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Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Page: 3979

Senator MINCHIN (12:45 PM) —Senator Parry was appropriately very brief in his remarks because he was seeking to ensure that we did facilitate dealing with this motion. We are conscious of the government wanting to get on with urgent business, but we have just had a remarkable histrionic performance from Senator Evans which has in fact wasted 15 minutes of the Senate’s time. What a remarkable contribution from Senator Evans to so singularly and obviously delay the Senate’s dealing with the government’s legislation by that repetitive performance.

I was not going to speak, but Senator Evans has made two allegations which I will respond to as briefly as I possibly can because the Senate should get on with its business. Senator Evans made the claim that the opposition has abandoned the longstanding practice of the government being responsible for the order of business. I have been here 16 years, most of which have been in a situation where the government of the day has not had a majority. I fully and well understand that this place does only work with cooperation between all the parties because it is the norm that nobody has a majority and the government should be able to order the business. But that is not unconditional.

In this case we have the remarkable set of circumstances where there are some agreed bills which are urgent in the last week of June and some bills that are budget bills or have 1 July start dates, which the government itself has pushed below the legislation which does not have a start date until not 2010 but 2011. It is two years away. The government knows full well our position that this legislation is irresponsibly being proposed in advance of the world’s consideration of the post-Kyoto framework for dealing with climate change which will occur in December. The government full well knows that this should not be dealt with before the United States deals with. So there are exceptions to the rule that the government has control of the order of business. This is one of those cases. The government flagrantly seeks to have a bill dealt with prior to its own urgent legislation, a bill which it knows full well does not have majority support in this chamber. The government itself knows; the government is flagrantly setting this up for defeat. The government is so cynical that it is setting up its own bill for defeat because it knows it does not have the numbers. We absolutely defend what we are doing in relation to this. This is a rare exception to the rule that the government should order the business, but it is an exception where there is this flagrant behaviour on the part of government and where the opposition feels it must act.

The second allegation is that the opposition are too scared to debate this bill. Our position is very upfront. We announced some time ago our quite open position—that is, that this bill should be deferred. This bill should not be being dealt with. We have a motion still to be dealt with that the Senate defer consideration of this bill.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Interjections across the chamber from both sides are disorderly. Senator Minchin is entitled to be heard.

Senator MINCHIN —It is our very upfront position that the government should defer consideration of this bill on the triple grounds that it does not have a start date for two years, that for Australia to legislate in advance of Copenhagen is utterly irresponsible and reckless, and that to advance this legislation prior to the United States legislating, the world’s biggest emitter of anthropogenic CO2, is ridiculous and reckless. So we have very good grounds and very public grounds. There is nothing we are hiding at all about this. It has been a position that we have held for several weeks that this bill should be deferred. There is nothing secret about that.

We are very happy to debate this bill at the appropriate time. It is our upfront position that this bill should not be debated this week and we have motions on the Notice Paper to that effect, so we reject outright the proposition from the Senate leader. I would urge the Senate to support the motion now before the chair that the Senate deal with those bills which are in fact urgent and which the Australian people expect us to deal with which are budget bills or have 1 July start dates. Those are the bills which the Senate should be dealing with. As soon as we deal with those, we can resume debate on the government’s CPRS albeit that we believe that it is a bill which should be deferred.