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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9765


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (09:31): Pursuant to contingent notice standing in the name of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Brandis, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to the hours of meeting and routine of business for today.

The motion that I am seeking leave to move today is one that is fairly unexceptional for the last sitting day of the year. As I have often said in this place, the management of business in the Senate chamber, a place where there is no one grouping who has a majority, is a collective responsibility of all senators. That collective responsibility in this place is exercised on different occasions by different combinations. Sometimes it might be the government together with the opposition agreeing on a proposition for the management of business. Sometimes it might be the government and the Australian Greens agreeing on a proposition for the management of business in this place, and sometimes it might be the government and combinations of crossbenchers agreeing with the proposition to manage business in this place.

The motion that I am seeking leave to move is a fairly modest motion in terms of its legislative objectives. There are three bills listed, which is probably the shortest list of bills for this stage of the sitting year that I have seen in this place. I contrast the approach that the government takes in relation to these particular motions, as we get towards the end of the year, with that of the previous government. For those colleagues in this place who might not have been here when the Senate was in its previous incarnation, when the current government was in opposition, it was not uncommon for the Australian Labor Party to move motions in the final week of sittings that would contain something of the order of 55 bills. In some cases, this would allow precisely no time—not a single minute—for debate. A bill was listed and if it was not dealt with by a particular time it would be put to a vote, in all stages, without any debate—no second reading debate, no committee stage, and amendments put without debate.

What the government is putting forward here is very reasonable and very appropriate. I am not listing 55 bills here. I am not seeking to guillotine or gag. The government is not seeking to do any of those things. We are just looking to have an orderly process for a limited number of bills so that we can deal with them in the ordinary course of events. This motion is not seeking to take away anyone's opportunity to speak on a bill. This motion is not seeking to impose a time frame by which a particular bill must be dealt with. I think it is very important for colleagues to appreciate the very different approach that this government is taking compared to that of our predecessors.

There are three bills here. They are important pieces of legislation to deal with by the end of the year. Over the last couple of weeks we as a government have endeavoured to focus on those bills that are really critical before the end of the year. That has been a desire that a number of colleagues in the chamber have expressed—that we really focus on that which needs to be dealt with by the time that we rise.

It is for these reasons that I am seeking to move this motion. I am disappointed that leave was not granted to move the motion, but hopefully, after the vote on this suspension of standing orders motion, we will have the opportunity to move the motion so that we can get on with the business of this place, as the community expects us to do.