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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3899

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (4:50 PM) —I move:

   Omit all words after “That”, substitute:

   (1)   On Tuesday, 23 June 2009:

(a)   the hours of meeting shall be 12.30 pm to 6.30 pm, and 7 pm to midnight;

(b)   the routine of business from 7 pm shall be government business only; and

(c)   the Senate shall adjourn without any question being put.

   (2)   On Thursday, 25 June 2009:

(a)   the hours of meeting shall be 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, and 7 pm to adjournment;

(b)   the routine of business from 12.45 pm till not later than 2 pm, and from 3.45 pm shall be government business only;

(c)   consideration of general business and consideration of committee reports, government responses and Auditor-General’s reports under standing order 62(1) and (2) shall not be proceeded with;

(d)   divisions may take place after 4.30 pm; and

(e)   the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed after the Senate has finally considered the bills listed below, including any messages from the House of Representatives:

   Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills

   Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2009-2010 and two related bills

   Car Dealership Financing Guarantee Appropriation Bill 2009

   Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills

   Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2009

   Customs Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 [No. 2] and the Excise Tariff Amendment (2009 Measures No. 1) Bill 2009 [No. 2] (subject to introduction)

   Disability Discrimination and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008

   Federal Court of Australia Amendment (Criminal Jurisdiction) Bill 2008

   Health Workforce Australia Bill 2009

   Law and Justice (Cross Border and Other Amendments) Bill 2009

   Migration Amendment (Abolishing Detention Debt) Bill 2009

   Migration Amendment (Protection of Identifying Information) Bill 2009

   National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Amendment Bill 2009

   Native Title Amendment Bill 2009

   Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2009

   Rural Adjustment Amendment Bill 2009

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

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

There are some simple rules in this place. Those simple rules really rely on the cooperation of both sides to actually make this place work. The principles are well known and enunciated often in this place. You do need cooperation from all senators within this place to make it work. Part of that cooperation relies on the basic principle that the government manages the government’s program. To do otherwise creates the position where we now have the opposition suggesting a list of bills. Some of those are currently in the House, some of them are in committee and of course there is no ability to bring them on in the appropriate order at the appropriate time to be dealt with in the appropriate way in this place. I do not think we have the opposition seriously trying to manage the Senate. What we have, I think, is the opposition trying to filibuster.

The opposition may want to disassociate itself from the remarks of Senator Joyce. Senator Joyce is perhaps the only honest senator in terms of stating his views on the record in this place about what he thinks. He thinks this whole debate should be put off and not be dealt with—not because of the merits of it but because he does not like the scheme. The Senate is the appropriate place, with the numbers within this place, for a debate to be had and for that to be tested. What we have, in effect, is the opposition picking up its bat and ball and going home. It is saying, ‘I don’t want to play here in relation to the legislation. I want to delay, delay and delay.’ That is all we are receiving from the opposition in respect of this program. What is usual is for us to construct a program to deal with the legislation, and we did that last Monday week. It was well known to the opposition, to the minor parties and to the Independents what the bills that the government required were. They were on the list and they were put out for those parties to understand.

Notwithstanding the opposition’s inability to agree to that list, we did find ourselves in the fortunate position of covering all the bills for last week. We did, in fact, conclude all the relevant bills we needed to work through. We had indicated that we would start the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation this week and allow for sufficient hours to deal with second reading speeches. That is not unusual. There is a total of 18 packages of legislation. That is not unusual for a last week before a winter break. It is not unusual to find on that list a number of bills that might be regarded as non-controversial and, through argument, some might fall off. But, in this instance, we have put our plan forward well and truly in advance and we have said that we would deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. It is not unusual to allow, on Tuesday night, an open-ended second reading debate to allow the debate to be finalised. That would be the normal course of events in this place, but the opposition have chosen not to take the normal course of events. The opposition have chosen to not deal with the legislation at all. In fact, you could only characterise the opposition’s actions as delay upon delay. It is not even an excuse, because the excuse is ‘We’ll give you some bills.’ That is their response to these things.

What we now have from the opposition is high farce. High farce is being perpetrated by the opposition by their saying, ‘We will give you some bills but not the legislative program that the government has put out.’ It is a ruse, quite frankly. It is a dry ruse, because the opposition are not even serious in relation to those bills. If they were, they would include the other bills that are priority bills in the Senate and that have been on our program for some time.

The opposition might argue that they do not want to sit late or that they do not want to sit additional hours. This is a matter that is usual—to deal with the legislative program as it is and not to simply say, ‘I feel a bit tired. I don’t really want to deal with it.’ However, we are in a position where it is not an unusual number of bills to deal with. We have had many more in other circumstances. If you look at the way the coalition have dealt with it, they have ensured that the program cannot work. In fact, we are now spending some time arguing about our program, when we would be much better getting on with the business of government, having the debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and dealing with the legislative program as promulgated. To do otherwise is to not allow the government to manage its program. Perhaps the opposition would like also to deal with how bills will come on, in what order they will come on, and when we would bring them on. It seems to me a really unusual circumstance for the opposition to take upon themselves the mantle of how to manage the program. They might argue that the program has not been well managed. They have certainly not assisted in ensuring that it can be dealt with in an appropriate way.

In addition, we know that this place works on the basis that you can gain agreement. That is why we have leaders and whips to deal with the program. That is why we construct a program around a moderate number of bills to be dealt with during a week. I think the opposition are, quite frankly, reluctant brides. They are reluctant to come to the table to deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme at all, and they are dragging the Independent and other minor parties with them—except the Greens, as I understand it. It is a blatant disregard that they are now perpetrating upon this Senate. It is a disregard of how this place works. In fact, their motion is flawed, and they know it is flawed. It is flawed in two ways. Firstly, it tries to deal with the legislative program as if the opposition were in government. Secondly, it does not include an hours motion as to how we will deal with it. That is the real clue to the ruse. It does not include an hours motion as to how we will deal with these bills to conclusion by the end of this week. Unless you have an agreement to deal with these bills in an orderly fashion, you will not get to them. The opposition know that, and they are perpetrating that fraud upon the parliament by saying, ‘We will not deal with these bills in any other order than the way we have put them forward, and we will deal with only these bills.’ They are holding this place to ransom. It is not a right. It should not be done. They should understand that, quite frankly, and I would suggest that they follow the usual principles in this place.

I have moved an amendment to give you the second part of the leg that is missing—that is, the hours motion that should have been agreed to at the beginning of last week. This is the motion that would normally be agreed to, to deal with the program according to the way the system works. Because of the opposition’s inability to agree to that, I am taking the unprecedented step of saying, ‘This is the motion that should be agreed to.’ I am amending the motion to allow us to have sufficient hours to deal with the government’s program. Included within that list will be noncontroversial bills—priority bills that the government requires by close of business. I would ask the opposition and minor parties to support that position.

We will be in a position where we are unable to complete the program within the existing hours; I therefore ask for additional hours to deal with the bills. That may very well mean that we will sit on Thursday night and Friday to deal with the bills. It is usual to then inform the parliament. That is why we do this by agreement rather than by an outrageous debate like the one today. We do it so that we can give certainty to senators as to what hours they are likely to work, what hours they will then work between now and Friday, what hours they will have to be in this place and what bills they will likely deal with. That is why we usually do it by agreement.

We are now in a position where, because of the obstinacy of the opposition, we are forced to schedule the legislation without their cooperation and without their agreement and take what I regard as the sad step of amending the motion to include the hours that you did not include in the first place so that we can achieve the government’s program by the end of the week. The opposition will, I suspect, take a position where they will not agree. That is a sad indictment of their position because their motion on its own does not include hours. It is, quite frankly and in truth, a filibuster, and it would be much easier for you to admit that and get on with the business of filibustering than taking these extraordinary steps that you are now hiding behind. I will not prolong the debate any longer. I am simply going to ask the Senate to pass the amendment to the motion moved by Senator Parry.

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (5:01 PM) —I will be very brief. The Greens will not be supporting that amendment. We have had no consultation with the government about sitting until midnight tomorrow night, let alone sitting potentially from Thursday until Saturday or Sunday without a break. I have to say to the government that if it wants to extend sitting hours to meet the crush of business—because we do not sit often enough in this place—it should consult. We are not going to be ambushed with a motion like that any more than we will be by the opposition’s motion from this morning. So we will not be supporting that amendment.