Tuesday, 20 October 2020
The opposition will always support motions that facilitate debate. This government all too often seeks to gag debate in this place. It doesn't like to hear alternative voices. It doesn't like to allow anybody from this side of the chamber to have their voice heard. Whenever the Leader of the Opposition stands at this dispatch box to suspend standing orders, he's almost automatically shut down. That is not good for public debate in this country. They don't let the parliament sit. It sat all too little this year. They don't like debate. Whenever the opposition leader, or any other member of the opposition, seeks to suspend standing orders, they get shut down.
They don't like scrutiny. What did the government do in response to the organisation that identified the sports rorts scandal and that identified a block of land bought in Western Sydney that was valued at $3 million but was purchased for $30 million? They cut the budget of the Australian National Audit Office. That's what happened two weeks ago. It was a $14 million cut to that organisation. The minister asked me to argue why the suspension of standing orders should occur. I'll tell you why. It's because we need a bit of scrutiny in this place. There's an organisation which, because of the budget cut two weeks ago, instead of doing 48 investigations into the way in which the government spends public money, will only be able to do about 38 next year. It doesn't like scrutiny.
This place is where scrutiny should occur, so that's why we support the suspension of standing orders and that's why we support the establishment of a National Integrity Commission. It's essential, and I thought both sides of the house agreed. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the government supported it. The current Prime Minister said that they support it. Now we're hearing that people on the backbench don't support it. If you're serious about weeding out corruption and if you're serious about good governance, then you allow debate, you encourage scrutiny, you fund organisations like the National Audit Office, you expand the remit of organisations like ACLEI and you set up a National Integrity Commission. Otherwise all you're going to get is more of what we've seen in New South Wales at ICAC last week, infesting federal politics—nobody wants that.