Save Search

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
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 1665


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (09:31): I move:

That—

(1)   On Wednesday, 14 March, Monday, 19 March, Tuesday, 20 March and Wednesday, 21 March 2012, any proposal pursuant to standing order 75 shall not be proceeded with.

(2)   On Wednesday, 14 March and 21 March 2012, consideration of government documents shall not be proceeded with, and instead the routine of business shall be government business only.

(3)   Divisions may take place on:

   (a)   Thursday, 15 March 2012, after 4.30 pm; and

   (b)   Monday, 19 March 2012, before 12.30 pm.

(4)   On Thursday, 15 March 2012:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to 11.10 pm;

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

   (c)   the routine of business from not later than 3.45 pm shall be government business only; and

   (d)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 10.30 pm.

(4A)   The Senate meet on Friday, 16 March 2012, and that:

   (a)    the hours of meeting shall be 9 am to 2.40 pm;

   (b)    the routine of business shall be government business only, and

   (c)    the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 2 pm.

(5)   On Tuesday, 20 March 2012:

   (a)   the hours of meeting shall be 11 am to 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm to 11.10 pm;

   (b)   the routine of business from 11 am till not later than 2 pm, and from not later than 7.30 pm shall be government business only; and

   (c)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 10.30 pm.

(6)   The following government business orders of the day shall have precedence over all government business, be called on in the following order and be considered under a limitation of time, and that the time allotted for all remaining stages be as follows:

Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2011 and 2 related bills

commencing immediately until 6 pm on 15 March 2012

Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 and 10 related bills

commencing at 7.30 pm on 15 March 2012 until 9.15 pm on 19 March 2012

Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011 and 2 related bills

commencing no later than 11 am until 11.30 am on 20 March 2012

Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 6 pm on 20 March 2012

Higher Education Support Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012

commencing no later than 7.30 pm until 8.15 pm on 20 March 2012

Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 and a related bill

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 10 pm on 20 March 2012

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers and Offences) Bill 2012

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 10.30 pm on 20 March 2012

Indirect Tax Laws Amendment (Assessment) Bill 2012

commencing no later than 9.30 am until 10 am on 21 March 2012

Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 1) Bill 2012

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 10.30 am on 21 March 2012

Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011 [2012]

commencing immediately after the preceding item until noon on 21 March 2012

Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio) Bill 2011 [2012]

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 12.15 pm on 21 March 2012

Insurance Contracts Amendment Bill 2011

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 12.30 pm on 21 March 2012

Excise Amendment (Reducing Business Compliance Burden) Bill 2011 and a related bill

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 12.40 pm on 21 March 2012

Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2011

commencing immediately after the preceding item but no later than 4 pm until 4.15 pm on 21 March 2012

Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 4.30 pm on 21 March 2012

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and a related bill

commencing immediately after the preceding item until 7 pm on 21 March 2012

   (7)   Paragraph (6) of this order operate as an allocation of time understanding order 142.

Notice of motion altered on 13 March 2012 pursuant to standing order 77.

I table statements of reasons relating to the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and a related bill and the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2012, justifying the need for bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statements incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statements read as follows—

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR INTRODUCTION AND PASSAGE IN THE 2012 AUTUMN SITTINGS

APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 3) 2011-2012

APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 4) 2011-2012

Purpose of the Bills

The bills request legislative authority for additional expenditure to be incurred in respect of 2011-2012.

Reasons for Urgency

Appropriations proposed in the bills provide funding for expenditure that is required to implement decisions and funding adjustments that involve further expenditure in 2011-2012, which have been agreed since the 2011-2012 Budget.

Passage of the bills before the last day of the 2012 Autumn sittings will ensure continuity of the Government's programs and the Commonwealth's ability to meet its obligations as they fall due. Should passage not be granted in the Autumn sittings, activities to be funded by the bills may be deferred or significantly delayed.

FINANCIAL FRAMEWORK LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 1) 2012

Purpose of the Bill

amend the Auditor-General Act 1997 to clarify that the Auditor-General may accept an appointment as the auditor of any company that the Commonwealth controls within the meaning of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act);

amend the CAC Act to ensure that directors of Commonwealth authorities and wholly-owned companies (other than Government Business Enterprises) prepare budget estimates as directed by me, and that, from 1 July 2012, directors of Commonwealth authorities (including interjurisdictional authorities) and wholly-owned companies notify the responsible Minister of decisions to do certain significant things;

amend the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) to clarify the commencement date for Special Account determinations; amend the operation of drawing rights; ensure that certain determinations relating to Special Accounts may take effect in a day specified in the determination if it is later than the last day upon which a resolution disallowing it could have passed; ensure that you cannot delegate the power to issue instructions under section 16 or make determinations under section 20; and

update, clarify and align related financial management, governance and reporting provisions; and

repeal 2 redundant Acts that contain special appropriations.

Reasons for Urgency

It is critical that the bill is passed in the Autumn 2012 sittings as a number of provisions have implications for the Commonwealth budget. Primarily, it is important that Schedule 2, Part 1 commences as soon as possible to ensure that estimates continue to be collected from Commonwealth authorities and wholly-owned companies (other than Government Business Enterprises) for the preparation of the 2012-2013 budget, which may be considered by the Parliament early in the Winter 2012 sittings. The other amendments to the CAC Act are timely, to ensure that Commonwealth authorities and wholly owned companies continue to advise the responsible Minister of significant business events, which may have implications for the budget. The proposed amendments to the FMA Act clarify the Finance Minister's delegation powers, which may be needed to obtain financial information and data for the preparation of the 2012-2013 budget.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The motion we are debating organises the legislative program for the remainder of the sittings. Senators would be aware that it is not unusual for such a motion to tightly order the business of the Senate in the last few sitting days of a session. Some senators, particularly those from the opposition, may not appreciate reasonable attempts to manage time, but I will address that in more detail later. The motion allows reasonable time for debate on significant bills. Assuming that the opposition does not waste the Senate's time on suspension motions or other procedures to distract from debating legislation, once this motion is dealt with it will allow reasonable time for debate of major legislation. This is our job.

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax package will have over 16 hours of debate. The Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives package will have over eight hours of debate. The motion is structured to allow for several hours of debate on the other more significant legislation listed, with relatively short debate times on legislation that is recognised—and I stress recognised—to be non-controversial by all parties.

I understand that dealing with this number of bills for the autumn session may place limitations on time and that is not ideal. This will not be supported by many in this place, particularly the opposition. I also understand that the chief role of senators is to legislate, as much as those on the other side might mock. Too often our time in the chamber is taken up with ad hoc motions, daily MPIs and speeches on bills with little relevance to the actual subject of the legislation. I will return to the MPI statistics which obviously interest those on the other side.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Standing orders allow this; perhaps you've been away too long!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'Focussed and productive use of time' is not a phrase that springs to mind when I think about debate in this place in recent years. Typical of the way we pass our time was the debate yesterday seeking to refer the fairer private health bills to yet more—and I stress yet more—committee examination. I note on today's Notice Paper there is a further motion seeking to refer the MRRT bills. Such motions do not provide substantive discussion on bills and are at the expense of debate on legislation.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Nonsense!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The motion before the Senate gives us time to legislate 16 packages. Yes, the motion structures the Senate's time and limits debate, but at least half of these 16 packages are virtually non-controversial. They could be done expeditiously if the opposition were more responsible managing their time. Instead, the opposition is unable to reasonably manage their contributions to debates. It is time to realise that contributions on bills that have been identified as non-controversial are at the expense of debate on bills where there is real disagreement and where substantive policy matters could be developed. But no, they do not take this path. Instead gratuitous contributions are made to debate, and there are daily MPIs and repeated attempts to refer bills to committees meaning that motions restructuring the time of the Senate could virtually be unavoidable.

Senator Abetz: Do we need your permission for an MPI?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I do not want to take too much time—and no, Senator Abetz, you do not need my personal permission, but it is worth putting some of the opposition's tactics on record. As I said, I will return to the issue of MPIs. No new information is being provided to debate by the opposition. Debate is not treated as an opportunity to outline alternative policies or savings. It is just a political discussion on the theme for that week. Yesterday's MPI was itself reckless and profligate. Yesterday's MPI was by its own definition the problem I am highlighting. Since the spring sittings the coalition have had 20 MPIs. This is 20 out of a possible 37 days, wasting 20 hours of time in the Senate on motions that are almost on the same topic—no creativity, repeating the same topic time and time again. In contrast the ALP in 2007 had only four MPIs in the entire sitting the year, eight in the entire 2006 sitting year.

Senator Bernardi: Lazy!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'Lazy!' the senators on the other side throw out—lazy to spend time on MPIs rather than legislation. They may want to argue that our time here in this chamber is not about legislation, and I challenge them to do that, but I am perfectly satisfied with that point. As senators, we are here to legislate.

This year we have had four MPIs in seven sitting days—as many as Labor had in an entire year. How can the Australian people take the coalition seriously with this reckless waste of time? There has been no proper debate and there have been no proper issues, just mindless attack and negativity—Mr No comes to the Senate. The coalition is using whatever means it can under the standing orders of the Senate to stifle debate, to truncate government legislation time and to grandstand, and I anticipate we will have more of that today. The coalition has no interest in debating, reviewing or engaging with the policy challenges facing our country. It uses every delay tactic and every opportunity it can find to slow down business in this place.

Senator Abetz: What?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You do. We have seen this with wasted time during non-controversial legislation. Senator Fifield asked me to name some examples. Wasted time during non-controversial legislation is another example to add to the prolific MPIs we experience these days in this place. The Australian people should expect nothing less than vigorous debate on legislation in this place, not repetition of tired, worn-out rhetoric. In times of great challenges to the world economy, the coalition is spending time recycling the same hypnotic lines.

As one example, the fairer private health bills have been before this chamber on two previous occasions. The government has been consistent in its policy approach, and it should come as no surprise to the opposition that it is a key priority for the government to have these bills passed. On previous occasions the Senate has already spent more than 12 hours debating changes to private health in this country. It is time for delivery and for some fairness in the way we allocate health resources.

The MRRT package has been in the public domain for almost two years. Later today the Senate Economics Legislation Committee will hand down its report on this package. The legislation has benefited from two separate policy review processes, including by independent tax experts. There have been two rounds of consultation on the legislation and three parliamentary inquiries as well as the Senate legislation inquiry. In total, we are likely to have over 40 hours of parliamentary debate on the package.

It is time the Australian people were given their fair share of the mineral resources they own. It is time the 2.7 million Australian small businesses got a break. These small businesses need a break. It is time 8.4 million Australians got a boost to their retirement savings, rather than tired, old rhetoric from Mr Abbott about union participation. It is time we made the superannuation system fairer by refunding the tax paid by 3.6 million low-income Australians. Labor cares about low-income Australians. It is time that we invest in critical infrastructure to support our economic growth, and it is certainly time that those opposite got out of the way and let it all proceed.