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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 993

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (9:51 AM) —by leave—I thank Senator Colbeck for that statement. The cart is not before the horse; to some degree, the horse has bolted. The government has made a decision to give these projects the go-ahead. Yes, we are seeking information through this motion as to how the government could have made that decision. I am pleased to hear that the opposition will support paragraph (c). The first paragraph of this motion opposes the Santos and British Gas coal seam gas projects approved by the government because of the impact they do have on farmlands and other businesses in the Darling Downs and in that corridor between there and Gladstone. I would ask the mover of the amendment if he would allow paragraphs (a) and (b) to be considered separately; otherwise, I will move that this amendment be split into two so that the chamber can vote on each.

The second component of this is a call on the government, which has given the go-ahead to ensure full compensation to farmers and other existing businesses which lose productivity due to these projects. That is a quite separate matter to opposing the project. I agree that there are three very different elements in this motion and I would seek the mover of the amendment to simply have (a) and (b) considered separately.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Brown, it is within the discretion of the chair to put questions in a separate manner. Do you want (a) and (b) put separately, or can I take (a) and (b) together?

Senator Bob Brown —Separately.

The PRESIDENT —All right. In respect of general business notice of motion No. 72, I will put part (a) of Senator Colbeck’s amendment first.

Senator Colbeck interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Your amendment is to delete part (a).

Senator Colbeck interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Yes, your amendment is to remove (a) and (b) and I am putting your amendment, which is to remove part (a). I am splitting the question. I am going to remove part (a), then put a question to remove part (b).

Senator Colbeck —On a point of order, Mr President, just to clarify this: what you are effectively doing is putting my motion in separate parts.

The PRESIDENT —In two parts, yes.

Senator Colbeck —So you are separating my motion.

The PRESIDENT —Yes. It is not in any way trying to deny that being considered. We are considering the amendment by Senator Colbeck, which will remove part (a) of the notice of motion that is before us.

Senator Ian Macdonald —On a point of order, Mr President, I thought that Senator Colbeck’s motion was to remove paragraphs (a) and (b) from the motion. With respect, that is the issue we should be voting on.

The PRESIDENT —I am going to do that, Senator Macdonald, by putting the removal of (a) and then putting the removal of (b). I have been asked to put them separately and that is what I am doing.

Senator Ian Macdonald —With respect and by leave, Mr President, (a) and (b) are inextricably interwoven and your decision in removing them really changes the whole tenor of the debate which we are not having. Senator Colbeck has not agreed with this.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Colbeck, with respect, has understood what I am doing and seems to be agreeing with the way in which I am moving. I am not trying to get stuck into the debate as to how they are interlinked or anything else. I am just doing this as part of the procedure of the Senate.

Senator Colbeck —My understanding is not that you are doing it with my agreement but that you are doing it at your discretion.

The PRESIDENT —At my discretion, but I thought that you had agreed.

Senator Colbeck —No, my motion is to remove parts (a) and (b) and my understanding from what you had said—and I did not necessarily have a choice in it—was that you were going to do it in two parts. Senator Brown has made some comments about what his intentions are. My preference would be for my motion, as it stands, to be put to the chamber. But I recognise that you may have the discretion to put it in a form that you decide, and not necessarily with my agreement.

The PRESIDENT —Yes, but I am doing this as a result of the request that has been made by Senator Bob Brown, which he is entitled to do, that the amendment be split. I think that is a reasonable proposition and I will split the amendment and put the removal of part (a) first. Then I will put the removal of part (b).

Senator Colbeck —I understand your decision, Mr President, as long as the chamber understands that it is not with my consent; it is with my understanding.

The PRESIDENT —I understand that.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, again on a point of order, you have acceded to a request by someone who is not moving the amendment to deal with the amendment in a certain way. It does change the tenor of the whole voting situation. I suggest, with respect, that you should deal with the amendment as the mover of the amendment has sought and not deal with it as someone who has not moved the amendment has sought.

The PRESIDENT —Just before I call you, Senator Faulkner, it does not have to be up to the person involved in either the moving of the motion or the amendment as to whether something is going to be split. That has happened on the request of other senators around the chamber on numerous occasions. I hear what you say but that is not necessarily pertinent.

Senator Faulkner —Mr President, just on Senator Macdonald’s point of order, I think that what you say is correct—and, by the way, I apologise, but Senator Ronaldson is in my seat so I am just doing an impersonation here of Senator Polley, and a very poor one at that.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order, I cannot hear. People should be quiet. Senator Faulkner, proceed.

Senator Faulkner —That is probably because I am speaking from Senator Polley’s desk. In addressing the point of order made by Senator Ian Macdonald: I draw your attention, Mr President, to standing order 84(3), which I believe is the standing order on which you are able to rely as you address this matter. I am no expert on the matter before the chair. I have heard what has been said by senators, but I do note that standing order 84(3)—and standing order 84, of course, relates to the putting of questions—makes clear:

The President may order a complicated question to be divided.

I also note that often in this chamber—and I have certainly done it myself on many occasions—senators can so request that this take place, but at the end of the day these are matters for the President presiding before the full Senate or the Chairman of Committees if the Senate is in committee, where this is more likely to occur. I think we should acknowledge that that is the case—that this is something that more often occurs in the committee stage of debate than when the full Senate is in session. I hope that is of assistance and enables you to have the full support of the standing orders in what you are proposing to do.

The PRESIDENT —In response to Senator Faulkner’s point: that is quite correct. This is no departure from the procedure that has been followed by presidents for a long period of time and I have no reason to depart from that now.

Senator Xenophon —I wonder whether it would assist, given Senator Macdonald’s and Senator Colbeck’s concerns, if I moved that the three parts of the motion be determined separately.

The PRESIDENT —No. We have already got the question before us and we have an amendment before us, which I need to determine. That is not something that can really be moved at this point.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, on a point of order: I suggest to you that, if you had taken Senator Xenophon’s motion and the Senate so decided, that would be one thing, but if you are doing it as an administrative decision it can have, dare I say, a political response, which I know that you as chairman of this gathering would not want to be part of.

The PRESIDENT —That is not a consideration for me. I am dealing with the amendment that is before the chair. I have an amendment from Senator Colbeck which seeks to remove paragraphs (a) and (b) and then Senator Bob Brown has requested that the three paragraphs—(a), (b) and (c)—of the motion be put separately. That is quite well within the standing orders. I am prepared to separate the motion and put the questions separately. That is the state of play at this stage.