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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1539


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (09:37): That was one of the weirdest contributions I have ever heard in this place. The Australian Labor Party yesterday debated over and over again why the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Amendment Bill 2016 should not be exempted from the cut-off. Senator Conroy said, in his typical style, 'I don't even know what the bill does, but we're opposed to it being exempted from the cut-off.' That was Senator Conroy's insightful contribution to the debate.

It is important to reflect on yesterday and the vote that we had. The vote was to exempt that bill from the cut-off so that it could be dealt with in the current sitting. There are a number of bills that we would like to deal with in the current sitting. Indeed, they are listed in the order of business today. What is preventing us from getting to a range of legislation that we want to deal with is the fact that the Australian Labor Party have been filibustering, essentially on the transmission of the message from the House to the Senate in relation to the electoral matters bill. That is what is delaying proceedings.

It is just peculiar—it is bizarre—that today the Australian Labor Party think, 'Oh gee, we can convince the disability community that, although yesterday we were doing our level best to stop that bill, BSWAT, being dealt with in the current sittings—we can con the disability community—actually we're really in favour of dealing with it.' No-one is fooled. I am not fooled. The disability community is not fooled. I do not think Senator Siewert is fooled. I must say, with due respect to other colleagues, that if there are two colleagues in this place who probably have the closest interest and the most detailed knowledge in the area of the business services wage assessment tool it is probably myself and Senator Siewert.

Senator Moore interjecting

Senator FIFIELD: Senator Moore has a strong interest too—I grant you that, Senator Moore. Senator Siewert and I had a little bit of distance between us last time BSWAT was here, but we have come closer together, as we often do on disability issues. We are very keen to see the BSWAT issue dealt with once and for all. What we sought yesterday was to ensure that it could be dealt with in this sitting. That is what the exemption from the cut-off is about: dealing with it in this sitting.

We could deal with a whole heap of legislation in this sitting if the Australian Labor Party stopped their filibustering—stopped this bizarre, weird, pathetic stunt that we are seeing this morning. Senator Wong was taking every interjection going, because even she was struggling to mount the case for her own argument, for her own suspension. So she was grabbing every interjection like a lifeline: 'Thank goodness for that, because I'd run out of material! Let me bounce off an interjection.' Senator Wong was smiling, and I think I might have even seen a wink or two during her contribution. So this is odd. This is weird. This is bizarre. This is peculiar. I have not seen anything quite like this.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator FIFIELD: Incredibly transparent, Senator Brandis. So let us dispense with this suspension motion expeditiously. It is transparent—we all see through it. I will not even say it is too clever by half; it is not clever at all. Maybe it is too clever by a quarter! And that is doing it even more justice than it deserves.

Sometimes when you think things cannot get stranger or weirder in this place, they do. It surprises you. Just wait another 15 minutes, and you will see something even more bizarre. So I am sure, through the course of the day, we will see things that are weirder still.