House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Business

Days and Hours of Meeting

6:07 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | Hansard source

Can I first of all explain what's in front of us. This year, before the budget, between the houses of parliament, there were five weeks on the sitting schedule before we got to budget week. Last year, there were five weeks of parliamentary sittings before we got to the budget. The year before that, we had—guess how many weeks?—five weeks of sittings before we got to the budget. In 2015—quite an exceptional year—we had five weeks of sittings before we got to the budget. In 2014, we had five weeks. In 2013, we actually had six weeks. In the sitting schedule that has just been tabled before the parliament, there will be a fortnight of sittings before the budget. In that fortnight we don't even sit on one of the Mondays.

I'm going to quote someone who only last week was described by the Treasurer as a legend:

… what strikes me is that a government that does not have an agenda does not need to sit … Unfortunately, the sitting pattern gives away what Australians know about this government, which is that it does not have a plan for the future and it does not have an agenda … Why doesn't it have to sit? There are two reasons. Firstly, it does not have a plan for the future for the Australian people. Secondly, it cannot rely on its numbers in the House to pass legislation to win a procedural vote.

Be in no doubt: this is a surrender from this government. This is a decision from this government. The last thing they want to do is govern. So they have decided, having already explained pretty much that budget week will be the final week before we go to the polls, that there will be a total of 10 days of parliament sitting before the next election. They've already been in a situation, from the first day that this parliament sat this week, where they had to vote for things that they don't believe in in order to avoid the humiliation of the fact that what began this term, with the Leader of the House boasting about it being a strong working majority, had become a hopeless, dwindling minority. That is all they've become. The Leader of the House knows it and those opposite know it.

What's in front of us now is the surrender document. They've decided they don't want to risk what democracy might think of this government. They don't want to risk the fact that they have 73 votes on the floor and they don't know whether or not they have a capacity to govern. So, with that in mind, I move the following amendment:

That the following words be added—

"and the following additional meetings of the House are specified:

Tuesday, 5 March 2019;

Wednesday, 6 March 2019;

Thursday, 7 March 2019;

Tuesday, 12 March 2019;

Wednesday, 13 March 2019; and

Thursday, 14 March 2019."

By virtue of those extra dates being added to the calendar, we will get two extra sitting weeks. It will still be shorter than it has previously been, because of the budget being early, but it will be four sitting weeks instead of just a fortnight of sittings.

I know it will hurt the government if parliament has to sit, because the Prime Minister won't be able to have his face on the outside of a bus that he's not inside. He won't be able to do that incredibly fair dinkum, dinky-di, true-blue campaigning that is clearly working so well for him! What will happen is that the legislature will be allowed to legislate. We'll be able to turn up and do our jobs here in the parliament. An additional two weeks of sitting simply brings us into the ordinary parliamentary calendar. I love the way the Leader of the House was explaining how 'none of this was anything unusual'. He said: 'Look, you just put the dividing line between the second half of the year and the first half of the year, packing as many weeks as possible into the second half of the year, when parliament will have been dissolved. Then, bingo, you've suddenly got a first half of the year, because of an election, that will have only sat for three weeks.'

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