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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3318

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (17:24): To start on the issue of pairing, which has very little to do with this debate and this suspension of standing orders: I have given it due consideration from my perspective, and the answer is no. The answer, very simply, is no because for three years the question of pairing of crossbenchers has been a very real issue within a parliament where all members surely should be entitled to the same rights. At times when requests for family reasons, for health reasons and for any number of reasons that pairing exists for members of political parties, that pairing arrangement has been denied. So it is a little bit rich for the Manager of Opposition Business now, when it is convenient for the claim being made under this debate of section 132, to make a request to the good conscience of the crossbench to stand by and do the right thing on pairing arrangements which for crossbenchers effectively do not exist. I say: welcome to our world. From my point of view, no pairing arrangements exist.

On the issue of section 132 for the shadow minister in the chair and for all members of this chamber: thank goodness that three years ago there was some foresight that in a parliament like this accidents would happen. This is the second such example where this has happened, the first time over a year ago when the member for Cowper had a piece of legislation to do with bats at one of his local schools. I think it was the Maclean High School that had some bats coming in. He was putting through a private member's bill from an opposition position in this parliament and I think was successful in getting that piece of legislation through this chamber. That is something for reflection for all members in this chamber: anyone can stump up and put a good idea into this chamber and on merit be successful. But there was an issue of a member of parliament being accidentally absent and a tied vote. The record was corrected under section 132.

So the events of today are not unusual. They have happened before and were dealt with in a sensible way to the benefit of the opposition in the passing of an amendment to a piece of legislation carried through this chamber by a private member, the member for Cowper. Now, again, because it is not convenient for the Manager of Opposition Business, we seem to be arguing the toss over some very clear wording from section 132 and from those discussions with foresight—and with a little group hug at the end—from the very start of this parliament. That foresight was to recognise that in an incredibly tight parliament people will miss votes and, if we are going to reflect the true will of the House, there is going to be a moment where you have to correct people who are absent or who accidentally miss votes. It is incorrect for the reinterpretation of history from those discussions to be that it was only for health, for family, for sickness or—I enjoyed this one—for inadvertent imprisonment in the parliamentary precinct. If that were the case, it would have been explicit in those terms in section 132. It was purposely kept loose and broad as 'accidentally absent or some similar incident'. That is a pretty broad and loose definition, in a lively working parliament, of pretty well any series of events that happen by accident, without intention and maybe leading to the true will of the House not being reflected in a vote. So 132 is very clear.

Another point of interest for the walk down memory lane is that this was actually the one point of dispute in the parliamentary agreement reached across party lines making its way into the standing orders. Yes, we lost a whole range of issues— (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion be agreed to.