Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 674


Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (16:19): There was the opportunity for the government to not put this motion at the moment but to allow the first speeches to take place and then for us to have this debate immediately following the first speeches. This decision of the Leader of the House surprises me—that we are to delay the first speeches to try to have the debate right now to silence the rest of the parliament. Let us not forget the motion that is in front of us. It does not merely refer to the mining tax; it also refers to item after item of expenditure, including the schoolkids bonus, which they are now wanting to make sure is shut down, abolished, almost without debate at all. There are times when you get what the Leader of the House so euphemistically calls 'a debate management motion'. It is a motion designed to prevent members of parliament from being heard. Some of his predecessors have moved motions—not as clumsy as this—to limit debate after the parliamentary debate has been going for some time and they feel they need to bring the issue to a close.

On this occasion, the Leader of the House has done something new. He has actually moved that we gag the debate before the debate has commenced. The only view that has been heard in this parliament so far is the view of the minister who has moved it. Not one dissenting voice has been allowed to be heard on this issue so far, and already the Leader of the House has decided that that is just too much dissent. Already the Leader of the House has decided that the objections of the parliament and different voices have been heard for far too long for his liking. So we have the situation now where we find ourselves debating the gagging of debate as often as we find ourselves dealing with any motion of substance from this Leader of the House. We have a circumstance where, of the three issues that they first wanted to raise in this parliament—the debt ceiling, the mining tax and carbon pricing and limiting pollution—they have gagged debate on all three. On all three they have chosen to gag debate, on all three they have decided that the confidence of their own arguments just is not there, and they have decided that they would rather silence the parliament than participate in it. But they do so again with the Leader of the House bringing forward the most clumsy motion you could imagine.

Even though the effort was made to help him when we last debated the gag with respect to carbon pricing, he has again come forward on this occasion with paragraph (2)(b) that states that one question will be put on any amendments which have been moved by non-government members. This House has no way of dealing with contradictory amendments at the same time. But once again the Leader of the House is to put this parliament in a circumstance where if more than one non-government member moves an amendment to the same clause then both of those amendments get voted on simultaneously. And if both were to be carried then we have a circumstance where there is no precedent anywhere in the Westminster system for how you then deal with two simultaneous amendments to the same bill.

Mr Pyne: We don't want your amendments.

Mr BURKE: I think the Leader of the House says it all where he just shakes his head menacingly and says, 'But we don't want amendments.' The Leader of the House will have to deal with the fact that, as arrogantly as he wants to treat the parliament, as arrogantly as some of those who sit beside him on the front bench might want to treat the parliament, when you continue to have your key message being that you will not answer questions, your key message being that you will shut down debate, your key message being that dissenting voices are not merely to be objected to but are to be completely silenced, the word does get out. People will recognise fairly quickly the level of arrogance which is inherent in the motion before us. It is a level of arrogance which sees people who have their guests here for first speeches now being told that they are going to have to go through this debate and the division before the courtesies of a first speech are able to be given.

I would have thought the Leader of the House, of all people, would be showing a level of respect to people making their first speech. I would have thought the Leader of the House, of all people, would act differently. He has something of a reputation for trying to garner goodwill amongst his colleagues, as Madam Speaker is all too well aware of, and has done that over the years. But now he makes the insult, where the offer was made to delay this till after the first speeches, to decide that we are going to press ahead with this debate anyway. The nature of the debate is designed to make sure that no alternative views are given.

The role of Leader of the House in providing some level of leadership you would think would have something to do with participation in the House. You would think the Leader of the House would have some level of respect for the House, for its protocols and for debate within it. But we have a circumstance where he cannot cope with any more debate when only one person has spoken. It is not as if the Leader of the House has been putting this bill forward and wanting to create an opportunity for people to talk and he is now looking at the clock ticking, saying that we are running out of time and we need to bring it to a close. What the Leader of the House is doing on this is simply saying that one person from the government is all he needs and at that point he just wants to crunch it through and use this parliament as though it were an Adelaide branch meeting as though he was back in his days in the Young Liberals. He is crunching it through, pushing it through, as though this was not the parliament of Australia but some student politician's playground. That is the way the Leader of the House is treating this parliament.

The parliament should resist this. The parliament, faced with a motion which shuts down debate and which also goes to the extent of creating an impossible circumstance with conflicting amendments, should, first, tell the Leader of the House that if he is going to come back with a motion he should draft it properly in a way that does not put the parliament in a circumstance of dealing with impossible procedures. Further, the Leader of the House ought to deal with the fact that he might not like what is said in some speeches that come from the other side of the chamber. He might not like that there are different views within this parliament, but each member of this parliament has been elected to be able to put the views on behalf of their electorates. Each member of this parliament has a right to be able to put the views and to participate in the argument.

What does it say about the reluctance of those opposite to actually participate in a debate where they might have to defend the abolition of the schoolkids bonus? What does it say about the confidence in the arguments of those opposite that they want to run away from having to defend issues that they took to the election, that they want to run away from actually defending this government's agenda? I can assure you, Madam Speaker, that there is no shortage of members on this side of the House wanting to participate in this debate. There is no shortage of members on this side of the House wanting to take the argument up to the government when the mining tax issues are brought on.

Government members interjecting

Mr BURKE: I think those opposite do not quite recognise that this is not the mining tax debate. We want that debate brought on and we want to be able to participate in it. But what does it say when the one role that most government members will have in this debate is to vote to shut it down, the one piece of participation they will have before we actually get to the second reading debate is to vote that they themselves will not be heard, to vote that they themselves will not have to stand up and front up to the arguments about the abolition of the schoolkids bonus, they will not have to front up to the arguments about the cuts to superannuation, they will not have to front up to actually defend what they are told is the position of this government? It is right and proper that people are given the chance to participate in this debate.

The motion is impossible to be carried through if we end up with conflicting amendments. And once again, true to form, the entire motion is about shutting down debate and building on the culture of secrecy which has come to characterise this parliament.