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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 6626


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (09:33): I move:

That—

(1)   Divisions may take place on:

   (a)   Thursday, 13 October 2011, after 4.30 pm; and

   (b)   Monday, 21 November 2011, before 12.30 pm.

(2)   The order of the Senate of 22 November 2010 relating to the days of meeting of the Senate for the year 2011, be modified as follows:

      Insert "Monday, 7 November to Thursday, 10 November".

(3)   On Tuesday, 1 November and 8 November 2011:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 11 am to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.40 pm;

   (b)   the routine of business from 11 am shall be consideration of the government business order of the day relating to the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and 17 related bills; and

   (c)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 10 pm.

(4)   On Thursday, 3 November and 10 November 2011:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to 8.40 pm;

   (b)   consideration of general business and consideration of committee reports, government responses and Auditor-General's reports under standing order 62(1) and (2) shall not be proceeded with;

   (c)   the government business order of the day relating to the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and 17 related bills shall have precedence over all government business;

   (d)   divisions may take place after 4.30 pm; and

   (e)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 8 pm.

(5)   The government business order of the day relating to the Clean Energy Bill 2011 and 17 related bills be considered under a limitation of time and that the time allotted be as follows:

   (a)   on Thursday, 3 November 2011, from 3.45 pm to 4 pm—second reading;

   (b)   on Thursday, 10 November 2011, at 4 pm—all remaining stages, excluding consideration of any messages from the House of Representatives; and

   (c)   on Monday, 21 November 2011, at 6 pm—all remaining stages, including consideration of any messages from the House of Representatives.

(6)   Subject to paragraph (5), this order operate as an allocation of time under standing order 142.

This motion today, should it be successful, sets in place the way in which the Senate will handle the package of clean energy legisla­tion in November this year. It is important to pass this motion today for the benefit of senators, their staff and parliamentary staff to have clarity about when we will sit in Nove­mber to deal with the Clean Energy Bill. I do not intend to spend a great deal of time in setting out the issues that are substantive to this motion but rather to provide the Senate with the opportunity to be forewarned of the hours that we will sit.

I could of course list the various acts that the opposition, when they were in govern­ment, dealt with and the way that they managed the chamber, but I do not intend to take us to the detail of those issues. I could contrast that with the moderate, measured way that the government has managed the chamber in the past 3½ years, the generous time the government has provided the oppo­sition for dealing with issues in the Senate and, of course, the way that the government has set out this motion to provide for the hours of debate.

The opposition's record of managing the chamber when in government—if I could just take us there fractionally—speaks for itself, particularly during the fourth term of the Howard government when the now oppo­sition had a majority in this place. They used their numbers to gag debate almost routinely. Over 30 bills were debated under guillotine during the Howard government's fourth term. The opposition are in no position to condemn this motion today when they look at their record.

The truth is that, when a government has a majority and can exercise it, it should do so with principles in mind, it should do so courteously and it should allow sufficient debate so that people can contribute to the debate and it does not end up in what would be described as a filibuster. In terms of managing the legislative program, it is important that the program does proceed. We have an important group of bills to pass through the Senate and it is the intention of the government, with the support of the Greens, to pass this legislation.

The key question is whether guillotine motions are arbitrary and restrict debate or whether they actually permit the chamber to devote a decent amount of time for constru­ctive debate of the legislation. On occasions a constructive allocation of time for a motion can ensure that the chamber operates so as to manage its business and to effectively review legislation rather than be captured by political grandstanding and filibustering that drags out the debate on the legislation.

This motion is the right motion to ensure that we can move through both the second reading and the committee stage of these bills in the time allocated, which is set out in the motion. It provides for a reasonable time for debate, and it is, as I have indicated, an important package of bills that the govern­ment is seeking to pass in the time allocated in the motion itself. The Senate of course does need to consider this legislation, but it does not have to do so in an exhaustive way, and where everyone is exhausted, with ad hoc additional hours. What we have done in this motion is set out reasonable hours to ensure that people do not become exhausted. But we do need to ensure that, as we have set forward, these bills are passed by 21 Novem­ber. I also foreshadowed that the government will be seeking to pass the Steel Transforma­tion Plan Bill and the bill establishing the Australian Renewable Energy Agency by 21 November 2011. That means that on 21 November there will be two further bills on which we will seek the opposition's agree­ment to debate.

The clean energy package that the govern­ment will shortly bring to this chamber will conclude the first of a significant phase of the parliament's response to climate change. Parliament has spent untold time and energy on this issue. The parliament first considered the issue in 1994, almost 17 years ago. Since then, there have been no fewer than 35 parliamentary inquiries—36 if we add the current Joint Select Committee on Australia's Clean Energy Future Legislation looking at this package of bills. Exhaustive policy work has been undertaken on this issue. The Howard government itself was responsible for much of this work and adopted the conclusion of the work undertaken: a price on carbon was opposition policy until almost two years ago. This legislation will deliver a carbon pricing mechanism.

The motion for the variation of hours seeks to set reasonable parameters for the debate on the clean energy legislation in the Senate, with four additional sitting days in November and additional hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Senate will have a fortnight for the debate of the package. So, ostensibly, the first week will allow for speeches in the second reading debate to continue and the second week will be for the committee stage and any amendments fores­hadowed. By allowing a reasonable alloca­tion of time for debate on this package, this motion will allow at least 20 hours of debate in each of the two weeks—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: If I can be bold enough to assume that the opposition will allow the debate to progress without endless procedural motions or interruptions, then the time available will be theirs to spend on the second reading and committee stages. The opposition can of course choose to add to that time through MPI debates and other opportunities that are available, or they can spend the additional time—particularly the four sitting days added to the program—actually debating the substantive matters of the bill. The government is not seeking to curtail question time, notices, the adjourn­ment debate or private senator's business; all of that remains for the opposition to use effectively. The motion does remove general business for those two weeks, but this is to ensure that we can conclude the debate by 21 November, with the bulk of the debate taking place in the first two sitting weeks of November. This motion will allow relatively normal parliamentary sitting weeks, as I have indicated, with considerable time for the second reading and committee stages of the legislation package.

The government anticipate that the oppo­sition will use this time to debate construct­ively, to review the legislation, despite their clear position of being opposed to the legislation. Their position is of course on the record. I would encourage them not to take the time to filibuster during this debate but to constructively use the time available to debate the substantive issues contained within the two bills. In fact, they could demonstrate that this morning by supporting the passage of this motion so that we can ensure that those two weeks are available. I am not so sure the opposition are going to do that; I suspect they are going to oppose it and I suspect they will continue to debate this for some time. However, we are keen to ensure that we do get on with parliamentary business and that we do not spent intermin­able time in filibustering, stretching out the debate, when we have important legislation to conclude this week as well.

Finally, I remind the Senate of the context of this debate. This package is the culmination of an extraordinary amount of work over the past 17 years. In the past three years, there have been numerous committee inquiries into the issue, with one joint committee inquiry completed this year; exposure drafts of the legislation from that inquiry; and, finally, the joint select commit­tee inquiry due to report next week. The issue has been considered at length. It is now time for this package of bills to be debated. This motion for the variation of hours will put in place the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that the opposition have sufficient time to proceed with the debate, and I hope they engage in that process and contribute constructively to the debate. I seek the support of the chamber for this motion.