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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1537


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (09:31): I seek leave to move a motion to vary the conduct of business, namely a motion to vary the order of business.

Leave not granted.

Senator WONG: Pursuant to contingent notice of motion standing in my name I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of the Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to government business order of the day no. 5 (Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Amendment Bill 2016).

In relation to my motion to suspend standing orders what we are seeking to do is to call on the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Amendment Bill 2016. Those opposite might recall that we had a long discussion about this yesterday.

I walked into the chamber and Senator Macdonald asked me why we did not like people with a disability—charming man, isn't he?—as did Senator Siewert. The Labor Party say, 'We're ready to go.' Senator Moore knows a great deal about this. In fact, last night, Senator Moore stood in this place and said, 'I want to debate this. The Labor Party want to debate this. I'm ready to go.' What did the minister do? He adjourned it, after lecturing from the other side about the importance of this bill and how we were frustrating government business. Well, what we have was the minister, after all of that fire and brimstone, saying, 'I now move that the debate be adjourned.'

We agree with some of the things that the government said. We do think that this is an important piece of legislation.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take that interjection from Senator Macdonald. He said, 'You didn't last night.' I would again remind the senator and the Senate that, when the matter was brought on, Senator Moore invited the government to proceed with that legislation. She made a very good point and said, 'I'm ready to go, the Labor Party are ready to go,' but the government said, 'No, we're going to adjourn it,' after a very long period of telling us that we had to debate it.

Government senators interjecting

Senator WONG: The interjections from the other side are interesting. They cannot win the debate so they just get into the personal.

Senator Fifield interjecting

Senator WONG: Senator Fifield, we know what you do when you are under pressure. You know, when things are not going your way, you like to go the personal. I am going to ignore that.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator WONG: I am precious too, am I, Senator Macdonald? This is charming, isn't it? These are the people that the Greens are supporting. Anyway the opposition believe that the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Amendment Bill 2016—I think BSWAT is the acronym—is an important piece of legislation.

Senator Moore is someone from the Labor Party who has been involved in this policy area for a very long time. I suspect, to be honest, she probably knows more than pretty much anyone else in this chamber about this issue. I also acknowledge Senator Siewert's interest in this issue. The Labor Party does believe that this bill is deserving of the attention of the Senate. We think it is appropriate that we suspend standing orders so as to bring it on. I again remind the chamber that yesterday there was a very lengthy discussion about this, and the lecturing from the minister and the lecturing from the other side about the importance of this bill was paramount.

Senator Fifield interjecting

Senator WONG: I will take the interjection from the Manager of Government Business in the Senate. He says, 'This is sneaky.' Do you know what is worse than sneaky? It is a dirty deal behind closed doors on the largest changes to the electoral laws in 30 years—a secret deal which we understand is in a letter. I am sure the Greens are not going to require that the letter be tabled in the interests of transparency. The biggest changes in 30 years are being shoved through this place. We had a ridiculous sham inquiry yesterday of half a day, scrambling to write a report, which I still have not seen, on the largest changes to voting in 30 years. That is what is sneaky, and that is what is shameful.

I return now to why the Senate should suspend standing orders. I simply say to senators: it is for the reasons that were articulated so forcefully and so repetitively last night by others in this chamber—from Senator Macdonald, Senator Fifield, I think it was, and Senator Siewert—about how important this bill is. We are ready to bring it on. We are ready to debate it. We should allow this debate to proceed for the reasons that those on the other side told us over and over again last night it should be proceeded with. Senator Moore is ready to go. The Labor Party is ready to debate the bill, which we agree is an important debate for this chamber and an important piece of legislation. I ask the Senate to suspend standing orders to enable the bill to be debated. (Time expired)