Monday, 5 September 2022
I second the motion and I'll make a brief contribution because we've got very important business to deal with in the House—two speeches that we're all sitting here very anxious to listen to. But this is an important issue that needs to be resolved before the House can move on.
I want to deal with a couple of points. Firstly, the arrangement that the honourable member spoke of, the amendment to the standing orders, essentially, in this parliament reduced the numbers from 10 to eight for questions that the opposition could put to the government. That was quite a departure from practice over many, many parliaments. It was driven by the inclusion of the crossbench members, and I acknowledge that; that's fine. But there is nothing to this argument about the proportionality, though—that's the first point. The member for Petrie rightly pointed out that the numbers here in the opposition are 58, and that is roughly five times the numbers on the crossbench. So there's nothing to that argument. It's a facilitation of the crossbench. The government came to an agreement—at about the same time they cut all their staff, of course—that they would have an arrangement in place where the crossbenchers could ask questions. We're in support of that, and we have made that point clear today. But the reality is that we are now moving beyond that to a point that wasn't contemplated initially, and that is to reduce, in effect, from eight to seven questions the number that the opposition can put to the government of the day.
If this were an aboveboard action, if this were something that the government were proud of, if this were something that, in concert with the crossbenchers, was done transparently, if we had have been advised of this cosy arrangement before question time, not during question time, that would have been a different scenario. There may have been some legitimacy to what is being argued here. But that's not what's being argued. The argument around there somehow being a conspiracy by the opposition to pad out question time so that those members on the crossbench couldn't achieve their third question I will just deal with as it is complete nonsense.
I have met in good faith with each of the members of the crossbench. I extended to them an opportunity to speak with me on issues that are important to them. Not one of them has taken up the opportunity to raise this issue with me. That's because it is not a legitimate criticism. We haven't raised points of order here to try and exclude their opportunity to ask another question of the government. What interest would we have in that? We're happy for questions to be asked of the government. We think they're a bad government. Whether it is us, the Greens or the Independents asking questions of the government, I am fine with all of that. So to suggest, which is the point that the member for Goldstein made, that somehow the legitimacy of her point here and her secret agreement with the government is to try and deal with an issue of our making is a complete nonsense. I am not going to stand for it. I am not going to be besmirched in that way. It is not genuine. If it were a genuine concern that the member for Goldstein or, indeed, the member for Kooyong had, they would have come to see me and raised it. I have said to them that I have an open door in relation to any issues that they have. There's been not a peep.
When we hear about transparency and we hear about new conduct, a new parliament and a new way of behaving and conducting ourselves, that's not been on display here today. We have seen a government that saw this coming. The manager of government business is an experienced hand. He saw them coming a mile away. What did they come with? They came with an argument that we, as an opposition, would be able to ask one less question of the government. Why wouldn't they take it up? What happens in the circumstance where, as today, there was a condolence motion at the beginning of question time? To the government's credit, today it extended beyond 3 pm to accommodate the time that was taken for the condolence motion in relation to Mikhail Gorbachev. That was an appropriate extension today, but that is not anything other than a discretion exercised or not by the government of the day. That hasn't been accommodated for in the proposition from the honourable members of the crossbench today. There's nothing in the standing orders that says that the government must extend, when a proper condolence motion is considered by this House, question time beyond 3.10, which would be the appropriate way to do it.
So I think there is a lot of reflection to take place here. The government are not going to allow this motion to get up. They will seek to close it down. But I think it is a very poor reflection on those members who have contributed in a way that misrepresents what this is really about today.