are non­controversial—without the cooperation and constructive approach that the opposition has displayed in the past—the type of motion that is now constructed will, in the govern­ment's view, ensure that the legislative program is finalised this week.

I do not intend to take up any additional time because the more I talk the more I eat into the time available for the opposition to constructively contribute to the bills that are on the program. I just add, in relation to the matter that I was denied leave for—and that does not prevent another senator moving to amend the motion in this regard—that it is the government's view that it would be more appropriate to deal with the Afghanistan debate at the end of the urgency motions.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Why?

Senator LUDWIG: That would allow the urgency motions from the opposition to be completed. It is a government time that is being chosen.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: The government should, notwithstanding Senator Macdonald's interjections, be able to organise its time as it sees fit to be able to debate the program as stipulated by govern­ment. There has been a convention in this place for a very long time that governments can determine what happens in government time. It would be disappointing to find that the opposition are now breaking that longstanding convention to allow the government to organise its time the way it sees fit. With those short words, I ask the Senate to agree to the motion.