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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9343


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (13:41): I seek leave to move a motion to vary the hours of meeting and routine of business for the sitting week commencing Monday, 4 December 2017 to provide for the consideration of bills.

Leave not granted.

Senator BRANDIS: Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Brandis moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the hours of meeting and routine of business for the sitting week—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Brandis has the call.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Let us conclude the beginning of this before we commence debate.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you, Mr President. Let me start again. Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Brandis moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the hours of meeting and routine of business for the sitting week commencing on Monday, 4 December 2017 may be moved immediately.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! I'm having trouble hearing Senator Brandis. Senator Brandis, please continue.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senators Carr and Collins, I have just asked for order. I haven't heard a word from Senator Brandis. I'm having trouble hearing the motion being moved.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. There will be an opportunity to participate in this debate, but we must get to the point where it has commenced.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left. There will be a chance to participate in this debate, but it must commence first, so I urge those on my left who wish to speak to allow it to commence. Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you very much indeed, Mr President. The purpose of the motion I sought leave to move is to set out the order of business for the Senate next week, the week commencing Monday, 4 December. The motion I sought leave to move orders the business in the manner which I will read into the record when I move the motion. As we all know, it is for the government to determine the order of business of the chamber. That, of course, is subject to the chamber, but the convention is that it is the government that pre-eminently sets the order of business of the chamber.

There was a motion, notice of which was given, in the name of Senator Cameron, which appears on today's Notice Paper—general business notice of motion No. 625—which purports to vary the order of business for today and next week, and I understand that another motion has been circulated in the chamber this morning by Senator Cameron which—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: I'm sorry, Senator Wong, I was told it was in Senator Cameron's name, but it also purports to order the business of the chamber next week. That is not the way the Senate conducts its business. We all know that particularly in the last sitting week of the year, which next week will be, there is a great degree of busyness in getting through the government's legislative program. It is, frankly, preposterous for the opposition to attempt, as Senator Cameron's foreshadowed motion and now Senator Wong's foreshadowed motion would seek to do, basically to seize control of the business of the chamber in the last sitting week of the year. The government very seldom has a majority in this chamber. In the 17½ years I've been here, it's only had a majority for three of those years. During periods of Labor government and during periods of coalition government, it has always been accepted that the role of the government is to order the business. On occasions, that is subject to variation. We acknowledge that but, as a general proposition, it is true that it is for the government, not the opposition or other political interests represented in the chamber, to order the business. The idea, particularly in the last week of the year, that the order of business in the chamber should be taken entirely out of the government's hands is unprecedented. It is unconventional. Frankly, as I said a moment ago, it is preposterous.

If Senator Wong's motion or Senator Cameron's motion is reached, we will, of course, be opposing them. But, in the meantime, the government moves its own hours and routine of business motion for the last week of the year. There is a lot of business to get through next week. There are a lot of time-sensitive measures to get through next week. There are a lot of measures that are, of course, very beneficial to the Australian people to get through next week. Were this motion not to be passed, those beneficial, time-sensitive measures would not be able to be reached, or at least there would be a significant risk that they will not be reached.

So I commend the motion to the chamber. All it seeks is to reinstate the orthodox practice of the government ordering the business of the chamber, something that is orthodox in any Senate sitting week but is even more orthodox and indeed, from a pragmatic point of view, necessary in the busy final week of the year.