Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3828


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) (12:48 PM) —What an extraordinary contribution! What an absolutely extraordinary, disingenuous, misleading and courage-lacking contribution. The senator failed to address what the senators for the National Party—


Senator Ian Macdonald —Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order: the Leader of the Government in the Senate has just made some outrageous imputations against the mover of this motion. I would ask that you demand that he withdraw those imputations.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Crossin)—Senator Macdonald, there is no point of order. I remind Senator Evans, though, about the nature of the debate.


Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. What we have seen today is the Liberal Party seeking to facilitate what it has stated publicly over recent weeks. I have to be fair—Senator Joyce has been blatant in his public comments that the coalition will do anything they can to prevent them having to have a debate about the CPRS, anything in their power to stop the debate coming on. That is what this is about. This is about a filibuster and an attempt to prevent debate.


Senator Joyce —Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order: I feel I have been misrepresented. I said ‘I’ will do anything.


Senator Marshall —That’s not a point of order. That’s just another filibuster.


Senator Joyce —I will take the interjection, Senator Marshall. What Senator Evans said was that the Liberal Party, or the National Party, said that—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Joyce, you cannot take an interjection during a point of order.


Senator Joyce —I have said that I will do anything to stop this vote coming on. What Senator Evans said I said is something completely—


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Joyce, there is no point of order. This is a debating point.


Senator CHRIS EVANS —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. You can tell the coalition are sensitive—in a minute there have been two points of order trying to deny what is obvious to everyone. This is not about assisting the government. This is not about assisting the process of the Senate. It is a cowardly act designed to avoid having to debate a policy position, to debate a bill, on which they are all over the place, on which they are deeply divided. The Liberal Party are deeply divided, such that they cannot agree on any way forward in dealing with the CPRS, and the National Party are in open revolt against the Liberal Party’s position that they ought to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Senator Parry’s contribution was extraordinary in that, as I say, he did not at all address that issue. What this government has said to the opposition and the minor parties is that we have a list of priority bills which we seek to have dealt with in this week. What we will also do, as we tried to last week, is to sit the extra hours—as the Senate always has—to pass the bills that the government determines are priorities.

We have the extraordinary position on this occasion that the opposition have decided that they will decide what the government’s order of business is! Now, we know that you did not like losing and we know that you have had trouble adapting to opposition, but it is extraordinary that you come into this place and say: ‘Well, we are really still the government. We will decide which bills come on and in which order we debate them, because really we are trying to help the government.’ What an absolute disgrace! What an absolute misrepresentation of the position.

It is unsurprising to anyone that we suddenly find the CPRS is at the back of the list. Why? Because, as Senator Joyce has said publicly, they will do anything to stop these bills being debated. They do not want these bills debated. They do not have the courage of their convictions to come in and adopt a position on the bills. They are too scared and they are too wracked by division to be able to come into this chamber and have a united position. So their answer is: ‘Let’s hope it all goes away. Let’s do what we can so we don’t have to deal with it. It’s all too hard. We are scared. We are running scared of adopting a position on the major issue in Australian public policy today.’

Their position is to come into this chamber and move mealy-mouthed motions that seek to put it off, to defer and to filibuster. Quite frankly, I am embarrassed for Senator Parry, that he did not have the courage to address what this is all about. We know what it is about—be honest! As I say, at least Senator Joyce has been honest. He said he will do whatever he can to prevent it happening.

The government’s position is that we retain the right to set the order of business. I encourage the Independents and Greens to think about this. I refer them to standing order 65:

Government business on Notice Paper

Ministers may arrange the order of their notices of motion and orders of the day on the Notice Paper as they think fit.

It has always been accepted in this Senate that the government sets the orders of the day. The government sets the order of business for dealing with government business and legislation. This is an unprecedented attempt to take over and prevent the government from proceeding with its legislative agenda.

The opposition want to set the legislative agenda based on what suits them, based on their cowardice about dealing with the CPRS. That is not acceptable and I urge the Independents and the Greens to think very carefully about supporting this motion. If there is a view in the Senate that the CPRS is not to be debated, as some are arguing, let us have that debate. But do not pretend in this sly and underhand way that this is a procedural motion to do that. This motion seeks to ensure that the CPRS does not come on until late in the week and the opposition can then argue, ‘It’s all too late to deal with’.

We have the situation today, on a day when the opposition say they are holding the Treasurer to account and calling on the Prime Minister and Treasurer to resign, that not only are they seeking to delay the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme but they are moving a matter of public importance about education. Why is there suddenly an interest in moving a motion about education on the day that they are calling on the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to resign? It is because they are only interested in one thing: not having to front up to the major public policy debate this country is having and not having to front up to take a decision on the CPRS.

Senators like Senator Cash have said quite clearly to Malcolm Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition, that they are not prepared to back him. And his answer to that is not to have the courage of his convictions to adopt the policy that even the Howard government advocated but to actually say: ‘We are too scared of the internal divisions and we are too scared of what the National Party will do, so we will look to put off decision day. We will look to filibuster.’ This is an extraordinary proposition, that the opposition set the order of business.

You might notice also that the question of the alcopops bill has disappeared. Again, it is something they do not want to have to deal with. It was listed on the Notice Paper for this week but suddenly we find that, no, that has gone too. They want to determine what they will debate this week because they are too scared of the key debates. They do not want to debate the alcopops legislation because they are scared of adopting a position. They do not want to vote on the CPRS because they are so internally wracked with division that they want to put it off. It is all too hard.

If they had the courage of their convictions and had moved a procedural motion to that effect I would have been more impressed. Quite frankly, this is an underhand, disingenuous attempt to get them what they want, which is the capacity to filibuster the sittings of the Senate to a point where they do not have to deal with this bill this week. There is no other rationale for the decision. We asked for extra hours and we were not able to obtain those, bar on Tuesday last week. We will again seek extra hours to deal with all priority bills this week. The government is prepared to sit every night late, Friday night and beyond, in order to deal with its legislative program. It is the government’s legislative program, which empowers the government to move the government program, to have the order of business set by the government and to have the Senate deal with the legislation in the order set by the government.

In an unprecedented move the opposition seek to take on that power themselves in order to facilitate their weakness and incapability to deal properly with a major piece of legislation. It is so lacking in subtlety. It is just an extraordinary piece of politics. I urge the Senate to reject this motion. If we are going to have a debate about the CPRS then let us have a debate about the CPRS. If you are going to have a view adopted about when we deal with the CPRS, let the Senate decide that. Do not let this underhand, sneaky method of trying to delay the bills succeed. This is important legislation. Everyone knows it has been listed for this fortnight and everyone is ready for the debate. Let us have that debate.

We will deal with the bills that the government has outlined as priorities. We will sit until they are completed and we urge the rest of the Senate to adopt the common practice of sitting until those bills are dealt with. They include the CPRS. It is not for the opposition to tell us what bills the government may or may not proceed with. The government has the right and the precedent to set the orders of the day. This is just a weak attempt to avoid being held accountable for a public policy position. We have had green papers. We have had white papers. We have had endless debate. Let us be honest about this. Debate the CPRS rather than trying to defer it and talk it out.

As I said, this is a most disingenuous attempt to deal with the weakness of the coalition. I urge the Senate to reject that approach, to debate the CPRS as called on by the government and as has been expected, and also to deal with the rest of the legislation according to the order provided by the government. We are perfectly willing to sit as long as is needed to deal with all the bills, including the CPRS, listed as priority by the government. There can be no other reason for this motion than the attempt by the opposition to filibuster to the point where they do not have to deal with this bill this week. That is unacceptable and I urge the Senate to reject it.