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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9345


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (13:48): We have today a very clear demonstration of the political priorities of Malcolm Turnbull in the Senate chamber: stop the Senate protecting penalty rates. That's what this has all been about, Senator Cormann and Senator Brandis. If you were wondering why, in the debate in relation to Senator Dastyari, there was one opposition senator—me—who did not speak for the full time, it is because we understood where the numbers were in the chamber. If you wonder why they roll out Senator Macdonald and Senator Reynolds, it's because they wanted to delay debate for as long as possible to prevent this Senate from protecting penalty rates.

Senator Reynolds interjecting

Senator WONG: Senator Reynolds says that's not true. Well, have the debate. The majority in the Senate chamber want to debate the four-yearly review bill that Senator Cash is summing up, which has had many hours of debate. There will be an amendment moved to that to protect Australian workers' penalty rates. The government knows that. So the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, the Minister for Finance of the Commonwealth and the Manager of Government Business all come in here and run as many procedural arguments and delaying tactics as possible. They make sure the Leader of the Government in the Senate is here so he gets the call over me. They make sure he's here, because he's not off doing important things but he's got to come in here and stop workers getting their penalty rates.

Well, I tell you what: you might win in here today, but Australian workers know what your priorities are. They will know that Malcolm Turnbull's priority today in the Senate chamber is to ensure that this chamber is not able to vote on the protection of Australian workers' penalty rates. Isn't it amazing? What a government, hey? What a government. They've had to backflip on the royal commission—oh, here's the relevance deprivation himself!

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, on a point of order, Senator Watt is shouting, I assume at Senator Hanson, and calling her or her colleagues 'frauds', which is unparliamentary. Not only is it unparliamentary but it is quite unfair, seeing that One Nation delivered the Labor Party government in Queensland.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, I did not hear you say something unparliamentary, and I've generally taken the view that interjections from behind a speaker aren't as problematic as those coming from opposite a speaker. But if you did say something unparliamentary, I'd ask you to withdraw.

Senator Watt interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I think imputing a motive reflecting on someone personally as opposed to behaviour—it may well be.

Senator Watt: I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Watt, for facilitating the operation of the chamber.

Senator Burston interjecting

Senator WONG: I'll do it on the record, Senator Burston, while you're here. If One Nation continues to vote with the government on these procedural tactics to try to avoid bringing protection of penalty rates on, every Australian worker will know that One Nation saying that they're for the battler is just not true.

Senator Reynolds: The only protection order is the one protecting Senator Dastyari.

Senator WONG: Senator Reynolds, you can scream as much as you like. I know you're all in bed with One Nation politically. What I am saying is this: One Nation prides itself on standing up for the battler but comes in here and votes with the Tories to ensure that this Senate cannot debate and vote to protect workers' penalty rates. That is what is occurring.

I will be moving an amendment to this motion to ensure that we bring on the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill, first to ensure that this chamber can debate and protect penalty rates. And if the Leader of the Government in the Senate seeks to move the motion without amendment or debate, his motives will be clear for everybody to see. He doesn't even want it debated. If he seeks to gag debate, his motives will be clear. The political priority of the senior members of the Turnbull government and of Mr Turnbull himself are to ensure that this Senate can't protect the penalty rates of low-paid workers. What a pathetic government.

I will respond to one point in the short period I've got left—the pontification from Senator Brandis that somehow the government gets to control everything. I gave notice of a motion, which as a matter of courtesy I sent some time ago to the government and to the crossbench, which made clear that the only day we would be seeking for government business to deal with a particular matter is Monday. We just said: 'On Monday we want to debate penalty rates until it finishes. You get to do whatever you want on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.'

So, regarding all of this pontification from Senator Brandis that somehow it's unprecedented for a government to have its legislative agenda taken over, I make two points. (1) It's your bill. It's the bill that you wanted—I won't point at you Senator Cash; she's not there. It's the bill the government brought into the chamber that is summing up and that they haven't brought back because they're scared of the numbers. (2) We wanted to debate it only for the Monday. That is the great taking over of government business! You can do what you want on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but that's not enough, is it, because you're worried that you don't have the numbers on the penalty rates bill, and this government's priority, as always, is not to look after the interests of working people. That's who you've walked away from, and every Australian at the next election will know it.