House debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bills

Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Service Providers and Other Governance Measures) Bill 2012; Consideration in Detail

5:04 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the House) Share this | Hansard source

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to suspend standing orders to enable the House to divide again on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Service Providers and Other Governance Measures) Bill 2012.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That in accordance with standing order 132, standing and sessional orders be suspended to enable the House to divide again on the question viz.: That the Opposition amendments be agreed to.

I move this motion consistent with the positions that were put in place as part of parliamentary reform in what is an unusual parliament in terms of Australia's historical position. Historically, of course, governments have had absolute majorities on the floor of the House of Representatives. When the Australian people made their determination in August 2010, they chose that that would not be the case. As a result, discussions took place in good faith between the government, the opposition and crossbench members—particularly the member for Lyne—about parliamentary reform ensuring that proper functioning could occur. Members would be aware that in the Senate, because of the nature of the Senate, where the government party has historically—with some brief exceptions, which is why we got Work Choices—not had a majority on the floor, an arrangement exists whereby, if someone inadvertently misses a division, there is a recommittal. It happens without fuss. It happens as a matter of course. In fact, it happens pretty regularly.

In this parliament we unanimously chose to alter the standing orders to allow, through standing order 132, for a recommittal to be put if a member is accidentally absent. There is a very sensible reason why this is the case. That is because, were it not to be, the views of this parliament—this House of Representatives—could be distorted by misadventure or someone simply missing a vote. Therefore it was determined that, if that occurred, the bill would be recommitted. It was stated very clearly in the parliamentary reform agreement. It was put in the standing orders and understood that this would be the case, in a similar way to the way in which the operation of pairs ensures the principle that a result should not be distorted because of a member's absence from parliament. Were this not to be implemented it would lead to an outcome whereby the proper determination of a majority of members of this House is not put into the law of the land. That is why I am moving this recommittal motion.

I am frankly surprised that the Manager of Opposition Business is not simply supporting this. We had very clear discussions, which included the Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Lyne and others, about the circumstances in which this could occur. We explicitly discussed that an explanation should be given to the parliament of why people have missed a division. Today, as part of the budget process, the Treasurer addressed the National Press Club in the Great Hall of Parliament. This is a procedure that in the past has occurred at the National Press Club but in recent times has been moved to the Great Hall in order to accommodate the numbers of members of the community who want to participate. There were four government members—the member for Chifley, the member for Eden-Monaro, the member for Moreton and the member for Brand—who attended that function where the bells did not ring because they were turned off, one would assume as a result of the fact that it was broadcast live as a National Press Club activity. It was unfortunate—and I have communicated to the four members, very directly, that they were perhaps amiss in absenting themselves from that division—but it clearly falls within the parameters which were envisaged.

In addition to this, the member for New England was in the Senate where he did not hear the bells. He also expected to vote in that division. I, of course, am not in a position to communicate in the same direct way with the member for New England as I do with my friends and colleagues on the Labor benches but in terms of—

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