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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 110


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (11:43): I rise to oppose the motion and I move amendments (1), (2), (3) and (4) together, as circulated in my name:

(1) Omit proposed standing order 34, substitute:

34   Order of business

   The order of business to be followed by the House is shown in figure 2.

   Figure 2. House order of business



 

 

 

MONDAY

 

TUESDAY

 

WEDNESDAY

 

THURSDAY

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgement

of country

Prayers

 

Acknowledgement

of country

Prayers

 

 

 

 

9.00 am

 

9.00 am

 

 

Acknowledgement

of country

Prayers

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.00 am

Petitions (to 10.10am)

Committee & delegation business and private Members' business

Divisions and quorums deferred 10am-12 noon

 

 

Acknowledgement

of country

Prayers

 

Government

Business

 

Government

Business

12 noon

Government

Business

12 noon

Government

Business

Divisions and quorums between 12 and 2pm Deferred until after MPI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.45 pm

90 sec statements

 

1.45 pm

90 sec statements

1.45 pm

90 sec statements

2.00 pm

 

Question

Time

2.00 pm

 

Question

Time

2.00 pm

 

Question

Time

2.00 pm

 

Question

Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

approx. 3.10 pm

Ministerial

statements

approx. 3.10 pm

MPI, Ministerial statements

approx. 3.10 pm

MPI, Ministerial statements

approx. 3.10 pm

MPI, Ministerial statements

 

 

 

approx 4.10 pm

 

approx 4.10 pm

 

approx 4.10 pm

Government Business

 

4.30 pm

Adjournment

Debate

 

Government

Business

 

Government

Business

 

Government

Business

 

 

 

5.00 pm

 

6.30 pm

 

Divisions and quorums deferred 6.30-8 pm*

6.30 pm

 

 

Divisions and quorums deferred 6.30-8 pm*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.30 pm

 

 

 

 

 

Adjournment

Debate

8.00 pm

Private Members' Business

8.00 pm

 

8.00 pm

 

 

 

 

9.00 pm

Adjournment

Debate

9.00 pm

Adjournment

Debate

 

 

 

 

9.30 pm

 

9.30 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2) Add the following paragraph to standing order 100:

   (g) At each Question Time, after five questions have been asked and answered, if a non-aligned Member rises to ask a question he or she shall be given the call.

(3) Omit proposed standing order 192, substitute:

192   Federation Chamber's order of business

The normal order of business of the Federation Chamber is set out in figure 4.

   Figure 4. Federation Chamber order of business

 

MONDAY

 

TUESDAY

 

WEDNESDAY

 

THURSDAY

 

 

 

 

9.30 am

3 min constituency statements

9.30 am

3 min constituency statements

 

 

 

 

10.00 am

Government business and/or

committee & delegation business

10.00 am

Government business and/or

committee & delegation business

10.30 am

3 min constituency statements

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.00 am

Committee & delegation business and private Members' business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.30 pm

Adjournment

Debate

1.30 pm

 

 

 

1.00 pm

 

1.00 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.00 pm

 

4.00 pm

If required

4.00 pm

If required

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government

business

6.30pm

Private Members' Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.00 pm

 

 

 

7.00 pm

 

 

 

 

Grievance debate

 

9.00 pm

 

9.00 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

(4) Omit proposed standing order 222(b) Selection Committee, substitute:

222        Selection Committee

(b) The committee shall consist of eleven members: the Speaker, or in the absence of the Speaker the Deputy Speaker, the Chief Government Whip or his or her nominee, the Chief Opposition Whip or his or her nominee, the Third Party Whip or his or her nominee, three government Members, two opposition Members and two non-aligned Members. The Speaker shall be the Chair of the committee. A quorum shall be three members of the committee.

The standing orders that we have at the moment are a consequence of the last parliament. One of the best things about the last parliament was the election of six members to the crossbench by the Australian people. That introduced a new era of openness, debate and transparency in the functioning of this chamber; and, despite the best attempts of the then opposition, it was in fact quite a productive time for parliament. One of the key reasons for that was that in the last parliament there was significant time for private members debate. That was not just time for debate on matters raised by the crossbench; it was for all private members. So it gave an opportunity for private members from the government side and the opposition side to raise matters that were of concern to them and that might not otherwise have had an airing. And in the last parliament there was, on average, seven hours of private members' business scheduled, both here and in the Federation Chamber, during the course of an average week. That allowed time for a number of things to happen. One was the debating of private members' bills. As a result of that, we saw in the last parliament reforms that we would not have seen had this place remained a two-party closed shop.

One of the reforms we saw made sure that firefighters who contracted cancer were able to more readily access the workers compensation that up until then would have been denied them. Before that, each time they fronted up to get compensation the lawyers and the courts would say, 'Unless you can tell us which fire the toxic smoke came from that caused you cancer, you won't get compensation.' That issue had gone unaddressed by successive parliaments for several years. In the last parliament I was able to introduce a bill to remedy that situation. That bill not only ended up getting debated but also ended up being co-sponsored by the then government and members of the opposition, and it went through this place without any dissent. Had there not been, under the last parliament, the standing orders that enabled extensive discussion of issues like that, we would not have that significant reform in place today.

Another bill that was debated—and the member for Denison may have something to say about this—ensured that there was additional protection for whistleblowers; something, again, that had been talked about for some time but that successive parliaments, under the two-party closed shop, had not taken action on. And there was, of course, another attempt by the former member for Lyne to bring before the House a bill that I profoundly disagree with but that nonetheless is on the topical issue of the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. That was debated in a way that previously it would not have been. And it was not just bills that were debated in the previous parliament in this private members' time; we had motions debated as well. One of those motions was successful and actually got the support of the opposition, and that was to ensure that the government was put on notice to secure funding for health and medical research in this country at a time when previous budgets had threatened cuts to it.

But perhaps the motion—as opposed to the bill—that was the most significant in the last parliament was the motion to get members of parliament to go and consult their constituencies on the question of equal marriage. That motion passed. It ensured that there was lively debate in this place about a matter that otherwise would not have been debated, and it has helped set reform in this country on track so that it is now a matter of when, not if, we will have equal marriage.

All of that happened because of private members' time and because of the role of the crossbench in the last parliament. That was assisted because under the existing standing orders, which it is proposed will be amended by this motion, there was a selection committee in place. The selection committee moved this parliament beyond the situation in which the processes of this parliament and the timing were just a result of a deal done in a two-party closed shop by the whips, behind closed doors, and instead made it a committee of this parliament where non-aligned members—members not in the government or in the opposition—were able to participate.

As a result of the considerable goodwill that was shown by all sides on that selection committee, everyone got a go. It was not dominated by members of the crossbench, it was not dominated by private members from the government side or from the opposition side, and it allowed debates on matters that otherwise would not have happened. And, indeed, members of the crossbench and the government supported the now Prime Minister debating his legislation in private members' time, and it was done in an orderly way that respected not only the fact that there were six members of the crossbench elected to parliament but also that the reason those six were there—and you have seen it again at this election—was that about 20 per cent of the country does not want to vote for Labor or the coalition. They want a diversity of voices in parliament, and the way that that diversity of voices in parliament is represented and the way that we have the sunlight shining in and greater transparency in the operations of this parliament than we have had before is through the continued representation of members of the crossbench who are prepared to hold this two-party closed shop to account.

Now, that was one aspect. Another aspect was the time that was being given to private members. And another aspect that aided the discussion of issues in the last parliament that would not have otherwise have been raised was the question of questions during question time. Prior to the last parliament, members of the crossbench—members who are not on the government or the opposition side—rarely had an opportunity to ask meaningful questions during an appropriate time in question time. And in the last parliament it was agreed that the sixth question of each day—not the sixth government or opposition question, but the sixth question that was asked—would go to members of the crossbench. That resulted in matters being raised that would otherwise not have been raised, because many, many times—and we saw this on display in the last parliament—you find that the government and the opposition are voting together on a matter and it is left to members of the crossbench to raise the alternative argument. We saw that with the question of sending refugees offshore, we saw it with the question of putting refugees into mandatory detention and indefinite detention and we saw it—most importantly, especially given today—with the appalling approach taken by both sides on climate change, with an inadequate five per cent pollution reduction target, being there by so-called bipartisan commitment.

The standing orders underpinned the ability of the crossbench to raise those issues in question time. What we are seeing in this proposed set of amendments is another step in the shutting down of debate and transparency and openness in this parliament. If I have my maths right, the private members' time goes down almost by half, from seven hours to 4½ hours. That is why I am moving amendments (1) and (3): to restore that time, which resulted in the significant reforms I referred to before.

Significantly, the government is now attempting to take control of the Selection Committee—and there is to be no position for any member of the crossbench, no position for any non-aligned member, on the Selection Committee. The Leader of the House made the point that he did not think the Selection Committee should be one where the government did not have the numbers. But that is not the same as saying the Selection Committee should be one where there is not even a member of the crossbench at all—because one of the purposes of the Selection Committee is to order the private members' time. As I have explained, that is the way in which crossbench members get their say in this parliament. Taking off one member of the crossbench—even one, when there were two last time—and not even having one on the Selection Committee under these proposed standing orders is going to turn this place back into that two-party closed shop that the Leader of the House so desperately desires and ensure that they are not held to account by members of the crossbench, who are standing up for that over-20 per cent of the Australian population who said, 'We want a different kind of representation and a different kind of politics.' And that is why I am moving amendment (4): to ensure that there is a position for a member of the crossbench on the Selection Committee. That should be unobjectionable.

Even more unobjectionable should be amendment (2). This amendment seeks to ensure that members of the crossbench will continue to be able to ask a question at spot No. 6 during question time. It may be said that the last parliament was different. Well, I can say this: there were six members elected to the crossbench at the start of the last parliament and there are five now, so there is still a significant desire from the Australian population to have alternative voices in parliament. That means we need to be able to ask questions in question time. I am very pleased that the Leader of the House has written to me saying that he intends to keep that practice.

Mr Pyne: Correct. So why the amendments?

Mr BANDT: So I presume, then, that the government will support the amendment to put it into the standing orders—because having it in the standing orders will ensure that a member of the crossbench will be able, at each and every question time, to ask questions, as has been the case in the past.

Mr Pyne interjecting

Mr BANDT: I hear the Leader of the House interjecting to say that yes, he did write that letter and that he does agree to that, so I presume that the government will support this amendment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Are the amendments moved by the member for Melbourne seconded?