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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9992

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (19:07): I'm incredibly disappointed, in particular, that Senator Bartlett would make this contribution just now. Since the middle of July, when sadly—and I say sadly with all sincerity—former Senator Ludlam and former Senator Waters had to resign in the circumstances that we all know about, immediately and without hesitation the government said, 'Of course, we will pair their positions until such time, as through the official process, their positions are filled again on the basis that we respect that the Greens Party in the Senate will be able to determine the position of the Greens.' We've done that even though, on a number of contested issues and votes, that meant that we were in a weaker position and we were not able to get the government's agenda through. We did that absolutely in good faith, in the same way as we're doing it absolutely in good faith in relation to Senator Kakoschke-Moore on exactly the same basis.

Senator Lambie resigned. Senator Lambie didn't write to the government to formally ask for any pairing arrangements in the way this normally happens, consistent with convention. She walked into the chamber and put—

Senator Jacinta Collins: You heard her speech, Mathias.

Senator CORMANN: Yes, but she came into the chamber, putting on the record a position that she expected the government to respect after she left. That is not the way this works. I will tell you something else. Senator Patrick, you might want to listen to this very carefully, because this is going to be a matter which I understand is of interest to you. As Senator Lambie was preparing to resign, because she realised that she was ineligible to sit in the chamber, she approached the government asking for the government to do a deal with her before she resigned. That was in order for us to secure her pair for this bill. You know what the government said? The government said, 'We can't negotiate with you on the basis that you have already admitted yourself that you are ineligible and that you are about to resign. We can't possibly, as a government, negotiate a vote with you in relation to that when you are no longer going to be in this chamber.'

Senator Pratt interjecting

Opposition senators interjecting

The TEMPORARY CHAIR ( Senator Gallacher ): Order on my left, please.

Senator CORMANN: What I'm putting to you is that if former Senator Lambie was still in this chamber, the government would have continued to engage with Senator Lambie and we would have been talking through the issues that she wanted to raise with us. But she is no longer here, so we weren't able to do it. Nobody in this chamber has any capacity whatsoever to identify what Senator Lambie's position would have been at the end of this process. That is the truth of it.

In terms of convention, now that the Greens sit pretty and have their representation back under control, and now that Labor are happy because the Greens, who mostly vote with them, have their full representation, we get threats that your pairs are going to be pulled when we, when it disadvantaged us, consistently respected those pairing arrangements, consistent with convention. I think it is entirely dishonourable. I think it is entirely dishonourable to suggest that pairs should be pulled against the government when all the way through when it disadvantaged us we respected, consistently, those pairing arrangements, as we continue to respect them in relation to Senator Kakoschke-Moore.

The position in relation to former Senator Lambie is quite different. Former Senator Lambie, as far as the government is concerned, did not have a concluded position.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Oh, yes, she did. Just read the Hansard.

Senator CORMANN: No, she didn't. I would be prepared to swear an affidavit that on the day, minutes before she walked into this chamber, she asked for the government to do a deal with her. And we said, 'No; we can't possibly do a deal with you as you are about to resign and as you are telling us that you're not eligible to be in the Senate.' That is the reality. So we can't possibly know what her position would have been. There is absolutely no basis on which the Senate could possibly identify what her position would have been at the end of this process.