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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3832

Senator IAN MACDONALD (1:07 PM) —What a surprise! The Greens are rolling over to the Labor Party yet again. They are, after all, the left-wing faction of the Labor Party, and we should not be surprised at that. But I could not help but smile at Senator Brown’s comment about a calculated filibuster. I well remember the Regional Forest Agreements Act back in 2001, I think it was, where Senator Brown strung out the debate on that particular bill in a filibuster for over 28 hours. He just spoke for 20 minutes at a time in the Committee of the Whole and used some little-known rules of the Senate to be able to speak once for the allotted time—15 minutes, I think—and then speak for another 15 minutes immediately after it. Talk about filibuster! The Greens created it. The Greens discovered it. It is a Greens tactic. It just shows how hypocritical the Greens are.

One day, when we have time—I do not want to waste the time of the Senate now—we will remind the Greens of their hypocrisy in opposing the Traveston Crossing dam and then giving preferences to the Labor Party, who are committed to building the Traveston Crossing dam. I will never let you forget that, Senator Brown. You got in your canoe, went down the Mary River and told all the people in the Mary River Valley that you were concerned about the lungfish. And what happened? He pledged undying loyalty to the people of the Mary Valley and the lungfish, and what did he do? He arranged for his party in Queensland to give preferences to the Labor Party, who were committed to building the Traveston Crossing dam. So do not talk about filibusters and hypocrisy; just have a look in the mirror, Senator Brown.

His hypocrisy is compounded through his lecturing us that every minute this debate goes on is a minute less for us to talk about the CPRS, and then he continues to talk for another five minutes after that, so delaying it. What hypocrisy! How could you live with yourself, Senator Brown, with that sort of rubbish? I know you had a bad week and Senator Abetz got under your skin about that outrageous money-raising effort that you went to. I know you had a bad effort on Thursday afternoon. You thought that would be hugely popular, and then you saw the opinion polls, which showed that people thought you had done nothing more than a stunt. What hypocrisy!

But I did not want to take up the time of the Senate. I have been distracted by Senator Brown and the hypocrisy of the Greens political party. I did want to address, though, the substance of Senator Parry’s motion. First of all, I note the failed minister Senator Wong, who has had the running of this bill taken from her by someone who was originally a parliamentary secretary and was promoted to actually look after the CPRS Bill in the light of Senator Wong’s inability to deal with it at all. When Mr Combet and Mr Rudd rolled Senator Wong on this bill, they determined to put the commencement of this bill off for one more year. So what is the great urgency when the government and Mr Combet have rolled Senator Wong and made sure the introduction does not start until a year from now? What is this great urgency? I would love someone to tell me about that. There is no urgency for that particular bill, but we will deal with it.

I want to bring back to senators the memory—he is still alive but no longer with us in the Senate—of that distinguished senator Dr John Herron, who in a very famous contribution to the Senate a decade or so ago pointed out the health impacts on senators of dealing with legislation late at night and sitting extended hours. The Senate at that time agreed with then-Senator Herron that sitting for long, extended hours was simply not good for the health not only of senators but also of staff who are required to look after this place. The government have had a whole year to get a lot of bills through, but they have just fiddled around. They could not run the chamber; they could not run the government business. They have told us time and time again that the bills that Senator Parry has listed are indeed urgent and have to be passed by 30 June.

We accept the government’s position that those bills are important. Just from a quick look at the bills Senator Parry has mentioned, the Car Dealership Financing Guarantee Appropriation Bill seems very important to the government and to a certain dealership in Ipswich. I know all senators—the government particularly—would want to make sure that we have time to discuss that and do not end up at five o’clock on Saturday morning trying to deal with that particularly important bill. I can imagine, of course, that the government might like to deal with it at five o’clock next Saturday morning so that no-one would get too inquisitive about what this particular bill is about, who might benefit from it and which senior members of government might have friends who might benefit from the bill. So I can understand why the government may well want to deal with that at 5 am in the hope that the journalists and the public will not be around to report that particular bill. But it is important—we have been told that by the government.

I just want to briefly mention the appropriation bills, which are the supply bills, as we all know here. They have to be passed by 30 June. They should be dealt with first. I am not fully in the loop about how long each bill would take, but I would guess that we would be able to knock most of those bills off in a day or perhaps a day and a half and get them out of the way.

There are important bills like the Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill. This government has shown time and time again that it has absolutely no interest in rural and regional Australia. The fact that it brought in this bill, which does demonstrate at least some interest, is good, and the bill should be dealt with. But, in another instance of the government’s back-flipping around, it has now decided that perhaps rural adjustment and the appointment of the committee are not quite so important. It is an important committee. It needs to be dealt with, as Senator Parry pointed out. I think the current appointments to that committee run out in seven days. That bill has to be passed by 30 June. It would not take long to debate. So why don’t we do that before we move on to the CPRS Bill, a bill which the government has said is so non-urgent that it will not be introduced until 12 months time? What is the urgency of dealing with that when we could deal with the rural adjustment bill and get that advisory committee to continue with the work it does to try and assist rural and regional Australia?

The Health Workforce Australia Bill, about an independent statutory body, has been around the ridges since November last year. You will recall, Madam Acting Deputy President, that in the Senate at the start of this year we sat around twiddling our thumbs while the government sought to find some business that the Senate could deal with. Here was a bill that was determined by the Council of Australian Governments in November last year, almost eight months ago, and that legislation now has to be passed within the next 10 days or so. That should be dealt with. It will not take long—I can guarantee that. It is a bill that I think we could easily deal with.

A lot of my constituents have expressed to me concern about uncertainty on the taxation of overseas employment. They are not necessarily opposing the Tax Laws Amendment (2009 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill but they are concerned about the uncertainty that the bill creates. That bill has to be dealt with very, very quickly. It has to be dealt with before the end of this June. Madam Acting Deputy President, you will know, as we all know and as every Australian knows, that the government has put this nation into hock to the extent of some $300 billion plus, and it certainly needs every bit of revenue that it can take, so one would think it would be more keen than others to get that tax law amendment bill dealt with at the earliest possible time.

These issues need to be dealt with first. It is no good us being here voting on the CPRS at seven o’clock on Thursday night, or on Friday night or Saturday morning, and then having to deal with these other issues following that. These are important bills, and they deserve more than being squeezed in when people’s health is at risk, when the health of attendants in this chamber is at risk, because the government has not been able to manage the program. That is what Senator Parry and the opposition are trying to do—and it is not, for Senator Brown’s information, the opposition that are doing it. If the business of the Senate is rearranged, it will be rearranged by the Senate, not by the opposition. It is important that we give the government the opportunity to deal with these bills that we have been told time and time again are particularly important.

Finally, I urge upon senators the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Pension Reform and Other 2009 Budget Measures) Bill, which deals, amongst other things, with the plight and the welfare of our veterans. I always have the view that anything that assists our veterans needs to be done in the time limit. To do that, the bill has to be passed by 30 June, by the end of this financial year, and it should be dealt with early so that there is no prospect that it could slip over into another year and cause benefits that would be going to veterans not to be passed.

I do not want to hold up the Senate. I am conscious that I could speak for another seven or eight minutes. Indeed, there are issues about which I have to try and convince the crossbench senators. We just ignore the Greens—they are just, as I started off saying, the left-wing element of the Labor Party. I would not even try to convince them, but I would try to convince Family First and Senator Xenophon that this is a sensible measure dealing with some very important bills, bills that the government has been telling the independent senators for weeks now have to be passed: ‘They’re urgent bills; they’ve got to be passed.’ Why not do that today, perhaps running into a bit of tomorrow, and get them out of the way so that we have plenty of opportunity to address the CPRS Bill?

I emphasise again that the CPRS Bill does not come into play under the government’s plan for another 12 months, so tell me the urgency about that. Mr Combet certainly understood the distress and the danger that that bill would cause to our economy and made sure that it was left for another year so that it could be properly thought through, better drafted and better designed. Mr Combet had his way. It is not going to start until the middle of next year, so what is the hurry in these next two or three days? I urge the Senate to support Senator Parry’s motion.