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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4016

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (11:57): I move an amendment to the amendment:

Omit "2 October 2014", substitute "7 July 2014"

This is a curious set of circumstances we find ourselves in today, and it follows a pattern that we have seen from the Australian Labor Party over the past couple of days, where those forums which have been established in this place to achieve consensual outcomes have been bypassed or abrogated. Yesterday we saw Senator Wong bypass the Procedure Committee by bringing forward motions to seek to alter the operation of the Senate estimates committees and other proceedings of this place. As I indicated in my remarks in the suspension debate yesterday, the purpose of the Procedure Committee is to allow leaders of all parties to come together to work in a consensual way to a common end. We are seeing the second manifestation of that abrogation of these consensual processes today with the amendment from the Australian Labor Party, which Senator Milne has, in turn, sought to further amend. I refer of course to the Selection of Bills Committee. The Selection of Bills Committee is another forum where representatives of senators from across the chamber come together to seek to achieve consensual outcomes in relation to bills which are referred to the committees of the Senate.

The reason this is particularly peculiar is that the Australian Labor Party yesterday submitted to the Selection of Bills Committee a referral for the clean energy legislation package of bills for 7 July—the very date I am proposing today. They also submitted a referral for the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill for consideration by a committee, again with a reporting date of 7 July. So last night the Australian Labor Party thought that 7 July was an appropriate time frame for reporting by these committees, and we were prepared to accept that.

I do not understand what has happened between last night and this moment now. What is the purpose of the Selection of Bills Committee process if we cannot take at face value the submission of senators—senators who have duly signed a submission, a proposed referral, to the Selection of Bills committee, who have put forward that that is the date they think is appropriate? I do not understand what has happened between last night and today. The Selection of Bills Committee report did actually reflect that agreement could not be reached, and the reason agreement could not be reached was that the Australian Greens had a later reporting date in mind. I acknowledge that. The Selection of Bills Committee report accurately reflected that agreement could not be reached, but there was agreement between the government and the opposition. The Australian Greens have not changed their position, the government has not changed its position overnight—only the opposition have changed their position overnight. I can only surmise that is for purely base political reasons—in other words, to seek to delay the consideration of this legislation by this chamber.

I am deeply concerned that the very basis upon which the Selection of Bills Committee operates is being undermined by the amendment that has been moved by the Australian Labor Party and that now subsequently is being amended by the Greens and by me. I would urge colleagues in this place to reflect on the operation of the Selection of Bills Committee and acknowledge that it is appropriate that we should be able to take at face value what colleagues from other parties put in writing and say at the Selection of Bills Committee. A reporting date of 7 July is eminently reasonable. We know it is eminently reasonable because the Australian Labor Party agreed with that reporting date last night for the clean energy package of bills and also for the Climate Change Authority legislation.