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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8273

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (12:03): The substantive motion Senator Cormann sought leave to move is sensible and practical. It is true that in the Senate this week we have not made rapid progress with legislation. We have transacted the people's business on only two bills—the GST sharing bill and the My Health Record bill. Now that's not a reflection in any way on colleagues. Sometimes pieces of legislation do take time to transact when there are a range of legitimate contributions that colleagues seek to make. So in seeking to suspend standing orders to move a motion to rearrange our schedule and to make provision for dealing with the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, we're not passing comment on colleagues; we're merely seeking to recognise that we do need to make an adjustment to make sure that we do conclude an important piece of legislation.

Sometimes governments, on these sorts of motions, will talk about the unhelpful approach of the opposition in the course of the week, and we're certainly not doing that on this occasion. The opposition have been helpful and constructive in the course of the week. I do also want to acknowledge the shadow special minister of state, who I know has worked cooperatively, particularly on this piece of legislation with the government. This legislation, obviously, has had the close and appropriate scrutiny of JSCEM. The essence of the legislation we're wanting to deal with is about electoral integrity. We're all keenly aware that next year will be an election year, and I think that, collectively, we want to do what we can to make sure that our electoral processes are the best in the world. I think we can all recognise that we have been very fortunate in Australia to have a robust electoral system—an electoral system where the outcomes aren't questioned; where they are accepted by the community. But that is not a situation that we can take for granted. We do need to continually reform our electoral mechanics and the legislation that underpins that to ensure them so we are not in the situation where we have an electoral system that is open to undue and inappropriate influence. That will reinforce public confidence in our electoral system. If people have confidence in the electoral system, they'll have confidence in the system of government—so it is important legislation that we do need to conclude today.

I should observe that the motion that we're proposing only comes into effect if we haven't concluded the legislation by two o'clock. It might be that we go through the non-controversial legislation quickly and we come back to and can conclude the electoral legislation before two o'clock, but, if not, the motion to suspend standing orders would allow Senator Cormann to move provisions to conclude this legislation by 6.15. It's also important to observe that it is not seeking to remove the general business order of the day, which is Senator Storer's. This motion does make explicit provision for the piece of legislation that he wishes to talk to in general business time to continue to have the opportunity to receive the attention of the chamber. This is a relatively minor change to the proceedings of the day, which a suspension would allow Senator Cormann to move a motion to give effect to.

Mr President, we do have only two sitting weeks after this. There will be a lot of business to transact in those final two sitting weeks. If we can conclude this piece of legislation, that will put us in a better position in those final two sitting weeks, I look forward to working with all colleagues for those final two sitting weeks of this year before Christmas.