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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 472


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:26): I am opposed to this Greens-Liberal alliance motion that has been put before the parliament here today. I am opposed because, since this parliament first sat in 2010, not once have we come in here and broken the protocols that have been established and have functioned effectively to deal with private members' business. If the crossbenches carry this motion—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ALBANESE: Yes, it is a process motion; it is a suspension of standing orders. So, yes, genius; you've worked it out! It is about the process and the procedures. That is what is before the parliament now: if a member is able to come before this chamber and move a suspension of standing orders to deal with any number of private members' motions that are on the Notice Paper, without notice to the 150 members of the House of Representatives, without an opportunity for them to know in advance that this particular motion or private member's bill will be dealt with, then what we will be doing is going against the whole reason why we have private members' business. The whole principle of private members' business is that members of parliament should be entitled to put up motions before this House, that they should be dealt with by this House, and that each and every member of this House should be entitled to give considered judgement as to whether they should support or oppose a particular motion.

That is what we have and that is what this government has put in place with the support of the opposition and the crossbenches. That is the process that we have put in place—an orderly process that has seen 242 hours set aside for private members' business. For one in every four hours that this parliament sits, we are dealing with private members' business—one in four.

The matter of public importance put forward by the opposition today, I note, is about superannuation. They say it is important; well, why are you voting to knock it off? If you vote to suspend standing orders to bring on private members' business rather than the matter of public importance that has been put forward by the member for Dunkley, then you are saying that that is more important. What is more, you are inviting every member of this place, including government members from time to time, including members of the crossbench, to come in here and work out when it is appropriate and convenient for them as individuals to bring on a vote, and votes will be brought on.

So I say to the Manager of Opposition Business that he needs to think very carefully about supporting this Greens motion that is before the parliament today, because this is an unprincipled position for the member for Melbourne to take. The member for Melbourne knows full well what the process is: people get to vote on motions for which notice is given on the Notice Paper that that vote will be held.

Today it is a fact that, prior to question time, we did not get to the process that normally occurs whereby we have votes on some private members' motions. The reason is that, as people would be aware, I was hosting the Indonesian Minister of Transportation. I was with people including the Leader of the Nationals, who met with the Indonesian transport minister, and we had a function that included the heads of all of the regulatory agencies here in Australia as well as our visitors from Indonesia. That included the member for Gippsland, who was invited to represent the opposition at the function.

In terms of the processes, if we support this motion from the member for Melbourne, what will happen is that, from time to time, to suit anyone's convenience, we will just bring on a vote. The fact is that, after items are debated, the government facilitates private votes in government time. That is what we do. Indeed, in 2012, we had 62 private members' bills and motions voted on. Do you know how many we had in 2005 under the former government? Zero. Not one—not one motion and not one private member's bill. Yet we do it in an orderly way. The member for Melbourne knows that this vote will take place next week or at some other time, in terms of budget bills, when it is scheduled and notice has been given. In the last two sitting weeks of 2012 alone, we voted on 11 motions.

I say to this parliament that private members' business is important, but I say this too, and I know that the Manager of Opposition Business agrees with me: it is not just about private members' motions, because private members' motions do not impact on or direct the executive government in terms of budget bills. The Manager of Opposition Business knows that, House of Representatives Practice indicates that, and we all know that that is the case.

In this parliament this morning we were debating the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Had this motion not been moved by the member for Melbourne, we might have been able to get back to it after the MPI debate, to deal with and facilitate people's participation in that legislation. There are 46 speakers on the list for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill. We have before this parliament the education bill dealing with the Gonski reforms. We have a range of government business before this parliament, and I say that we have facilitated votes from the crossbenches in an orderly and timely way. We have facilitated that, but what we will not do is come in here—with notice given, to be fair to the member for Melbourne. He told me prior to question time that he was intending to move this motion. I thank him for the courtesy of doing that. But, if this happens with the member for Melbourne, who is, with due respect to the Greens political party, one member in this House out of 150, then there is no reason why the other 149 should not be able to have their motions dealt with according to their convenience and whenever they want.

The member for Melbourne has not put forward a single argument in his address, nor did the supporter of the Greens political party motion, the member for Higgins, for why this was urgent, why this had to be dealt with today and could not wait until next week—not one. They talked about the policy idea, which is actually not the motion that is before this parliament. It is a motion for suspension of standing orders that is before this parliament. But, with regard to the substance of debate, we are happy to have a debate about higher education, science and medical research. We on this side of the House, of course, have created 146,000 extra university places since 2007.

I say to the member for Melbourne that this is a stunt to facilitate substance for the media release that was put out this morning by the member for Melbourne saying that he was going to do this. But, if we are going to have this and the Manager of Opposition Business is going to back this up, other people are going to be encouraged to do it as well, which means that this time will be dealt with and wasted rather than dealing with issues of substance.

The poor old member for Dunkley tries and tries and tries to get an MPI. They finally give him one on a Thursday arvo, and now they are knocking him off. The MPI usually is given to the National Party on Thursday afternoons, I notice, so that the other members, their coalition partners, can leave early, but I am sure— (Time expired)