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Thursday, 25 November 2010
Page: 2199

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (11:55 AM) —I speak to Senator Macdonald’s motion to make this key point. The opposition have indicated that they oppose the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010 before the chamber. That is accepted and is a perfectly legitimate position for them to take. They have argued that there would not be enough time to debate the bill properly under these arrangements. We sought yesterday to provide an extra three hours of sitting to debate this bill last night. The opposition determined not to support that and, therefore, denied themselves three hours of debate.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, a point of order on relevance: the Leader of the Government in the Senate does not have a clue what the motion is. The motion did not refer to the broadcasting bill, if I can call it that for brevity. It refers to those other bills listed in paragraph 6(c). Clearly, the minister is not being relevant to the motion before the chair.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —We are in a situation where last night the opposition knocked back the opportunity to have three hours debate on the bill. We have now spent 2½ hours this morning debating procedural motions, which the opposition has sought to use, to delay the Senate considering the bill. So we are now in a position where the Senate has wasted a potential 5½ hours to debate the telecommunications legislation by virtue of the opposition’s tactics. Those tactics are open to them—that is a decision for them—but the Senate and the Australian public have to understand that these are tactics designed to prevent debate on the legislation. We have already lost 5½ hours of debate on the legislation. So, when they say they want to debate the legislation, they have already rejected the opportunity of debating it for another 5½ hours. The key point is this: given that the guillotine motion has been carried—

Senator Ronaldson —Mr President, on a point of order: I have just been watching the clock, Mr President, and the clock has been on four minutes 19 seconds for some time now.

The PRESIDENT —I have not noted that, but I do take your point.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I think the point of order is correct, Mr President. I do not intend going for long, so I will stick to my five-minute period. The key point to make is this: the Senate is now in a position where every minute and every hour we debate procedural motions is less time available to debate the bill. The debate on the guillotine motion has been carried. The clock is now ticking. What everyone needs to understand is when more procedural motions are moved by the opposition more time is merely eaten up to debate the bill.

Senator Joyce —Mr President, on a point of order: the clock is ticking very quickly. It went to four minutes 19 seconds and the next thing it was down to three.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. That was an adjustment to accommodate the error.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Every minute now wasted on procedural motions is time taken away from the time the Senate has to consider the bill. So the opposition have to make a decision whether they are seriously interested in considering the bill or are interested in wrecking and preventing consideration of the bill. That is where they are now.

It is perfectly appropriate for them to oppose on procedural grounds the motions we have moved. We have had those debates—we have had them at length. But we are now in a situation where the more we debate procedural motions the less time there is for scrutiny of the bill, and it is on the heads of the opposition whether they choose to use the time now to scrutinise the bill. We have the rest of the day and all day tomorrow under the motion carried by the Senate. It is a decision for the opposition now whether they use that time for consideration of the bill or they use it for procedural purposes.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, on a point of order: I say again that the Leader of the Government in the Senate cannot understand that the motion we are talking about is to take note of your ruling on my motion about giving us time to debate not the NBN bill but all those other bills. Clearly Senator Evans does not have a clue, and he is not relevant to the motion before the chair—

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. Senator Evans has the call.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am trying to deal with the legislative program in the time remaining for the Senate, and the key point is this: it is on the heads of the opposition how we use the available time. If Senator Macdonald and others are not reined in by the leadership of the Liberal Party, that is a decision for them; but the bottom line is that the Senate now has a timetable, and how we use that time is determined by the senators here. They can choose to use it on procedural matters or they can choose to use it debating the bill. I suggest we get on and debate the bill, and on that basis I move:

That the question be now put.

Senator Ferguson —Mr President, on a point of order: I think it was only yesterday that—and Senator Evans, had he been here, would have realised this—you ruled that someone who has spoken in the debate cannot move that the motion be put.

The PRESIDENT —That does not apply to a minister.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Chris Evans’s) be agreed to.