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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8944


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:36): This proposal to guillotine bills is an outrageous motion. I have been here for 21 years—I was here in 1999—and never in that time have this many bills been guillotined in this fashion. The Manager of Government Business seems to think that legislation thought of by the Australian Labor Party or the Greens should automatically go through parliament. It is said to be noncontroversial because the Labor Party and the Greens think it is okay. If anyone else in this parliament wants to debate it, they are denied the opportunity by this outrageous and undemocratic approach of the Australian Labor Party and the Greens. There are a number of bills here that are very important. One of them is in committee already. But, through what the Manager of Government Business has proposed today, we will not even get back to the committee stage of that bill to investigate, to look at, some of the issues that were to be raised there, which may well have helped the government to legislate in a better fashion. All of this legislation needs scrutiny. Even if it is agreed to by the other parties in the chamber, there are times when errors can be pointed out and when different suggestions can be made that would improve legislation that we all agree with.

Today, not only are we to deal with the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Family Participation Measures) Bill 2011; the Business Names Registration (Application of Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011; the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011; the National Health Reform Amendment (Independent Hospital Pricing Authority) Bill 2011, which, I might say, should be very closely scrutinised; the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amend­ment Bill 2011, which should also be very closely scrutinised; the Tax Laws Amendment (2011 Measures No. 7) Bill 2011; and the Navigation Amendment Bill 2011 and Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, both of which require considerable scrutiny and were going to be dealt with in the Committee of the Whole, but in addition to that we are now going to have 1½ hours of debate on a ministerial statement on Afghanistan. I agree that this parliament should be discussing Afghanistan, but the hour and a half that is being taken out of the day means that there is that much less time for all of those other bills that will be guillotined through tonight.

This is unprecedented. The Manager of Government Business affects concern that these bills will not be allowed through, but does the minister think that, simply because the government proposes them, they are in order to be passed? This is a parliament. This used to be a democracy where legislation was to be scrutinised by the parliament. But the government says: 'No scrutiny is necessary. We have determined what is right. Don't you worry about wasting the time of the senators. Don't you worry about that. We've told you the bill's okay, so it should go through without any debate.'

Have a look through all of these bills. They are bills that affect the everyday life of ordinary Australians everywhere. They do require scrutiny. They should be debated. But in this chamber now—and the carbon tax legislation was perhaps the most outrageous example of this—the government simply does not like debate. It does not like scrutiny. That is a clear sign of a government in trouble. It is quite clear that Ms Gillard wants to get out of this place as quickly as possible before her detractors in the Labor Party can perform a coup, as she organised a year ago when she got rid of the former Prime Minister, Mr Rudd. Ms Gillard just wants to get out of this place at the very earliest time.

As Senator Fifield has correctly pointed out and as the Manager of Government Business himself has correctly pointed out, all year the Senate has known that it was going to sit on the 28th, 29th and 30th of November. Why, now, are we not going to sit on those three days?

Senator Bernardi interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: 'Durban,' I hear called. What could there possibly be in Durban that would stop the Senate from sitting? Clearly, the Greens and the Labor Party want to walk the world stage and tell the world how great they are in getting a carbon tax through, even though they know and everybody else knows that nobody else in the world is going to be doing the same and even though they know that this carbon tax is a legislated piece of policy based on a lie, in that the Prime Minister promised solemnly just before the last election that it would never be introduced under her regime, under a government she led. But, instead of debating these pieces of legislation that are of particular importance to the people of Australia, we are going to effectively have to curtail the Senate so that we can allow some of our colleagues to go to Durban to swan around in the glare of the television cameras at a climate change convention that will again go nowhere and will be a waste of the time and money of the people attending.

Parliament should be sitting. Right back a year ago, this parliament decided that it would sit on these three days, so what has changed, with all of this legislation that needs to be properly addressed? Tomorrow we are going to be dealing with the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011, a measure that requires a great deal of debate because it is something that, regrettably, affects many in our society. Are we going to have the opportunity of fully discussing that? No. It is going to be guillotined by the Greens and the Australian Labor Party, yet again. There is the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011. There is the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Air Cargo) Bill 2011, which, again, is very, very important. Transport aviation security cannot be taken lightly. The legislation is heading in the right direction, but it needs scrutiny. It could be better. Just because the Labor Party and the Greens say that it is okay and does not need the debate of parliament, that does not mean that it is okay. These bills need to be looked at.

There is the Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Participants in British Nuclear Tests) Bill 2011. We all have constituents who have an interest in that bill. Again, the bill heads in the right direction—it is something the coalition has been advocating for some time—but it needs proper scrutiny because it affects many people. I would estimate that at least half the senators in this chamber would have been approached by constituents who have a very great interest in that bill. Are we going to get a chance to talk about the issues of our constituents? Are we going to get a chance to try to make that bill a little bit better? We are not going to, because, again, it is going to be guillotined by the Labor Party and the Greens.

There is a bill on the protection of the sea and the prevention of pollution from ships. I know nobody else in this chamber is terribly interested in the marine environment, but the Liberal and National parties certainly are and we want to debate that bill. There are aspects of that bill that could perhaps be improved, but it is going to be dealt with tomorrow afternoon and voted on between 9 pm and 9.40 pm—there will be no debate on it.

This government is acting like a totalitarian government of the past. Those governments did not have oppositions, they did not allow people to discuss legislation and they did not allow scrutiny of government—they just happened to be there. Totalitarian regimes got to power usually by force but often by democratic elections, which then allowed those totalitarian parties to suppress the opposition, disallow debate and become one-party states. That is what happens when governments say: 'Don't worry about this legislation—it doesn't need to be debated. Don't worry about any scrutiny. We, the government, have said this is okay, so you will just accept it and we will not allow you to talk about it.' That is how totalitarian regimes were encouraged and nurtured in the pages of history.

To go through these bills, on Wednesday there is the National Residue Survey (Excise) Levy Amendment (Deer) Bill 2011. There is also the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011. The Labor Party and the Greens are always getting up and pretending they are interested in Indigenous matters, but there will not be any opportunity to talk about this legislation because the government and the Greens are guillotining it. We on this side have a real interest in Indigenous affairs. It makes me so proud to be a member of the Liberal Party that the very first Indigenous member of this parliament was a Liberal Party senator—an old mate of mine, Neville Bonner. And which party did he choose to go to? Was it the Greens? Was it the Labor Party? No, he chose the Liberal Party because he believed it was the party that best represented his hopes and aspirations for his people. I am delighted that the first Indigenous member of the lower house is another Liberal, Ken Wyatt, the honourable member for Hasluck. Again, he had the choice to join any political party, but which political party did he join? Was it the Greens, with all their pious words about Indigenous people? Was it the Labor Party, who do all the processes but take none of the action on Indigenous people? It is the Liberal Party that he joined.

There is a bill coming up which many of us in the Liberal and National parties would like to contribute to. We would like to put forward some—

Senator Polley: Sit down, and then you can!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Why can't we sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? Then we can all discuss these things, Senator. Where do you want to go? Are you going to Durban, or are you taking an early Christmas holiday?

Senator Polley interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Cameron ): Order!

Senator Ludwig: You just want three more days of procedural argument.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Clearly, Senator Ludwig wants an early Christmas holiday. He will not be silly enough to go to Durban. He will not want to be embarrassed over there—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, can I draw your attention to the matter before the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Acting Deputy President, I have been talking for 13 minutes now about all the bills that have been guillotined. I get one interjection and you then draw me into line and forget about the interjectors. I have been talking about these bills, which are so important. On Thursday, in one day, we are going to go through the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Fair Protection for Firefighters) Bill 2011. All of us have been approached by the firefighters about that, and we all agree with the general tenor of the legislation, but it is legislation that should be debated. Who knows? Perhaps the draftsman made a mistake that could be pointed out in the Committee of the Whole, but we are not going to get that opportunity.

The Work Health and Safety Bill 2011, the Auditor-General Amendment Bill, the Personal Property Securities Amendment (Registration Commencement) Bill 2011 and the Competition and Consumer Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2011 all need scrutiny. These are things that need to be fully debated, because quite frankly the Labor Party and the Greens do not have all wisdom. Totalitarian leaders of the past used to think that they had all wisdom; they did not need a parliament, they did not need opposition and they did not need to be able to discuss legislation. They just did it, and if anyone did not agree then poor fool them and good luck for their future safety. This is the first stage, when they deny parliament the opportunity to properly debate these bills.

I have been here a long time. I was here when the Independents and the Democrats were in this parliament. In 1999, as I think Senator Ludwig mentioned, the cross­benchers and the Labor Party had a majority in this place, and we would never guillotine things like this. I had my issues with the Democrats, but in those days the Democrats would never have allowed the sort of guillotining that the Greens are now allowing. The Greens used to make a virtue out of allowing people to debate legislation for as long as they wanted, whether they agreed with it or not. The Greens used to say, 'It's your right to debate it.' But what happens now? They want to go to Durban, and so they are happy enough to take an early Christmas holiday and cancel the last three days of the scheduled sitting. The Democrats would never have done that. As I say, I had my issues with the Australian Democrats, but at least they were true to their word on the issue of guillotining. The Greens clearly have a different agenda. The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Review of Future Uses of Broadcasting Services Bands Spectrum) Bill 2011 is enormously important and needs to be fully debated. But will it be fully debated? We will not even get a chance to open our mouths on that. I could go on. There is the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010—parliamentary scrutiny of human rights! What parliamentary scrutiny is there when people who represent 51 per cent of the Australian population are not even going to get a chance to talk on it? There are other bills as well.

I do not want to use my full time on this debate. I ask the government to act as if they are a democratic party and allow proper debate. There are three days set aside in the schedule that really should be used for this debate. I will leave it there and urge the government to rethink.

(Quorum formed)

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Ludwig's) be agreed to.

The Senate divided. [10:59]

(The President—Senator Hogg)

Question agreed to.