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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9496

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:07): What a complete farce. What the government are now doing, just so we are clear, is taking out of the order of business motion that thing they had a fight on last week to put in the order of business. Just so we are clear: this is taking out of the motion the bills on superannuation that in fact the opposition moved to take out last time but the government voted against and got the support of the crossbench. Do you know why they've changed it? It's because they've suddenly worked out that they may not have the numbers. It is not that the government are changing the program because they care about the Regional Investment Corporation; it's because they have suddenly worked out that they haven't got the numbers, so they don't want to bring it on for debate. Let's be clear what this is: chopping and changing the Senate program between Thursday and Monday—

Senator Cormann: That's right. You should vote with us.

Senator WONG: At least he's honest. Senator Cormann says, 'Guilty as charged.' He's right. But on Thursday he demanded that Senators Griff and Patrick support him against Labor to take these out. We didn't want them debated. We don't support these bills. We're clear about that. Now the government are worried they haven't got the numbers so they're saying: 'We actually don't want to talk about these anymore. Can we please change the program because we don't want to talk about these anymore?' Can I be really clear: we won't be supporting this. I move as an amendment to the motion:

Omit "and determined without amendment or debate".

Can I be clear what I'm doing. The Labor Party want to vote on at least one of these bills. We think it is bad law. We think the legislation in relation to strengthening trustee arrangements, which I'm sure the crossbench have been lobbied about substantially—and I won't go through that again—should be read a second time, and we will be voting against it. We invite the crossbench to vote with us. If you don't want that bill to proceed, you should vote with us on my amendment, which will enable us to then move that that bill be now read a second time. That's what we want to do. We don't think the government should be able to keep holding a bill over here so they can keep pressuring all of you to make sure they get the votes before we return next year, or before the end of the week. That's what this is all about—they want to take the bill out of the program and keep working on you until the end of the week. If they get the numbers, they'll quickly bring it back on and get you to vote. If they defer it to next year, you'll keep being lobbied over the Christmas and summer break because these are important matters.

We on this side, unlike the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who again besmirched industry superannuation funds by suggesting in one of his answers today that they were something nefarious, don't think it's actually such a bad idea for working people to have access to capital. I know that's a radical idea: to actually allow working people and their representatives access to capital, access to superannuation savings and access to a decent retirement. What an incredibly socialist idea—isn't that extraordinary! On the other side we've got the government, who basically can't bear the fact that working people and their representatives have engagement in superannuation and some control of those investment funds. That's what they can't bear.

We are consistent. We will be opposing this legislation. We particularly want a vote on the strengthening trustee arrangements. If the Senate passes my amendment, that will ensure we bring that to a vote. On the other matters, we understand that, if the crossbench wish to defer them, that's a matter for them. But we don't believe we should have a situation where the government can chop and change its program on the basis it might have the numbers at a particular point.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator WONG: Well, this is a new level of—I was going to say 'incompetence', but that's a bit harsh—using the chamber as your plaything. On Thursday: 'Oh no, we have to have superannuation debated; we have to have it done; vote against Wong's amendment,' et cetera. On Monday: 'Oh dear, we might not have the numbers; let's filibuster; Senator McGrath, get out and read the same talking points as Senator McKenzie and everybody else'—a complete joke of a debate in the chamber. That's what happened. Now the government want to discharge the bills from the program. I say to One Nation; I say to the crossbench: if your position on this legislation is that it should be opposed, vote on it now. Don't allow this government to keep it hanging over your head. Vote on it now so you don't have to have the spectre of being lobbied about this for the rest of this week and over the summer break, because that's what will happen.