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Friday, 22 June 2012
Page: 4239


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (11:58): I too rise to speak on the Parliamentary Counsel and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. In addressing my comments today it would be remiss of me not to begin by reminding the people of Australia that yet again, as so often in this place, as we look at the Order of Business, we see that limitations have been placed on the debate on this bill. The time allotted for debate on the remaining stages of this bill expires at 12.20 pm. For the benefit of those listening, it is not the case that we have been debating this legislation since the commencement of parliament at 9.30 this morning. In fact, the Senate has been forced to push through two other bills already this morning that were subject to the guillotine. One in particular was an appropriations bill, whereby those on the other side yet again had to come cap in hand to the parliament because once again they had miscalculated just how much money they were going to bleed from Australian taxpayers. This morning the Senate, again under the impetus of the guillotine, has had to push through a bill whereby the Labor Party have yet again asked for more money from the Australian taxpayer because of their complete, total and utter incompetence when it comes to managing Australia's economy.

When you come to this place as a senator you assume an important role in society, and one of the aspects of that role is in relation to accountability. Accountability and openness in government, I remind those on the other side, requires those who exercise power when performing the functions of governĀ­ment to demonstrate in and open and practical sense that they are doing so with honesty, integrity, appropriate skill and judgment, and that they have discharged their duty in a proper manner for the common good and in the public interest. The use of the guillotine is an indictment of the government and of their alliance partners the Greens yet again. Many comments have been made by the Prime Minister of Australia and the former Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, saying that under no circumstances should democracy be put under attack and those who want to speak on bills be silenced. Let us see what the Prime Minister said at the National Press Club to the people of Australia on 31 August 2010. She said, 'People do want to see us more open, more accountable, more transparent. I am going to be held to higher standards of accountability than any other Prime Minister in the modern age.' I ask those on the other side: have you show the Prime Minister today's Dynamic Red? Has the Prime Minister seen that each bill the Australian Senate is debating today has been guillotined? What would the Prime Minister say in relation to the openness, accountability and the transparency she promised to the people of Australia?

What has the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Evans, said in relation to transparency, accountability and the use of the guillotine? This is what Senator Evans has put on the record:

... in government or opposition Labor supports the Senate as a strong house of review, scrutiny and accountability.

Senator Evans, all I can say to you is: have you seen the Senate Dynamic Red today? Clearly, if you have, you blatantly misled the people you were speaking to when you made that statement. Quite frankly, you probably were, because you do not believe in openness, accountability and transparency. Senator Whish-Wilson, I assume that today at 12.20 pm you will be voting for the guillotine. Perhaps you would like to know what your former leader said when he was confronted with the use of the guillotine.

"It is a case of a Howard-Crean guillotine on parliament and chainsaw attack on Australia's forests", a despairing Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

That was back in 2002.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Did you say a Howard guillotine?

Senator CASH: The Greens have a longstanding opposition to the use of the guillotine.

Senator Jacinta Collins: You have just tied yourself in knots.

Senator CASH: Let us have a look at what Senator Brown said in 2006:

Senator Brown also noted that before the winter break the Senate had sat for only 34 of a potential 112 sitting days; that the Senate committee ... is being clobbered; and that debate is regularly guillotined in both Houses of Parliament.

They are just words—

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

Senator CASH: and some are judged merely by their words, as opposed to their actions. We will see the actions of both Labor and the Greens at 12.20 pm today, when Senator Humphries will be told mid-speech: 'Senator Humphries, sit down—and the reason I am telling you to sit down is that debate on this matter is being guillotined.' Quite frankly, the government like to hide from the people of Australia. They probably wish that we could move the Australian parliament to Antarctica because if we could move it to Antarctica perhaps then there would be no scrutiny of what they do. Senator Collins, in one of her many interjections—which I normally, quite frankly, would not take—commented on the fact that the former Howard government used the guillotine. Senator Collins, you are correct; we do not deny that. However, let us contrast the use of the guillotine under the former Howard government and the use of the guillotine under the current Labor government. This is the fact: under the current government, never have this many bills been guillotined in the Senate—

Government senators interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cash, just a moment. Senators on my right, please stop interjecting. Senator Cash, please direct your comments to the chair and not across the chamber to Senator Collins.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. The reality about the guillotine under this government, with its little alliance partner, the Greens, is this: never have this many bills been guillotined in the Senate since the parliament first met in 1901—and it is worth noting that in the last three years of the Howard government, between 2004 and 2007, when the coalition had a majority in the Senate, we guillotined just 36 bills. But, in this sitting fortnight alone, Labor and their little friends the Greens will have managed to have guillotined the exact same number of bills—36 over three years versus 36 in two weeks. When you want to talk about an attack on democracy, be sure you are very careful about what you say to those on the other side, because by your actions you shall be judged. You have already been judged twice today, because two bills that we have voted on have been guillotined, and you will again be judged shortly, in approximately 15 minutes, because that is when yet again the guillotine is going to fall on this bill.

The bill is actually a non-controversial bill. The coalition will support this bill. Despite those on the other side running off to the media and bleating every day and saying, 'All the opposition does is oppose; all it ever does is oppose,' we are actually supporting this legislation, but that is not the point. The point is that legislation in this place should always be available for debate. The mere fact that those on the other side are so incompetent that they cannot get their sitting pattern right and have to extend hours this week and next week—the mere fact that they are causing the public to pay an extra million dollars today because they need to ram some legislation through this place—does not detract from the fact that even non-controversial legislation should be able to be debated.

One aspect of this bill which is of concern to the coalition—and this has become a regular occurrence under this government—is the content of the bill which we do not know about because the government puts it all into regulation. So many of the bills that come before this place are merely shell legislation and nothing more. We are told that we have to rely on the so-called good faith of those opposite in believing that what they eventually put into the regulation will not impact detrimentally on the Australian people.

On this bill, we are going to take you at your word. I can only say to the Australian public: I hope you too are able to take this party at its word, because, with so many of the bills that come before this place, it is an indictment on the government that it betrays the Australian people time and time again. In the interests of time, knowing that Senator Humphries would like to contribute to this debate and knowing that there is all but 12 minutes left before—yet again—the guillotine falls on the Senate, I conclude my remarks.