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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3826

Senator PARRY (Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (12:40 PM) —I move:

That, commencing from the time business is called on following discovery of formal motions today, the orders of the day for the following bills, deemed urgent by the government:

   Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 2009

   Health Workforce Australia Bill 2009

   Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2009

   National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009

   Car Dealership Financing Guarantee Appropriation Bill 2009

   Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Pension Reform and Other 2009 Budget Measures) Bill 2009

as well as the order of the day relating to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2009-2010 and 2 related bills, be called on and determined before the order of the day relating to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills is called on.

Senator PARRY —The bills listed in the motion are bills that the government have indicated to us are urgent. If we consider the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills before these other motions, there could be a risk that these bills are not considered. It is our view that the public need the assurance that these budget measures bills will be debated properly prior to the consideration of any other legislation. These are bills that commence either at the beginning of this financial year or some time shortly thereafter, as opposed to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme suite of legislation, which does not commence until one year after that, in 2010.

What we are doing is consistent with the position that we put to the chamber last week and the condition that we have maintained with government during meetings with leaders and whips—in particular, indicating that we would support the government in facilitating this program. We flagged with the government last week that we thought that these bills should be considered first and, once we discovered that they were not, we decided that we needed to step in and assist the process of bringing on these bills. This could have been managed a lot better by the government. We have been arguing strongly for a more consistent approach to legislative arrangements in this chamber and, in particular, the introduction of bills that need to be considered before others.

We want to ensure that the government’s appropriation bills are passed, and there can be no criticism in this chamber for those bills not seeing the light of day during this sitting week. In the last week prior to the commencement of the next financial year it would be irresponsible of the government and certainly irresponsible of us not to facilitate these bills being passed this week, as they need to start on 1 July. I think the government should realise that this is the last sitting week and, to deal with this legislation, it has to be done in this fashion.

I will go through some of the bills. The Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 2009 amends the Rural Adjustment Act 1992 to allow for the appointment of members to the National Rural Advisory Council for three terms. Government has informed the opposition that this bill is required urgently, yet it is still not appearing on the list ahead of the CPRS. This bill is to allow for the reappointment of four members whose terms will recommence on 1 July this year. The current members’ terms expire in eight days time, so this sitting week is the last opportunity for the Senate to consider this bill for the reappointments to occur. This bill is urgent and the coalition wishes to support the government in its consideration today.

Then we have the Health Workforce Australia Bill 2009. This establishes Australia’s Health Workforce as an independent statutory body to implement the COAG health workforce outcomes as agreed in November last year. The powers of the statutory body relate to funding, coordinating of clinical training, supporting clinical training supervision, health workforce research and planning, simulation training and providing advice to health ministers. Given this measure was agreed to by COAG back in November of last year, consideration of this bill should also be a matter of priority and should not be put off into the future.

Then we move to the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009. This bill limits the exemption of income earned in overseas employment. The bill also reduces concessional contribution caps. The bill is also a revenue bill, a thing that the government has declared an urgent need for. We have been asked to pass this bill, so again we want this bill considered prior to other less urgent, less important and less significant legislation. Also, the Senate Economics Legislation Committee will today report on this matter.

The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009 is another bill that the government wants urgently considered. This bill enhances the framework for auditing energy under the energy reporting program. It brings auditing requirements into line with the requirements of the act. The government has declared to the opposition that passage is required in these sittings so that subordinate legislation can be dealt with following royal assent, including regulations for auditor registration requirements. We are told that delaying passage would limit availability of auditors to audit under energy reporting programs. We support this bill being considered urgently.

The Car Dealership Financing Guarantee Appropriation Bill 2009 is another bill that the government has told us needs to be passed by 30 June. Again, this is the last sitting week and this bill has not been listed before less urgent bills. The scheme cannot commence until the bill is passed, and appropriations need to be made to guarantee securities issued by a special purpose vehicle established to raise funds to support local dealerships. The four major banks will not buy OzCar, the special purpose vehicle, until the guarantee is enacted. Again, this demonstrates that this is an urgent bill that needs to be considered this week. The government has told us this needs to be in place by 30 June this year. The Economics Legislation Committee will report on this bill tomorrow in the Senate.

The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Pension Reform and Other 2009 Budget Measures) Bill 2009 will exempt the value of payments made under the Skills for Sustainability for Australian Apprenticeships and the Tools for Your Trade programs from treatment as assessable income for taxation, social security and veterans affairs purposes. The government has declared that this bill is also urgent and that royal assent in seven days time would be required to enable the family tax benefit indexation and benchmarking changes to be implemented by 30 June this year. The Community Affairs Legislation Committee will be reporting on this bill on 23 June, tomorrow.

Then we have the appropriation bills. These bills and their urgency go without saying. These are the supply bills for government expenditure and they are urgent by their very nature. They must be passed and finished with by 30 June. We certainly need to consider them in these sittings.

We have clearly established the urgency of the bills that I have just listed, which are mentioned in the motion. These bills should be considered prior to the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme suite of bills, the debate on which we know, by its very nature, will be a long discussion. Many senators in this chamber wish to speak about that significant legislation, which does not commence until 2010. We have been on the record indicating that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills do not commence for a long time and that we have other far more urgent issues, which we have listed and put before the Senate chamber for consideration.

We will no doubt get to the CPRS bills as the week moves forward and once we have dealt with these urgent matters. But we know that we cannot afford for these urgent bills not to be passed. I am surprised that the government have left these bills until the last possible minute, running the huge risk that these bills will not even come before the Senate before the end of this regular sitting week, the last sitting week before the commencement of the new financial year. So we have had to step into the breach and assist the government. We have flagged this continuously and we have assisted the government with bringing on their urgent legislation.

At the leaders and whips meeting, we were given a list of urgent and highly desirable bills. We have now facilitated the list of the urgent and highly desirable bills that the government would like passed in an order that we consider the public of Australia would demand. We need to consider the urgent budget measures bills, we have put this motion to the Senate and I urge senators to support the coalition in having these bills considered before we move on to other legislation.