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Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Page: 1957

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:51): Yes, Mr Deputy President, we object to this motion being taken as formal. I seek the indulgence of the Senate to make a short statement to explain our reasons.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Labor is denying that this motion be taken as formal because we do not believe complex and contested matters, including matters that concern foreign relations, should be dealt with in summary fashion by this chamber. It is the case that Labor leaders and managers in this place have previously drawn the attention of the chamber to our concern about dealing with complex and contested matters by way of formal motions. We previously expressed that concern both in government and in opposition. The moving of formal motions that deal with complex and contested matters compels senators to take a binary position on these matters, without debate. The giving of short periods of notice—usually one day—means that there is often little consultation before the mover is on his or her feet seeking the support of the chamber.

Whilst formal motions remain a useful mechanism for dealing with routine motions such as committee matters, the introduction of bills and Parliamentary Zone approvals, they have much less utility when employed to pursue complex matters. For that reason, today I am restating and reaffirming Labor's long-held position that complex and contested matters should not be pursued by way of formal motions. I also flag that Labor will not support the suspension of standing orders to bring on debate on such motions, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.

Mr Deputy President, as you would be aware, the Procedure Committee is currently undertaking a review of the routine of business in the Senate, and I would encourage the committee to give careful consideration as to how the Senate should deal with motions that concern non-routine matters.