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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3831

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (1:01 PM) —The Greens will not be supporting this motion. This is the beginning of a filibuster by the opposition to avoid the debate about the climate change legislation, which is listed by the government as priority for this week. We have had differences with the government about the lack of sitting times for the Senate and about the bill itself, but from the very first minute of the sitting this week the opposition has engaged in a calculated filibuster to stop the climate change bills being determined by the Senate. That is dismissal of an obligation to this nation to deal with these serious pieces of legislation. Instead of the future of the nation, its environment, its economy, its employment prospects and its lifestyle, which are all critically threatened by the onrush of climate change, the opposition is transfixed by a second-hand utility and a lost or fake email.

I do not dismiss those matters, but the opposition has not got the priorities right here. This is a parliament whose bounden duty is to deal with issues confronting the interests of this nation and the voters who put us here, and here we have game playing and a rapidly drawn up motion that is not even grammatically correct and which lists no defined order—it has a list of bills, but it does not say in what order they should be presented—as it tries to take over government business and set aside rule 65 of the standing orders. I say to my fellow crossbenchers, Senator Fielding of Family First and Senator Xenophon: consider this very carefully. If you are going to join with the opposition in taking over the order in which government legislation comes before this place, take the responsibility which goes with it. It is a very dangerous course of action. The Senate has the power to do it by numbers, but think it out very carefully before you undertake that course of action, because you are then responsible for the whole legislative program and the passage of legislation in here. If you want to take that responsibility on, think very carefully about it and wear the consequences.

I submit it is a foolish course of action and has not been thought out. It is all the more foolish because there is an ulterior motive in what the opposition is proposing to the Senate. That simply should be seen for what it is. By the way, the political content of this motion is notable. Pieces of legislation listed as urgent by the government are not included. For example, the Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009, which changes the immigration legislation, is not here, because the opposition does not agree with it. The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2009, which tries to undo the rorting system brought in by the Howard government, is not on the list. The alcopops bill is not on the list.

Senator Parry —It’s not on the paper.

Senator BOB BROWN —Senator Parry complains that they are not on the urgent list. No, that is set aside by this motion from the opposition. What the government thinks is urgent and not urgent no longer pertains. If the opposition has its way with this piece of legislation, it is responsible for what is urgent and what is not, and I am pointing out some pieces of legislation that it has left off the list for consideration altogether because they are not politically convenient to the opposition.

The opposition is on very dangerous ground here. Where it is safe is in believing this is going to delay debate this week and make it more difficult to get the government’s legislation through. Every minute we spend on this ill-thought-out effort by the opposition to take over the running of government business in this place is a minute lost on determining the legislation—

Senator Ian Macdonald —Why don’t you sit down, then? You’re talking about every minute—here’s another.

Senator BOB BROWN —I say to you on the opposition benches: you brought this on; if you are now moving to silence other people in the place, get up and move it if that is part B of this debate.

Senator Ian Macdonald —That’s your argument. You’re having a bad time, Bob.

Senator BOB BROWN —If the interjector on my right cannot substantiate the interjection he would be better to abide by another standing order, which he is breaking at the moment. I put to my fellow crossbenchers that they should not be supporting this proposal by the opposition unless they fully understand the very serious ramifications of doing so.

I say this to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Evans: the Greens have made it clear from the outset that we would not be obstructing the government in presenting climate change legislation and getting it through this parliament. We disagree—and we will come to that matter later this week—with the proposal put forward by the government because it is weak, unsatisfactory and will not do the job of confronting and reversing climate change. Nevertheless, we are in the business of the government’s legislation—which the opposition basically agrees with—being dealt with by the Senate. That is the proper course of action, and this motion deserves to be lost.