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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3552

Senator RICE (Victoria) (10:29): I seek leave to move a motion requiring Senator Hanson to make a personal explanation with regard to why she was misleading the Senate.

Leave not granted.

Senator RICE: At the request of Senator Di Natale, and pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Di Natale moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to require Senator Hanson to make a personal explanation concerning comments made during debate on 20 June 2018.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Rice, I'm going to ask you to resume your seat. I'm going to rule on this.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, I'm going to rule and then people can take objection if they wish. I had given some thought to this matter in conjunction with advice from officials. The Senate has now twice rejected proposals that it depart from its routine of business by suspending standing orders. That being the case, I shall not entertain any further proposal that the Senate depart from its routine under the standing orders and other orders of the Senate. This is entirely consistent with the precedent of operations of this chamber. Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: First, Mr President, I would respectfully suggest that you ought have heard us before you ruled. You entertained no submission—

Senator O'Sullivan: How would you know what to talk on!

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'm listening to Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: You entertained no submission from the chamber as to whether or not the ruling was apposite. Second, I do inquire as to why it is that the magical number is two. That is not my recollection of precedent but, if that's the advice from the Clerk, we respect the Clerk and we respect your rulings given in accordance with that advice. The third point I'd make is this: it is fairly unprecedented for the government to gag a suspension debate. The motion that is moved by the Australian Greens simply requires Senator Hanson to explain why she misled the Senate.

Senator Cormann: She didn't!

Senator Wong: The assertion from the Leader of the Government is she didn't. Then let her explain so, instead of gagging debate to prevent Senator Hanson explaining how she could have misled the Senate. Now, Senator Hanson may have a clear view about why that is the case, that what she said yesterday is somehow correct, but I think, manifestly, it was not, but that is not the issue. The motion that Senator Rice has sought to move is a different motion to the previous one, which was a motion of censure. Given the government gagged that, I'd respectfully suggest it is reasonable for an alternate and lesser motion to be considered by the Senate. If the majority of the Senate does not agree, sobeit. That motion that is flagged is simply that Senator Hanson be required to explain.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann, on the point of order?

Senator Cormann: On the point of order: clearly the longstanding practice, including when those of us now on this side of the chamber were on the other side of the chamber when the previous government moved a guillotine on 188 occasions and 53 times in one week—and we sought to move repetitive suspension motions. When we sought to move repetitive suspension motions in opposition, I remember President Hogg ruling precisely the way you have ruled today. I would encourage you to reconfirm the precedent that has been set by previous presidents based on the advice of the clerks at the time, the same as you have received advice from the Clerk today.

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I'm going to rule on this point of order, Senator Collins. I've heard from Senator Wong and Senator Cormann—

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I called Senator Wong as the leader of the opposition. I am showing a great deal of leniency here.

Senator Jacinta Collins: I have a point of clarification.

Senator Di Natale interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Sorry, I didn't see you down there, Senator Di Natale.

Senator Di Natale: I just want to say a couple of words.

The PRESIDENT: It was a motion by the Greens. I'll let you ask a question but I'm not going to take lengthy submissions. I have provided a ruling and I'm granting latitude to those making submissions on it. Senator Di Natale—on the point of order, please, not on the substance.

Senator Di Natale: I'll be very brief. We have had what is, in my time here, unprecedented: a gag on a suspension debate. You wouldn't have needed to rule had we been able to debate the suspension but the suspension was gagged.

The PRESIDENT: Is this on the point of order? That appears to be on the substance, Senator Di Natale, not on the point of my ruling.

Senator Di Natale: We have put forward a motion that is unrelated to the previous motion. It's not a censure motion; it's simply requesting Senator Hanson provide an explanation as to why she misled the Senate. We're talking about $140 billion—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale!

Senator Di Natale: and we have Senator Hanson misleading the Senate—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, please resume your seat. You are now turning to the substance. Senator Collins, this is the last submission I'm going to take.

Senator Wong: You're putting the President in an impossible position to gag debate!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong!

Senator Wong: Sorry, I was talking to—

The PRESIDENT: That observation referred to me; that's all.

Senator Wong: I said you were put in an impossible position to—

The PRESIDENT: I don't agree. Senator Collins.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Thank you, Mr President. I do have a point of clarification. I listened carefully to your earlier statement, and you invited submissions with respect to it. I understand that you've had one from the government and one from the opposition and now one from the Australian Greens. But the point is that we were not on notice that this was what you would be doing now. We had no opportunity to look at how you were describing the position that you were taking and the order that you were making. So the point of clarification I'm asking is: does that mean you will not now entertain any motions about changing the order of business from the government?

The PRESIDENT: I take Senator Wong's point—the request for me to take submissions before I rule. I was trying to provide the ruling so that people could actually deal with the detail as I provided it. As to the query with respect to the number being two, I have specifically considered and asked for advice around this. The events of today were rather predictable, and I have specifically taken advice that this is entirely consistent with past practice in terms of rejecting further motions to suspend standing orders, given it is not my ruling that the Senate proceeds in this way. It is in fact a decision of the Senate chamber—a majority of this chamber—that the debate is to be dealt with in this fashion. It does not come from the chair, as was alluded to last night.

With respect to your query, Senator Collins, I will seek further advice on that, given that ministers and the government do have a different status and an opportunity to rearrange the business. I will seek advice on that before I provide a ruling. So my ruling on that, unless someone wishes to take issue with it, stands and we move to proceed with the order of business as outlined today.