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Friday, 25 November 2011
Page: 9705

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (16:14): Mr Deputy President, I indicate on behalf of the government that we will not be supporting the motion for the suspension of standing orders. The President made his ruling regarding the precedence of the matter that Senator Bob Brown referred to him regarding Senator Boswell. He refused it precedence, which is a decision that is his alone to make. It is also perfectly appropriate for Senator Brown to disagree with that ruling and to give notice of his disagreement, which he has done—and that will come before the chamber on the next day sitting, as is the normal process. So the proper processes are being followed. The Senate will get a chance to consider Senator Brown's motion on the next day of sitting, and senators will be able to make a judgment as to those matters and whether or not they support his attempt to have that matter referred to the Privileges Committee.

The government support that proper process without expressing any view on the matters contained in the submission from Senator Brown to the President. I have not read it. We make no commentary on that. The President has exercised his duties and we support the President in following the proper process. I will say, though, that I absolutely reject the suggestion that the President has acted somehow in a partisan way. The President is meticulous about following proper process and trying to give fair treatment to all senators. I do not for one minute accept that his motives or his actions in this matter have been anything other than seeking the advice of the clerks and following the proper process, and I am absolutely confident that that is the case. I think the President and his deputy, Senator Parry, always do their best to reflect the best practices of the Senate and treat all senators equally and make fair and appropriate rulings. So I reject the suggestions in Senator Brown's contribution that call into question the President's motives in this matter. The President has taken advice and made his ruling. Senator Brown disagrees with that, which is his right. The Senate will get to consider that on the next day of sitting. That is the way it should be.

The government will therefore oppose the suspension of standing orders. But I reiterate that we do not accept in any way the criticisms made of the President and I think he has acted perfectly appropriately on this occasion. The merits of the case Senator Brown puts will be considered by the Senate at the appropriate time.