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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8580


Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (4:59 PM) —Clearly, the opposition are now trying any tactic they can not to deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. In addition they are making sure—this is about choices—that we are not going to deal with the student income support bill. There are many, many students out there whose needs are not being dealt with.

We now see clearly the position the opposition are seeking to take in dealing with the legislative program. It is a longstanding principle in this place—a convention that has existed as far back as when I was the Manager of Opposition Business and, as I understand it, as far back as when Senator Carr was the Manager of Opposition Business—that in this place the government, not the opposition, determines the program. Why? Because it ensures that the business of the Senate is dealt with. The opposition do not get to lecture from their side. They can of course deal with how the vote is then taken. It is always within the opposition’s power to dictate that.

The opposition are trying on a stunt to ensure that we are not going to go on to deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. More importantly, you are not only delaying—


Senator Cormann —You’re wasting time.


Senator LUDWIG —but overturning the longstanding principle in this place that the government determines the legislative program and taking it upon yourselves to determine it. Whereas last week you complained about the ability of the government to deal with the program and complained of not having enough hours, you are now sucking hours from the debate that could be available for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation and the income support for students legislation.


Senator Cormann —Where is the deal?


Senator LUDWIG —In dealing with that you are then determining how the program will run, so, whether you like it or not, you are actually arguing against yourself. It is the government’s right to reorganise and deal with the program. The opposition does not have the ability to do that. You are now breaking longstanding principles in this place.

Last week I had a lecture from Senator Fielding in this place about managing the program. It is your right to be critical of the program but if you want to manage the program as you are now doing you are putting at risk the proper order as to how bills are dealt with in this place. The delay that you are now inflicting—as you have indicated, I have roughly three or four minutes to deal with the rejection of this motion, and it should be rejected out of hand—is nothing more than a stunt perpetrated by Senator Cormann. Senator Cormann is seeking to give precedence to a bill that this government has not given priority to; that this government has not determined shall be dealt with today.


Senator Cormann —It was on the red last fortnight.


Senator LUDWIG —It is the prerogative of the government, not of the opposition, to deal with the legislative program. Senator Cormann has drawn the bill from the Notice Paper not so that he can amend it with a related amendment but so that he can tack an unrelated amendment onto it and send it off to the House to deal with. It is nothing more than a foolish stunt perpetrated by the opposition to hijack the legislative program in this place. Senator Cormann is in defiance of the program that we have set. It is not the prerogative of the opposition to cherry pick legislation.


Senator Cormann —It is the prerogative of the Senate.


Senator LUDWIG —This is clearly an abuse of the Senate and Senator Cormann knows that, which is why he protests so much about the position that he has taken. It is also tactically dumb. The opposition will have to call themselves on to decide how they are going to vote on this—whether they are going to support the delaying tactic that Senator Cormann has put forward or whether they will pull him into line and indicate to this chamber that it is the government’s prerogative, not the opposition’s prerogative, to deal with the legislative program. There is no argument about how you might want to vote on a particular piece of legislation; that is clearly within your purview—although I am not sure you will be up to it when we turn to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Senator Cormann.

Another thing I want to deal with is that the bill Senator Cormann seeks to give precedence to does not deal with the substance of the matter. (Time expired)