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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 3237

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (16:35): I had hoped that we could get through these two weeks, deal with the legislative agenda and not have the Liberals come down here and hijack the chamber. It appears that they want to continue to oppose a sensible amendment to the Constitution to give local government recognition. That is what they are on about and that is what they are here to argue. Bizarrely, the way they have decided to prosecute their case is by preventing the chamber from getting onto the local government referendum bill. Instead, they are arguing for a suspension so they can debate the issue—when all they had to do was wait 10 minutes and they could have had the debate they say they want to have.

Apart from all that, they could have raised it between leaders or they could have raised it in a range of other ways. But instead they turn up in this chamber, try to up-end it with a stunt and then argue that they are being the rational Liberals that they are not. That is rejected. It is bizarre in the extreme, when you look at the actions of the Liberals. They are all over the place on this issue, like a dropped pie.

When you look at the issues currently before us, fact 1 is that constitutional recognition had bipartisan support, or so I thought, at the federal level. I am now starting to doubt that, quite frankly. The government supports constitutional recognition of local government; the coalition, I thought, supported it; and the minor parties and the crossbenchers support it. The vote earlier this month was almost unanimous. Only two members of the House of Representatives voted against this proposal. Fact 2—

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: is that local government will continue to be the responsibility of state governments—

Senator Brandis interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Order! Senator Brandis, I remind you that you are not in your seat. Interjecting is disorderly in any case, but it is more disorderly when you are not in your seat.

Senator Brandis interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Well, I can hear you.

Senator LUDWIG: If that were only true, Acting Deputy President Marshall. Fact 3 is that the referendum campaign funding is proportionate. The amount of funding to be provided for each case will reflect the proportion of members that voted for and against the Constitutional Alteration (Local Government) 2013 amendment bill. The government will offer, as we have said, up to $500,000 to proponents of the no case—

Opposition senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Ludwig, please resume your seat for a minute. I have been trying to bring—

Senator Cormann: Your government is an absolute disgrace.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann, I have been trying to bring senators to order, and people continue to interject. It is disorderly, and I would ask senators to remain silent.

Senator LUDWIG: The two members who voted against the bill have been asked to determine the distribution of this funding. The government will provide $10 million to the Australian Local Government Association for the yes campaign. That is the way that we will proceed with this referendum.

What we are seeing now is a rearguard action from the rump who are opposed to recognition for local government in our Constitution. That is what this is all about. That is why those opposite are here. That is why they are running down to the chamber, whispering little secrets about how they are going to surprise us when they arrive here, jumping out of the box and saying, 'We want to suspend the Senate, up-end the Senate.' They then want to have a debate about the suspension, not about the substantive issues.

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: Of course, Senator Abetz is the lead proponent of the stunts in this place. He has decided he will be the one to run down with his loyal servant, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate—just like Dick Dastardly and his companion, Muttley—to argue a particular case. This is not a debate that should be held now. It is a debate that can be dealt with properly and appropriately when the bill comes on. The bill is on the Notice Paper, but instead we are going to have to have this suspension debate. And we will vote against it, because not only is the motion substantively inaccurate but also the Senate has important work to deal with this week and we should not be wasting our time on stunts. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for this debate has now expired. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Abetz be agreed to.