Thursday, 1 December 2016
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
We are now suspending standing orders because the Treasurer wants to debate a bill that nobody has seen, that he has provided no notice of, and he wants to find a way of pushing it straight through the parliament right now. On every other bill, when was the last time that anyone here can remember the government coming in to introduce legislation with only one copy when there are 150 people in the room who are meant to exercise a vote? They seem to have worked out that if they get a letter from Senator Di Natale, that is all that they want, and every other member of the parliament, including their own backbench, gets no say in any part of this deal. I bet this one has not gone through their own party rooms. I bet those on the backbench were not brought into consideration the way Senator Di Natale was. I bet those opposite, in the chaos that has engulfed this parliament today, cannot remember another occasion when we have had the Treasurer come in and look blankly when asked, 'Do you have copies of the bill?'—where we all stood around like we were in some sort of dining room having a conversation while we were technically in the middle of parliamentary debate.
I do not know, for those opposite, when the last time was that this House was mocked and dealt with in such an incompetent fashion by a minister. But let us not forget: maybe it is because, as of today, he only became the Minister representing the Treasurer. Earlier today he was the Treasurer, until he handed over his letterhead, and now we discover the Treasurer is in the other place; the Treasurer is in a different party! Remember a few years ago, when the man who is now the Treasurer used to hold up pictures of the leader of the Greens, and he would say, 'This isn't who you should listen to'? Well, now he has given them his job! He has given Senator Di Natale his own job as Treasurer!
The incompetence and the chaos that we have seen this week in the House of Representatives is like nothing else. The government have broken record after record since the last election. Imagine if they did not have a strong working majority! Imagine if 'the Fixer' were not leading this strong campaigning machine! Imagine the sort of mess that they would be in if that were the case. We are now seeing this parliament finish the final week in the same way they finished their first week. In their first week, by the time we got to the end of it, some of them had gone home, and we took control of the floor of the House. Then, a few weeks later, they were losing votes not because they had gone home but because the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services stayed! They started losing votes because they were still here!
Now, today, we get the bizarre situation where it never occurred to the Treasurer that anyone else might want to look at the legislation, where it never occurred to the Treasurer that, once he had his little letter across, co-signed, and had handed his job over to Senator Di Natale, that was not the end of the matter. Now they come in without any opportunity for their own backbench to know what they have signed off on with the Green political party. You can imagine the party room of those opposite discovering it in a moment today. This is why people should be given a chance to reflect on it. This is why we should be given a chance to do what we do with every other piece of legislation, which is to allow a level of scrutiny, to allow a situation where each party can look carefully at the legislation—and I can tell you there are a whole lot on your own side, Treasurer, who are going to want to look pretty carefully at this legislation, because the Treasurer has come up with a deal that costs the budget bottom line, that makes it negative in terms of what was otherwise on offer, on the table. At the same time as doing that, he has put himself in a situation where he thinks he can ignore the interests of every other member of the parliament, including the members of his own party—because all he needs is Senator Di Natale.
Does anyone think that, when the member for Warringah walked into this chamber, the significance was lost on him of the fact that we have a Treasurer who shares his job and his decision-making with the Australian Green political party but does not let his own party room know what is going on? Does anyone think the member for Warringah will not know exactly the significance of what we have right now in front of us? After all the arguments that we used to hear from those opposite about how horrific it was to have any sort of an agreement with the Green political party, they have turned full circle, to this level of arrogance from this particular Treasurer—and I say 'this particular Treasurer' because who knows, by election time, who will be in that job? We know who will not be—we know which jobs will change—but who knows who will be in that particular job by the time we get to the next election? But for that Treasurer, of all people—it was not good enough for that side of the politics, earlier in their time in government, when they cut the deal with the Greens for unlimited debt; now they are willing to take a worse fiscal offer, which would harm the economy by having a headline rate that is not internationally competitive. They would do so because the government could not bear to have a situation where they could take a constructive offer that was on the table from the Leader of the Opposition. They could not bear to do that.
So we end up in a parliament which has become a complete farce. The Leader of the House used to make the comment: 'If you can't manage the parliament, you can't run the country.' No-one has ever failed more in managing the parliament than this Leader of the House. There have been moments when you look at the Leader of the House and you can see he has got in his head, 'It's not me; it's the people around me.' But the problem is: the people who are around him are people like the Treasurer. What possesses someone to think they can walk in with a piece of legislation that no-one has seen and just put it through the parliament, ask for leave, and it is not going to become a problem?
As the shadow Treasurer says, arrogance and incompetence. Lots of people on that side have one or the other, but the Treasurer lands both.
With that letter that the shadow Treasurer had, you could see the Treasurer, when he said, 'Oh, I'll table it'—and then looked at it and sort of did and sort of didn't. Maybe he just did not realise that, when you table a document, you are meant to hand it over. Maybe that had not occurred to him. But I will tell you what should have occurred to him. The Labor Party is not going to have a situation where this mob think they can bring in legislation without anyone having a chance to look at it, without anyone being able to read it, and think somehow that will be a rubber stamp. They might have managed to get the Green political party to be a rubber stamp for them. They may well have some of their own backbench who are willing to be a rubber stamp for them. But you will not find the Labor Party being a rubber stamp in this place. You will not find a situation where the Labor Party is willing to throw out the standing orders of this place because the Treasurer wants to. The Treasurer put the Speaker of the House in an absurd situation today, an impossible situation. We had the parliament sitting in session, in the middle of the debate, in complete silence. No-one said a word.
This is true! But it is arrogance or incompetence. You can pick from the interjector which one each person falls into. But what the Treasurer has tried on in the parliament today is outrageous.
There has been a system in this House for 100 years or so that you introduce a bill and then you adjourn the debate to give people a chance to work through the implications of the amendment. Of course the amendment is an amendment to a bill of many pages, and you need to be able to work through the full implications of it. You need to have the scrutiny and you need the parties to be able to consider it. That is called proper governance. That is the idea, and those opposite do not have a clue. The Treasurer has tried to con the Australian people, to con the parliament with this, and the Labor Party will have nothing to do with that. Can you imagine the Hansard? There will be page after page that will be blank. There will just be page numbers at the bottom, which will be easier for the Hansard editors than what they have to do when the Deputy Prime Minister stands up—I will give them that. But we have been placed in an impossible situation. The parliament should not stand for the con that the Treasury is trying to get away with right now.