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Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Page: 11512

Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (22:28): I think, if anyone amongst the Australian public was in any doubt about what the debate has largely focused on this evening, that doubt has now been removed by the actions and the antics of not only the member for Indi, who has now, appropriately, been discharged from the duties of the House, but also the member for Paterson, who despite the government's decision to facilitate this debate decided to call for a quorum throughout that debate. I see he is rising now; I hope this is about that quorum now, because he would be thrown out, just as the member for—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I ask honourable members who are milling around the chamber, including the member for Groom and others, to resume their seats so I can give the call to the member for Paterson, who I suspect is raising a point of order.

Mr Baldwin: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: in line with your earlier rulings and those of deputy speakers who have occupied the chair tonight, I ask you to bring the member for Hunter's attention to the amendments at hand. He is not addressing the issues of the amendments before the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Paterson is correct in saying that honourable members ought to be debating the amendments before the House. The amendments are, however, wide ranging. But I would urge the Chief Government Whip to confine himself to the wide-ranging amendments the House is currently debating. The Chief Government Whip has the call.

Mr FITZGIBBON: I certainly respect your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. While I have not been here as long as the member for Mackellar, who has been very active in this debate, I have been here for some 15½ years and I have been a student of the parliamentary process for much longer than that. I have never seen such an extraordinary course of events. Never has such a wide-ranging and broad amendment been moved in the in-detail stages of a government bill. It is not that strange for an opposition with no new ideas and no alternative solutions to put forward such an amendment to defer the actions of the will of the House, but it is extraordinary that they should put forward such an amendment in the in-detail part of a debate, a period of the debate which is usually confined to the specifics of the very complex legislation before the House.

It is extraordinary that having done so they would spend most of the time the government agreed to give them for further debate on the clean energy bills by wasting time and taking frivolous points of order. The other side ignored points of order from this side while they continued to read their speeches no matter what the deputy speakers ruled. What is even more extraordinary is that we all stand here in defence of democracy. People over the ages have given their lives for democracy. Indeed, Australian soldiers continue to give their lives in pursuit of giving others the opportunity to participate in parliamentary democracy.

The opposition's proposition is that from now on if you have hard reform to put to the Australian people through the parliament you should go and seek the will of the Australian people on every occasion. Imagine if Gough Whitlam and those who followed him had done that on tariff reform. Imagine if Paul Keating had done that on the floating of the dollar. It is not the way our democracy works and nor should it be. There are only two sorts of people at the end of the day—there are leaders and there are followers.

The Prime Minister and those who stand behind her on this side have shown very strong leadership in picking up an issue that has been debated in this country for the last 20 years. The government went to the last election promising to act on climate change, just as John Howard went to the 2007 election promising to act on climate change. Indeed, John Howard went to the 2007 election with a response to climate change not unlike the architecture of what we are putting through the House and what we have been debating in this place for a long time. When the Australian people pick up their newspapers tomorrow and come to understand the antics in this House tonight, the crescendo being the expulsion of the member for Indi, they will understand what this debate is really about. (Time expired)