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Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Page: 4486

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (7:09 PM) —I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator CARR —These are quite extraordinary times. We have a situation where the opposition are seeking to uphold the longstanding principle that the will of the Senate should be maintained in votes, a principle that the opposition have now discovered with some force—and I must say we had some difficulties with them understanding this in the past when they were in government. It is essentially a principle that is conceded on both sides of the chamber. It is extremely important that the Senate’s will is reflected in the votes of this place. If a senator is not able to attend a division or by misadventure fails to attend a vote then there is a convention that the senator—as Senator Boyce has done—gives an explanation for the failure to attend the vote. I understand this may be the first occasion for Senator Boyce on which that has occurred. I do not recall circumstances where I have been obliged to do that because I think I have met the fundamental requirement, the obligation, of senators to come into this chamber and cast a vote.

Senator Heffernan —You’re as pure as the driven snow!

Senator CARR —You say that I am as pure as the driven snow. I think on this matter I have got reason to make a claim that my voting record is appropriate and that I have fulfilled my obligations to vote in divisions. I certainly have not placed the chamber in a position where the will of the Senate has been frustrated or where a vote has been taken which does not reflect the will of the Senate. That is a simple proposition. Senator Boyce has sought to clarify the reason for her failure to vote. But the really big issue here is the circumstances that surround this issue. We are not talking about just any particular matter. We are talking about a measure that is—

Senator Ellison —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Leave was granted for a short statement, and I would ask you to direct the senator to the fact that it should be a short statement and ask that he conclude his remarks.

The PRESIDENT —I cannot direct the senator to conclude his remarks, but I can draw the attention of the senator to the fact that leave was sought to make a short statement.

Senator CARR —Mr President, I am making a short statement. I am drawing the attention of the Senate to the manner and the circumstances that surround the appalling behaviour of the opposition in this matter. What we have here is a budget measure which has the effect of raising some $550 million—over half a billion dollars—worth of revenue and we have a proposal by the opposition to knock over that measure. We have had the second reading vote, and by their misadventure the vote failed to deliver the result that they were anticipating. They have then sought to get the vote recommitted. They have tried to do it at this time of night. They have tried in the middle of the night to move a proposal. We all understand the normal procedure of the Senate, and senators who may well have left this building will not be aware of the circumstances that surround the recommittal.

The opposition are now seeking to recommit to a vote this measure to take $550 million from the government’s surplus. Five hundred and fifty million dollars is what this vote is all about. We should not ever move away from that basic proposition. We have a situation where the opposition is now seeking to cut tax on luxury cars for wealthy people rather than provide interest rate cuts for working families. That is what this debate is really all about. It is not some procedural, simplistic matter of a senator failing to fulfil their obligations. It is a fundamental measure about the opposition seeking at this hour—well after the proper conclusion of government business—to move a recommittal of the vote, with the effect of removing $550 million from the surplus. This is an opposition that is seeking to blow a hole in the budget of $550 million.

We have a simple proposition: that this matter ought to be recommitted in due time, when senators have an opportunity to cast their vote properly. That time is tomorrow, and that is to give people notice that this matter is being recommitted to a vote. The votes of the Senate would normally have been concluded by 6.50, on any reasonable reading of the standing orders. Senators may well have left the building. Senators are entitled to leave the building under the normal operation of the standing orders. But what you are trying to do, at 7.15 this evening, is to recommit to a vote a measure to take $550 million out of the budget and to do so as a result of your poor organisation.

Senator Abetz, as we know, is taking control of the tactics committee. We all understand that Senator Minchin has failed in his responsibilities in terms of his leadership of the opposition. We have seen the circumstances of question time today, where you cannot even ask questions of the right minister. You are so badly organised. You are so incompetent. You are such a bunch of dilettantes that you cannot even organise your raid on the budget properly. You have to do it in the middle of the night. This is your game. Your game is to essentially—

Senator Ellison —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Leave was given for a short statement. By any judgement, Senator Carr has now abused the leave that was granted by the Senate. It is not a short statement that he has made. It has been going on for more than five minutes. I would ask you to draw the senator’s attention to that.

Senator Conroy —Mr President, on the point of order, Senator Carr is making a short statement. He has been interrupted on a number of occasions. If those opposite had stopped interjecting and taking spurious points of order, he may have actually concluded.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator Conroy —But those interjections, like those that are going on now, are slowing down the business of the Senate. If the opposition would allow Senator Carr to finish, I am sure he will draw to a conclusion within two or three minutes.

Senator CARR —Mr President, on the point of order, I have been seeking to make a short statement to the Senate concerning the incompetence of the opposition, who cannot even organise a raid on the budget properly. That is what I have been seeking to do and I have been rudely interrupted by a wilful opposition that does not wish to face up to the truth. I think I should be able to conclude my statement in a proper manner without these wanton interruptions.

Senator Ellison —Mr President—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Ellison on a point of order?

Senator Ellison —No, he sat down and I am seeking leave to have the question on the second reading of the luxury car tax bills put again.