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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1359

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Special Minister of State) (18:28): Either Senator Conroy is misleading the Senate now or he was misleading the Senate last week. This week his argument is that this will cost the Greens a seat, last week he was saying they will get more bums on seats—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! That is not a point of order, Senator Cormann. Unless you have a point of order.

Senator CONROY: Thanks, nice try. In a half-Senate, which is what Senator Rhiannon explained to you all, and a few gurus behind the scenes, is that you are going to end-up with 12 Greens bums on seats. But in a double-d, which is what they are planning to do to you and this country, in about six weeks or seven weeks, the Senate then determines who gets the six-year terms and three-year terms, based on who gets elected. Go and look up in what order, because guess what: there is a very good chance that, even if you get two senators in Tasmania, you are both going to be competing in the same half of the draw at the next one. It is possible, okay. But certainly you are voting for three-year terms for yourselves.

Sitting suspended from 18:30 to 19:30

Senator CONROY: The Greens must be in a panic by now; they have not turned up. They must have finally worked out what they are doing to themselves. That is what the benches of the Greens will look like under a double-D scenario after this, because not only will they all get to be in the same half of the draw; after a double dissolution, when there is a Senate vote, they actually then will have to compete against each other in the three-year terms. What will actually happen is that they will not get six-year terms; they will have to fight against each other immediately in the three-year terms. Those who dreamt this plan up have not explained it in some detail to their own colleagues. I am not surprised to see there is growing disquiet among the Greens party membership. Once again this Greens political party under its new leadership is facilitating a hard right coalition government in gutting environment policy and gutting the National Broadband Network.

We have seen today the consequences of the maladministration of Senator Cormann in not paying attention to what Mr Turnbull is actually up to. Did he not actually tell you what he was doing, Senator Cormann—blowing out the costs of the NBN and setting it on a path to technological oblivion? Did he not mention that to you given you and he are the co-ministers in charge of the NBN? Did he fail to mention those things to you?

This is a hard right political government. There are those who thought that Mr Turnbull would see them come back to the political centre of Australia. But, unfortunately, Mr Turnbull continues to say one thing and do another. On this very issue of Senate voting reform, when he wanted the crossbenchers' votes he said to them, 'This isn't really a priority. This isn't really a path that I am looking at moving down.' I thought to myself, 'On the last bill on the last day before this parliament is dissolved there will be a filthy deal concocted by the Greens and Senator Cormann and friends.' And that is exactly how this is panning out.

While the Greens and the government will pretend that there was no final agreement between them, this filthy deal has been hatching for the last six or 12 months. Everything that we have seen since then—including the sham, fraudulent joint parliamentary committee hearing that I have to sit through for a few hours tomorrow morning and the Greens' refusal to even allow us to have a real Senate inquiry not controlled by the House of Representatives, with it driving the agenda—points to the fact that this government and the Greens have been planning this little stunt for six or 12 months. A cosy little club existed around Senate electoral reform. When it was exposed to the harsh light of day, the implication was that in a half-Senate scenario the Greens' plan is to get 12 Greens bums on seats in the Senate. But the trade-off for that is that the most likely outcome will be that the coalition will have 38 votes.

I accept that Senator Xenophon is a bit of friction in there. But Senator Xenophon, an extraordinary politician from the state of South Australia, is not immortal. What you are seeing is a bit of long-term thinking from the Libs, not something they are traditionally good at. They think they can do a deal with Senator Xenophon. He has always shown a willingness to deal. As long as they let him say that he was the one who brokered the deal and can stand next to them at a press conference, the government have found they can get him on board.

But those of us who are actually interested in the long-term future of this country—whether we are going to ultimately get a decent National Broadband Network and whether we are going to get future environmental reform—cannot possibly be sucked in to vote for this legislation. You have been taken for a mug, Senator Whish-Wilson. The same way they left you out of the room when they did you over on the taxation law, they have done it to you again.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Conroy should address his points through the chair, not directly at me.

Senator Conroy: Is that a glass jaw I detect?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Edwards ): Senator Conroy—

Senator CONROY: I accept your admonishment.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I did not even admonish you—

Senator CONROY: I accept your forthcoming admonishment. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Whish-Wilson displays all the glass-jaw features of a Greens member who spends all his life lecturing everybody else piously about how the Greens are the one true, pure political force in this country. They have been exposed in this filthy deal to get 12 Greens bums on seats in the Senate at the expense of all principle.