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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10222

Senator CASH (Western Australia) (12:47): I too rise on behalf of the coalition to speak to the motion put by the Manager of Government Business in relation to the hours of meeting and the routine of business variation, and to endorse the comments made by the Manager of Opposition Business that this motion that is being presented by the government to the Senate is one that strikes at the very heart of what the Senate's role is. It strikes at the very heart of the Senate's capacity to fulfil its role and its function as a democratic house of review.

I note that in the comments made by the Manager of Government Business she actually said that she has taken on board the suggestions put forward by the opposition when we debated a very similar motion on Tuesday in this place. I would say to the Manager of Government Business: by those comments you are actually misleading the Senate because in no way did the Manager of Opposition Business or myself suggest that we should have a guillotine imposed in relation to the debate of legislation on the final sitting day of the parliament. By this motion, this is exactly what this Senate intends to do.

The Manager of Opposition Business, Senator Fifield, has stated that Senator Collins has a taste for the guillotine. Let me read out to the Senate just how voracious this taste for the guillotine is. This is exactly what the motion is going to do. The Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill 2012—a bill that has had a lot to be said about it and which has a large speaking list—is going to be finished by 3.45 pm today. For any senator who has not been able to speak, at 3.45 pm today the government will move that debate on this particular bill 'will now be finished'. We will then move at 3.45 into all remaining stages. The only problem with that part of it is that it finishes at 4.15 pm. You have got 30 minutes to get through an entire committee stage on what is a very important bill.

At 4.15 pm in relation to this motion, we move to the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012. At 5.30 pm the guillotine again comes down and all debate in relation to that particular bill will be finished. In relation to the motion that I have in front of me, the next bill that is to be debated is the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Further MySuper and Transparency Measures) Bill 2012—between 6 pm and 8 pm. What is going to happen then? Yet again, the guillotine is going to fall in relation to debate on what, once again, is a very, very important piece of legislation. There is a very large speaking list in relation to this legislation but because of the way that the government manages this chamber, senators are again not going to be able to have an opportunity to properly debate this legislation.

But it does not stop there. After that bill has been guillotined, we are going into perhaps what is one of the most contentious and fundamental pieces of legislation that has come before this parliament this year, and that of course is the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012, and related bills. We have just over an hour and a bit, it would appear, to debate a very, very meaty piece of legislation. If that is not an abuse of the Senate's process, of the ability of this chamber to undertake properly its role in scrutinising legislation, then, quite frankly, I do not know what is.

The government can only put through this motion if either the Greens or the opposition agree with them so they have the numbers—and we have clearly indicated that we will not be agreeing with the government because we will not be imposing a guillotine on what are exceptionally important pieces of legislation that deserve the debate of the Senate. Quite frankly, if we were to sit all night and into tomorrow, that would not worry me because I believe we should be giving these pieces of legislation the scrutiny that they deserve. On the basis that the opposition are not supporting this motion, there is only one other party here who has the numbers to join with the government. Lo and behold, there they are right there—the Australian Greens, who time and time again in this place go on the record with complete hysteria, calling the opposition and the government every name in the book, for even thinking of contemplating gagging debate in this place.

Well, lo and behold, the only way this gag motion will go through in a few minutes is for the Australian Greens come running into the chamber—clearly they have been promised something else; an end of the year Christmas present for the Australian Greens—and sit with the government on the yes side of the chamber government. They will join the government in a completely hypocritical manner, but I do not think that surprises any Australians, other than those that vote for the Greens. Even then they might be surprised on a regular basis. Despite the rhetoric and despite the Hansard they like to so proudly display to say that they are a party that supports scrutiny of legislation, the Australian Greens will still be recorded as having voted with the government to curtail debate on what are exceptionally important pieces of legislation to come before this Senate.

I do not think anyone should be surprised that the Australian Greens are a party that can be bought. Despite their protestations about political donations and the acceptance of political donations when it comes to the Australian Labor Party or the coalition, we all know that the Greens speak with forked tongue. Just for the record I will highlight their hypocrisy. Which party in this place is on the record as having accepted the largest political donation ever made to a political party in Australia—$1.3 million? That would be the Australian Greens, who hungrily and greedily accepted the money and tried to pretend that they did not. I give Senator Rhiannon credit there. At least she has been upfront about that and said that if she had been running the party—and it is a bit of a shame that she is not, because she is actually a lady of principle; I do not agree with her principles, but she is a lady of principles—she would not have accepted that donation.

Under the former leader of the Australian Greens and the current leader of the Australian Greens, the Australian Greens accepted what is known to be the biggest donation to a political party of all times—$1.3 million. If that does not say that the Australian Greens can be bought, I do not know what does. And they will be bought again very shortly when the division bells ring. They will come running into the chamber and vote with the government to gag debate on exceptionally important legislation that should be given appropriate scrutiny by the Senate.

It is the government's obligation to manage the sitting calendar. As I said in my comments on Tuesday, under the former Howard government we sat for 22 weeks a year and under the current Gillard Labor government and the former Rudd government we sit for 18 weeks a year. That within itself shows that this is not a government that is interested in being accountable to the people. As the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate has stated, the government set the timetable, the government set the agenda and they should be able to manage the year's sitting within that timetable. If they cannot, that is their problem. They should come to the parliament and explain exactly why they have been unable to manage appropriately the business of the Senate. They have failed to do that and on that basis, the opposition will not be supporting the guillotine motion before the Senate.