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Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Page: 1

Ms GILLARD (9:01 AM) —We will oppose this motion because the parliamentary process for the Workplace Relations Amendment (A Stronger Safety Net) Bill 2007 is an absolute shambles. The bill was introduced on Monday night into this parliament. The government gave notice late yesterday that it wants to add two amendments to its own bill. Why is the government incapable of writing a piece of legislation and getting it right? It is a farce, it is a shambles and it just reinforces what we have said about this bill all along—that the government was more interested in briefing its advertisers than it was in briefing parliamentary counsel. When you pull a transparent political stunt, it shows—and it is showing now with the shambles that has become this bill. Given the shambles that is this parliamentary process, and given the incompetence that is on display, the very least the government could do is allow a full opportunity for members who want to speak in this debate to speak. This guillotine will ensure that Labor members lose their right to speak.

I can understand why government members did not want to volunteer to speak on this bill. I can understand why government members do not want to stand up in this House and be associated with the name ‘Work Choices’. At the end of the day, the Prime Minister cannot even make himself say ‘Work Choices’ now, so hated is that terminology in the Australian community. So I understand that government members are too embarrassed to come into this place and speak on this bill. But Labor members are not. Labor members have put their names down to speak. Labor members have a very long list of speakers, and they ought to be able to speak on behalf of their constituencies.

The other thing that is a substantial problem with this guillotine is that it guillotines consideration in detail to 50 minutes. We have four in-detail amendments to this bill. The government has two, because it is incapable of writing a piece of legislation competently. We have four in-detail amendments to this bill. We want to put them and we want to have them voted on separately because we want every government member in this place to have to think about whether or not they will vote to add protections to this bill. We want every government member in this place to have a vote recorded on four separate occasions as to whether or not they are prepared to vote for fairness in the workplace. I think that voting record will be important in their constituencies in the run-up to the election. I think people voting in that election are entitled to know whether or not government members on four separate occasions have repudiated basic fairnesses that ought to be in our industrial relations legislation.

Not only is this a shameless attempt to gag debate on the second reading, not only is it a shameless attempt to cover up the incompetence that has brought this incorrectly drafted bill to the House; it is a shameless attempt to prevent the opposition bringing a modicum of fairness to the workplaces of Australian families. More likely, it is a shameless attempt to stop government members being on the record voting yet again against fairness because they do not want their constituents to know, in the run-up to an election, what they really think.

We have never said we would impede the passage of this bill. This debate going over until tomorrow will not impede the passage of this bill because there is a Senate committee that does not meet until next Friday—that is not Friday this week; it is Friday next week—and that Senate committee does not report to the Senate until the following Thursday. So it is impossible for the Senate, with that reporting time frame, to consider this bill before the last sitting week of this parliamentary session. Consequently, as a matter of logic—a kindergarten kid would be able to work this out—we could technically debate this bill for the remainder of this week and for all of the next sitting week without impeding its passage through this parliament for one minute. So there is no need in terms of parliamentary processes to guillotine this debate; this bill would still be law at exactly the same moment if this debate were allowed to run; it would still finally clear this parliament at exactly the same moment if this debate were allowed to run.

Consequently, there is not one part of this proposition that is about genuine urgency or better parliamentary processes. This proposition is purely a political proposition to close down debate on an area of government policy that the government is now embarrassed by—its Work Choices laws, which have hurt so many Australian families—and prevent opposition members from putting amendments to this bill and seeing, in relation to those amendments, which way government members, who claim to be representing their constituencies, will vote. It is clearly a grossly unacceptable proposition. We know this is an arrogant government. Its arrogance, its contempt for the parliament and its growing contempt for the Australian people know no bounds, but this is another example.

Mr Billson interjecting

Ms GILLARD —The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, who is at the table, mentioned the word ‘hubris’ and I thank him for it. Yes, it is hubris from a government that thinks it is entitled to do whatever it likes in this parliament no matter how roughshod, no matter how in breach of parliamentary processes and no matter how contemptuous of the Australian people. I say to the minister at the table: there is one amendment we intend to move to this legislation that I think he should have a special consideration of. He is not listening. He might choose to read the Hansard later because there is one amendment he should especially consider that will be moved later today.

We oppose this guillotine motion; we will vote against it. I am not naive. I know every government member in this place will march in and they will vote in favour of this guillotine motion, but they will be judged on that vote, judged on the fact that politically they want to close down this debate for no proper purpose other than their cheap pre-election politics. It is becoming the watchword of this government—cheap pre-election politics—and it is on display again.