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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4263

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (17:55): The government, for its part, seems to have missed the entire point of this short debate. This is a procedural motion. It is an opportunity for the government to argue cogently why its motion to suspend the Senate should get up—that is, because it wants these bills to come on. That is the argument. It is not a climate change argument—we can have that argument very shortly—but the procedural motion is even farcical when you look at the circumstances. Earlier today the Senate agreed to a motion under standing order 113, which was effectively that the bills may not proceed with formality. The effect of that would be, effectively, for the stages to take place on different days for notices of motion. So the earliest the government could do it would be tomorrow.

What the government has also done is put a notice of motion in to bring the debate on tomorrow. The government is taking a belt and braces approach to this. It is choosing to suspend standing orders this evening when it could actually have a substantive motion on the books tomorrow and, in accordance with standing order 113, have the debate start then without the need to suspend. So the government is going through this farcical process of seeking to suspend standing orders, to up-end the Senate, this evening for what can only be a political point. It is certainly not one that is a substantive point about why we should now take all of the processes out of the Senate and allow this debate to come on when, quite frankly, it has a notice of motion already filed for tomorrow if it wants to use a substantive motion rather than a motion to suspend.

Senator Milne makes a very cogent point on this—that is, it is the executive seeking to suspend the Senate to allow this bill to come on. What the Senate should do, as it has done in many instances, is reject the allowance of the executive arm of government to suspend and to allow the Senate motion to stand. It is there to stand for 14 July, to allow the bills to be dealt with at that point, rather than take the executive's action. The risk for the crossbenchers and for the government backbenchers in taking the executive course is to allow the government to set the agenda in the Senate through a process of suspension—through a process of whatever whim or fancy it might take to allow this debate to occur.

Senators, I have been involved in my fair share of procedural motions in the Senate, both for and against the executive. Executive government, especially when it is in a majority situation, will do what it can to bend the rules of this place to suit its policy and political ends. I do not even begrudge it that fact. Executives want to enact their agenda, even if, as I believe it to be for this executive, in this case their agenda is wrong. That said, this chamber does not have to conform to the will of the executive. To do so would then suborn the opportunity of the Senate to be the master of its own destiny.

There will come a time when you will not want the executive to rule the Senate—when you will not want the executive to demand what bills will be dealt with and in what manner. The executive will want, as it has done in the past, to ram things through at breakneck pace, which will not allow proper scrutiny and review by the Senate. When I was manager for the executive, of course, I tried and played hard. But in this instance you have to have the votes to be able to win it, and if the crossbenchers allow the government to win this debate then you will be poorer for it because it will mean effectively that the executive can control the Senate. This is a Senate that is the master of its own destiny by the votes in this house. For every procedural motion that is moved there are countless others that may have got up or may have wanted to be moved, but the chamber imposes its own will. (Time expired)