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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4188


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (13:51): If there is one procedural motion that this chamber has absolutely no need to debate and that should not have been required, it is Senator Abetz's motion to seek to suspend standing orders so that he can move a motion to bring on debate on the carbon tax package of legislation. There is no matter of public policy which has been canvassed in greater detail through the media and through the course of an election campaign than the government's proposition to repeal the carbon tax. There is no public policy matter that has been examined in more detail. I do not need to remind you, Mr Acting Deputy President Gallacher, of former Prime Minister Gillard, who went to the 2010 election on a lie. She went to that election saying there would be no carbon tax under a government she led. Let me put it more diplomatically: she fibbed; she told a porky; she told one of the biggest political whoppers of all time. She, after forming government, set about to break her election commitment, to break her solemn word to the Australian people, and legislate the carbon tax.

The coalition could not have been clearer at the last election that it was our intention to repeal the carbon tax. We were elected on that. If there is one issue that is beyond any doubt, it is that the Australian public knew that, if they voted for the coalition, they were voting for the repeal of the carbon tax. Indeed, there are many colleagues in this place on the crossbenches who also went to the Australian people with the solemn commitment to seek to repeal the carbon tax. All the government is seeking to do is to give effect to the will of the Australian people as expressed in the ballot box.

The carbon tax repeal package of legislation is in fundamentally the same form as the last time it was presented to this place. The only thing that has changed since that time is that we have new Senate colleagues. We all join in welcoming them. Obviously that changes the dynamic in this place. The Australian Labor Party and the Greens fear that this chamber is on the cusp, on the verge, of giving effect to the will of the Australian people. What the Australian Labor Party and the Greens cannot abide is the possibility of not having the numbers on the floor of this place. And we have seen their outrageous behaviour in relation to the committee chaired by Senator Anne Ruston. The Environment and Communications Legislation Committee has concluded its work on this carbon tax repeal package of legislation. It is ready to report. But senators opposite are refusing to provide quorum for that committee.

Senator Milne: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Fifield is misleading the chamber by saying that the opposition parties are upset about the numbers. In fact, the person who is most upset about the numbers is Senator Abetz.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. It is a debating point.

Senator FIFIELD: In this place, I have never seen before a political party deny quorum to a duly constituted committee of the Australian parliament because they knew they would lose the vote on that committee. All Senator Ruston and her government colleagues want to do is to be able to report their work to this chamber so that debate can commence on the carbon tax repeal package of legislation.

The Australian Labor Party needs to understand that the Australian Senate and its committees are not like a trade union executive—you cannot play games. You cannot say, 'Hey, let's all leave the room. Let us withhold quorum so the union executive cannot exercise a vote.' This is not a trade union executive. This is not a student union where these sorts of games are played. This is the Australian Senate. The committee that Senator Ruston chairs is a duly constituted committee of the Australian Senate. The Labor Party and the Greens are seeking to prevent that committee doing its work.

The committee members have completed their work, they are ready to report, and those opposite should provide quorum to allow that to happen. We are having this procedural debate today because of the games that Labor and the Greens are playing. We are having this procedural debate so that we can do something very straightforward—that is, actually to commence the debate on the carbon tax repeal package of legislation. We want to debate. We want to canvass the issues. We want to talk about this. Yet the opposition and the Australian Greens are seeking to deny the Senate that opportunity through their tawdry behaviour on the environment committee of the Senate.

This motion to suspend standing orders should not be required. Sadly, it is. It should be supported.