House debates

Thursday, 15 December 2022



9:12 am

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | Hansard source

I move, as an amendment to the motion moved by the minister:

That all words in paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (11), (15) and (17) be omitted and the following be inserted:

(1) new paragraph (1A) as follows: "that as the first priority for the House there be a condolence motion in relation to the deaths of Queensland Police Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold, and Mr Alan Dare";

(2) at the start of paragraph (1) as follows: "as its second item of business,";

(3) new paragraph (3) as follows: "that the question on the second reading of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Energy Price Relief Plan) Bill 2022 not be put until such time as every other Member wishing to speak on the question has spoken for up to 15 minutes as provided for under standing order 1";

(4) new paragraph (4) as follows: "that any question put during the consideration in detail stage of the bill not be put until such time as every other Member wishing to speak on an amendment has spoken for up to five minutes as provided for under standing order 1";

(5) new paragraph (5) as follows: "that Question Time be conducted from 2 pm to 3.30 pm or until such time as 22 questions have been asked and answered, whichever is first"; and

(6) new paragraph (6) as follows: "that after Question Time or when no further Members rise to speak, if earlier, provided that a message from the Senate has not been received in relation to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Energy Price Relief Plan) Bill 2022, the House suspending until the ringing of the bells".

The opposition is moving this amendment for very important reasons. The first element of this amendment is that, as its first priority, this House should be dealing with a condolence motion on the deaths of Queensland police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold, and Mr Alan Dare—that we ought to spend our time on that as our first priority, reflecting the priorities of the Australian people, before we then turn to the other matters that the government has brought before the House.

There is no other word for it; the government's approach to this bill has been absolutely appalling. It is seeking to treat this parliament as a mere rubber stamp for the executive government. Let's be clear just how bad this process has been. This government came to power with a promise to reduce energy prices by $275. For more than six months it did nothing to give effect to that promise; indeed, in its own budget it said that electricity prices would go in the opposite direction and increase by 56 per cent, and gas would go up by 44 per cent. This government did nothing during parliament's scheduled sitting period, which concluded on 1 December, more than six months after it came to government. It sat on its hands for six months. Nothing for six months, and now all of a sudden this is urgent. All of a sudden we had the Prime Minister announcing that parliament would be reconvened to consider this bill. He said that it was urgent, but of course the details of the bill were not provided. The bill was not provided until 8.45 pm last night.

We know from the Prime Minister's own announcement that the details of reductions or rebates in relation to consumer electricity bills will not be finalised until National Cabinet meets in March next year. And, of course, we've got the other element, involving empowering the minister to make a code, and of course this raises very significant issues to be considered by every member of this House of Representatives. Every one of the 151 members of this House of Representatives is required to turn their mind to this issue. What process has the government followed to allow members of this House to turn our minds to this issue? The bill was provided to the opposition at 8.45 pm last night. This is an absolutely appalling process. No time to weigh up the complex issues, no time to seek feedback from affected stakeholders, no time to get advice from independent experts.

Let's just remind ourselves what the normal process is in this House. The normal process is that a bill is introduced by a minister, and then there is at least a week allowed before the bill goes to a second reading debate. Very often, on an issue like this, there would be a parliamentary committee inquiry by either a Senate committee or a joint committee. All of that is a very good reason. It is to allow time for issues to be examined and considered, and for affected stakeholders and citizens to put their view. That is the way that a parliament in a liberal democracy should work. This is not the Russian Duma. This is not a rubber stamp on executive government, but that is how it is being treated by this government.

Of course, they are also proposing incredibly short time periods. Our amendments to this suspension of standing orders would at least allow for normal times for the second reading debate and for consideration in detail, as compared to it being dramatically compressed and guillotined in the appalling process that this government has now that this government has now proposed. This takes the House of Representatives to a new level as a rubber stamp on the actions of the executive government.

There are very serious issues that the parliament needs to consider here on the merits of the bill before it. What is the nature of this unprecedented intervention in a market? What will be the implications for perceptions of sovereign risk for those wishing to invest in Australia? What will be the implications for future investment in the resources sector and across the broader economy? What will be the implications for the supply of gas, and whether these measures will in fact reduce supply and do the exact opposite to what the government is claiming it is aiming to achieve? These are important questions, and the way the government is asking the parliament to consider these is to produce a bill at 8.45 pm last night—


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