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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3315

Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (17:15): The relevant section of the standing order that deals with the recommittal of motions is section 132(b) of the standing orders, which states:

If a division has miscarried through misadventure caused by a Member being accidentally absent or some similar incident, any Member may move, without notice and without the need for a seconder, 'That standing orders be suspended to enable the House to divide again'.

That is what the Leader of the House has done. That standing order is designed to ensure that, if a member is unable to be present for a serious reason, the House will recommit in good faith a vote to reflect the wishes of the House. When this matter was debated in 2010 by me, the crossbenchers and the Leader of the House we envisaged that such occasions were when a member had a very unfortunate health incident that caused them not to be able to get here, when they might be locked inadvertently in a room in the building and not be able to escape, and when they might have had a family emergency which caused them to not be able to leave their office or attend the chamber. But it did not envisage, in this case, three members being in the Great Hall having lunch, listening to the Treasurer's National Press Club speech; not having taken their pagers with them, which all members are supposed to carry at all times; not keeping their eye on the coloured lights in the building that are designed to alert us when a division occurs; and a fourth member who was simply doing a radio interview and did not want to be interrupted. A cabinet minister, the Minister for Resources and Energy, did not want to interrupt a radio interview to vote in the House on behalf of his party.

The member for Eden-Monaro, the member for Chifley and the member for Moreton were just having lunch, on the people's time, at the National Press Club address in the Great Hall and they did not want to be interrupted. They wanted to hang around the Treasurer and listen to his speech. They did not want to come into the chamber and vote on a very important bill.

So the opposition is not of a mind to support the suspension of standing orders because we expect members of parliament, when they are in this building, to be aware of what is happening in the chamber. There may be only five weeks left of this parliament and members might be looking for another job if they are going to lose their seats or they might be planning what they will do in the 44th Parliament. But they are still required, five weeks from the end of this parliamentary sitting period, to keep an eye on what is going on in this chamber, especially on important bills. If any members had a health issue, a family emergency or been inadvertently imprisoned in the building, then of course the opposition would have been more than happy to recommit this motion. But none of those things occurred. Instead, three of the members were lunching in the Great Hall, a few hundred metres from where we stand today. Other members of parliament who were at the same luncheon had no difficulty in getting to the chamber. They were carrying their pagers, watching the lights. Many members of parliament even have their staff be aware of what is going on in the chamber so that if there is a division they can be alerted and make their way to the chamber.

You would think that the member for Brand, a cabinet minister, who is the Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Small Business, and the member for Eden-Monaro, also a cabinet minister, who is the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, with their legions of staff, would have had at least one person in their office keeping an eye on the chamber so that their boss did not make a mistake and miss a vote.

Four members of the Labor Party could not be bothered turning up for a very important amendment, an amendment that requires three independent directors to be appointed to industry superannuation funds. The opposition likes this amendment. It is a good amendment and we are delighted that the parliament voted for it. It did not win by one vote; it won by four votes. It was a clear and emphatic victory: 72 to 68. This amendment improves the bill. Now that the amendment has been carried by a democratic vote of the House, it should be put to the parliament as the final bill and should be carried in the best interests of industry super funds.

The opposition will not be supporting the suspension of standing orders. It is important for the House tonight that the parliament gets 76 votes for this amendment to be recommitted. One member of the government is not able to be here for very good reason. Of course, as you would expect, he has been paired by the opposition, in tragic circumstances. But one of our members on this side of the House, the member for Fairfax, went home this afternoon, in Canberra, because he is ill and the government has broken the pair.

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr PYNE: You should check with your chief whip, such as he is! He could not keep his own whip in the House. The member for Moreton is a recently appointed whip and he could not even be in the House for a vote. That is who the caucus voted for.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order! Could I remind members that the discussion is through the chair, not between one another.

Mr PYNE: The minister for tertiary education is paired with another member of the opposition and arrangements had been made for another member of the opposition well in advance of this vote. The government does not get to choose our pairs. The simple truth is: the minister for tertiary education is paired with another member of the opposition in a longstanding arrangement made today and we are not breaking that pair, because our view is that that would be the wrong thing to do. But the government is breaking the pair with this side of the House when one of our members, the member for Fairfax, is ill.

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr PYNE: Mr Deputy Speaker, should I respond to him or will you ask him to—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The chamber is far too noisy.

Mr PYNE: It is. You are in charge of it, Mr Deputy Speaker. You should get him back to order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask members to resist from interjecting across the chamber. The member for Sturt has the call.

Mr PYNE: I would urge the Leader of the House to speak to his chief whip, who I think is the member for Werriwa, and ask him if it is true that the government intends to break the pair for the member for Fairfax in order to achieve 76 votes. The Independents need to think very carefully whether they are prepared to sign up to the government breaking the pair of the member for Fairfax, who is ill and has returned home, by all voting with the government to recommit this bill. The right thing to do if they had any integrity at all would be for one of them to absent themselves from that vote or vote with the opposition to ensure that the member for Fairfax is paired. If the crossbenchers were acting with integrity, one of them would pair themselves with Alex Somlyay, the member for Fairfax—

Mr Oakeshott: After three years of no pairs! That is golden!

Mr PYNE: That is your problem, mate, not mine. They would pair themselves with the member for Fairfax to ensure that his vote is not counted on the side of the government in spite of the fact that he is not well enough to be here. So I call on one of them to do it—not necessarily the two in the chamber; maybe the member for New England. Obviously the member for Lyne is showing his true colours. But there are others: the member for Denison, the member for Kennedy, the member for Melbourne, the member for Fisher. They may well want to pair themselves with the member for Fairfax in order to ensure that this vote is not counted, because he has returned home. He is ill. He is incapable of being here, and the government has broken that pair in order to ensure that they get to 76 votes. I ask them to think very carefully about doing that.

The opposition will not support the suspension of standing orders. We support the bill and the amendment that has been made, moved by the shadow minister for small business, the member for Dunkley. We believe that a vote should be recommitted on the basis that a member has missed the vote for a very serious reason. In this case four members of the Labor government did not miss it for a very serious reason, and so I urge the House to reject the suspension of standing orders and one of the crossbenchers to do the right thing and absent themselves from the vote in order to ensure that the member for Fairfax is correctly paired.