Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018; Consideration of Senate Message
That the amendments be disagreed to.
The government does not agree to the amendments that have been sent to us by the Senate. As the Attorney-General so eloquently pointed out in his speech about the other question that was before the chair, we should not be dealing with these amendments at all in the House of Representatives today. Before I was shut down by the Manager of Opposition Business, I was going to make the very valid point that, in his speech, he admitted the central gravamen of the Attorney-General's argument—that this bill makes an appropriation and therefore cannot be considered by the House of Representatives without giving up 109 years of parliamentary precedents.
Why do we know that the Manager of Opposition Business has admitted the central tenet of the Attorney-General's argument? He seeks to amend this Senate amendment to make the doctors who would form the health panel voluntary, so he has admitted that therefore there must be remuneration in the original amendments from the Senate and it is therefore an appropriation bill, and that's why he seeks to amend it: to remove that appropriation. As the Attorney-General's central thesis was that the House of Representatives could not allow the Senate to make an appropriation, he has admitted the Attorney-General's argument, he has admitted that the Solicitor-General's advice is right and he has admitted that the Attorney-General's letter to the Speaker is correct.
Therefore what the opposition and the crossbenchers have done today in their last series of votes is decide that they don't care about the Australian Constitution and they don't care about the Westminster traditions that form the basis of our Constitution and our parliamentary system. I would remind the House that the English fought a civil war over this matter. The civil war in England between King Charles I and the parliament was over the right of the parliament or the king to make the appropriation. The king tried to implement a ship tax, the parliament said that wasn't his right to do so and they fought a civil war over it, yet the Labor Party today, because of their sheer desperation to score political points, have convinced the crossbench that it is wiser to throw out 109 years of parliamentary precedents and to throw out the hundreds of years of tradition which have formed the basis of our Westminster system in order to make a cheap political point.
It's bad enough that, to do so, Labor is prepared to weaken our border protection. By passing these Senate amendments, the Labor Party is prepared to put the people smugglers back in business, to put out the welcome mat to the people smugglers, to run the green light, if you like, for the people-smuggling trade. They're prepared to do all of that because they want to make cheap political points in the lead-up to an election.
I'm very disappointed that the crossbenchers have acquiesced to allowing this debate to occur, because, for two very significant reasons, they'll be remembered, unfortunately, under parliamentary precedents. This will all become the way the parliament now practises. They'll be remembered for allowing the Senate to send us appropriations initiated in the wrong house, without a message from the Governor-General, just so that the Labor Party could make political points.
Government members: Shame!
It is a shameful act on the part of the Labor Party. As the Labor Party are the only other party that can form government in this country, they have a wider responsibility to act in the interests of the parliament, in the interests of our parliamentary system—the Westminster tradition, which is the foundation of it. They will rue establishing precedents like this. It doesn't really matter what the result of the next election is, at some stage in the future there'll be other hung parliaments where governments will not have a majority, and there'll be crossbenchers who are passionate about a particular issue. Labor might well be in power at that time, in some distant future, and they will rue the day that they established the precedent where the people's house, the house which forms the government, which has for hundreds of years been the only house that can appropriate money, has abrogated that responsibility to the Senate, which can never be the basis of a house that forms a government.