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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3314


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (17:04): I ask leave of the House to move a motion to suspend standing orders to enable the House to divide again on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Service Providers and Other Governance Measures) Bill 2012.

Leave not granted.

Mr ALBANESE: I move:

That in accordance with standing order 132, standing and sessional orders be suspended to enable the House to divide again on the question viz.: That the Opposition amendments be agreed to.

I move this motion consistent with the positions that were put in place as part of parliamentary reform in what is an unusual parliament in terms of Australia's historical position. Historically, of course, governments have had absolute majorities on the floor of the House of Representatives. When the Australian people made their determination in August 2010, they chose that that would not be the case. As a result, discussions took place in good faith between the government, the opposition and crossbench members—particularly the member for Lyne—about parliamentary reform ensuring that proper functioning could occur. Members would be aware that in the Senate, because of the nature of the Senate, where the government party has historically—with some brief exceptions, which is why we got Work Choices—not had a majority on the floor, an arrangement exists whereby, if someone inadvertently misses a division, there is a recommittal. It happens without fuss. It happens as a matter of course. In fact, it happens pretty regularly.

In this parliament we unanimously chose to alter the standing orders to allow, through standing order 132, for a recommittal to be put if a member is accidentally absent. There is a very sensible reason why this is the case. That is because, were it not to be, the views of this parliament—this House of Representatives—could be distorted by misadventure or someone simply missing a vote. Therefore it was determined that, if that occurred, the bill would be recommitted. It was stated very clearly in the parliamentary reform agreement. It was put in the standing orders and understood that this would be the case, in a similar way to the way in which the operation of pairs ensures the principle that a result should not be distorted because of a member's absence from parliament. Were this not to be implemented it would lead to an outcome whereby the proper determination of a majority of members of this House is not put into the law of the land. That is why I am moving this recommittal motion.

I am frankly surprised that the Manager of Opposition Business is not simply supporting this. We had very clear discussions, which included the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Lyne and others, about the circumstances in which this could occur. We explicitly discussed that an explanation should be given to the parliament of why people have missed a division. Today, as part of the budget process, the Treasurer addressed the National Press Club in the Great Hall of Parliament. This is a procedure that in the past has occurred at the National Press Club but in recent times has been moved to the Great Hall in order to accommodate the numbers of members of the community who want to participate. There were four government members—the member for Chifley, the member for Eden-Monaro, the member for Moreton and the member for Brand—who attended that function where the bells did not ring because they were turned off, one would assume as a result of the fact that it was broadcast live as a National Press Club activity. It was unfortunate—and I have communicated to the four members, very directly, that they were perhaps amiss in absenting themselves from that division—but it clearly falls within the parameters which were envisaged.

In addition to this, the member for New England was in the Senate where he did not hear the bells. He also expected to vote in that division. I, of course, am not in a position to communicate in the same direct way with the member for New England as I do with my friends and colleagues on the Labor benches but in terms of—

Mrs Mirabella: You should be nicer to him!

Mr ALBANESE: You should try it sometime, I say to the member for Indi. She is on to us! I am nice to the member for New England because he is a good bloke.

We have circumstances here that are precisely those circumstances that were envisaged, covered and signed off in the agreement for parliamentary reform. They are covered by the standing orders before the parliament and, in terms of process, we should really not be wasting the parliament's time. There should be an automatic recommittal as long as people are prepared to put on the record the reason for their absence. I have done that in an appropriate way on behalf of the five members who were absent from the division. It is appropriate that that be done but these are circumstances which are clearly understandable given the fact that, if you are in this building, it is a normal expectation that you will hear the bells ring.

It is also the case, in terms of the procedure, that the standing order which is relevant—standing order 132—was unanimously adopted by this House. No-one has said that it should not be so. No-one has said that it is inappropriate. Indeed, I am somewhat surprised because I expected this would happen automatically. The Manager of Opposition Business knows that if you have a majority for a particular proposition you can achieve an outcome—so it can be done more quickly or it can be done more slowly, in terms of the process, if you have a majority.

In terms of this legislation the opposition amendment does not have a majority of members of the House of Representatives and the bill does have majority support of the House of Representatives. If those are the circumstances and you have support for that, then we can either do it the easier way or do it in a much more prolonged way to achieve the same outcome. That is why the standing orders reflect this change. I commend the motion to the House.