Thursday, 18 November 2010
by leave—I move:
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the following items of private Members’ business, being reported from the Main Committee, or called on, and considered immediately in the following order:
- National Broadband Network Financial Transparency Bill 2010—report from the Main Committee;
- Order of the day No. 10—motion relating to Same-sex marriage; and
- Motion relating to Asbestos—report from the Main Committee.
I reserve my right to speak.
I move as an amendment to the motion of the Leader of the House:
That the following words be added to the motion:And (2) That the private members’ business item No. 3, the Joint Select Committee on Broadband motion standing in the name of the member for Wentworth; and No. 7, the mental health motion standing in the name of the member for Dickson as listed in the Notice Paper, be returned from the Main Committee and considered immediately.
The reason I move this amendment is that there is a disagreement between the Leader of the House and the opposition over the effect of the House Standing Committee on Selection’s decisions made earlier this week about when matters should be brought on for a vote. The opposition had an understanding, and I believe it is confirmed by the minutes of that meeting and the letter from Robyn McClelland, the secretary of the committee, to the Leader of the House. This could well be a misunderstanding between us and the government, but we believe that right is on our side and we believe that these two motions should be brought on for voting today. Our understanding of the decisions of the Selection Committee—which you chair, Mr Speaker—is that there were five items that were determined to be voted upon this week. The debates had been completed on Monday, and on Tuesday the Selection Committee made a determination that the three items that the Leader of the House has listed for voting today, plus the mental health motion that the member for Dickson moved and the NBN committee motion that the member for Wentworth has debated this week, should all be voted upon on Thursday. It is also our understanding that there were another five items that would be voted upon next week, after the debates have been completed—issues like, for example, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Public Health and Safety) Bill, which was moved by the member for Cowper—
I’m going to. There is also the paid parental leave small business pay clerk protection bill, as moved by the member for Dunkley, the shadow minister for small business; the national curriculum motion that was moved by me—that is three; the asylum seekers and Inverbrackie motion, as moved by the member for Mayo, and that is four; and the home insulation data motion, as moved by the member for Flinders. That is five. Those are the five motions and bills that we believed would be voted upon next Thursday, and today there were to be five voted upon—the three that the Leader of the House has listed in his motion and the two that I have added as an amendment. Our understanding is that there would be five votes today and five votes next Thursday. The Leader of the House and I have had numerous conversations about this matter since about half past six last night, when it became apparent that these motions were not on the draft Notice Paper, and we have a very different view about the Selection Committee’s determinations.
There are myriad reasons why these votes should be brought on today—not only because we believe that the Selection Committee made that decision, and even if there is some doubt about that there is no good reason not to vote on these two motions today. The debates have been concluded. The debates were held in the House and the Main Committee on Monday of this week or last week on all of the matters that should be listed for voting today. People’s positions are clear. The crossbenchers have indicated where they believe they will be placing their votes. The opposition and the government have indicated their views on the member for Wentworth’s NBN committee motion and the mental health motion. There is no good reason at all why these votes should not be brought upon today, and it was obviously the view of the crossbenchers that that would be the case because there are reports in the media this morning, as there were last night, about views of members of the crossbench on the mental health motion of the member for Dickson. So we on this side of the House believe that it would be in the interests of the House to clear these five matters away, whether they are successful or unsuccessful, and then move on to other items of business and deal with the other five next week.
We do not want to be in a position—and I particularly appeal to the crossbenchers in this regard—next week where the Leader of the House and the government have decided that we have run out of time to deal with matters that are time specific and that we will not be able to deal with them until we come back in February. For example, the national curriculum motion, which is currently going to be voted on next week because of another artificial reason, states that the national curriculum not begin until January 2012. If that is not passed in November, obviously that motion, which is time specific, will become moot. The same is the case for the consultation over the asylum seeker accommodation at Woodside and at Inverbrackie in the Adelaide Hills.
We do not want to be in a position where a recommendation, view or determination of the Selection Committee—which was made with an understanding that it would mean that some matters will be cleared away—is frustrated or delayed because the government gets to list what will be voted on in government business. That was not the intention of the agreement that was struck between the government, the opposition and the crossbenchers during that negotiation period. In that period it was expected that if the Selection Committee wanted matters voted upon they would be voted upon in a timely fashion. This meant that when it was time to move on to new matters after a debate had essentially concluded those matters should not hang around for days into the future.
I will not take up the House’s time with a longer explanation of the reason for this amendment; there is no point in doing so—
Government members interjecting—
I am being urged by the crawlers on the front bench to continue to speak. They might want to ask a question in question time perhaps—not that there is any notice for those questions, of course. But it is quite clear from what I have said that the amendment that I am moving should be supported by the House. The amendment would see these five matters dealt with this morning, and after being dealt with we would then be able to move on to another five items next week. That is my amendment. I ask the House to support it. It is borne out by the letter from Robert McClelland to the Leader of the House and by the minutes of the meeting that was held on Tuesday 16 November. I ask the crossbenchers to support this motion.
The Manager of Opposition Business is having some difficulty dealing with private members’ business on Thursday mornings. Last sitting week we had his private member’s bill, as shadow education minister and as Manager of Opposition Business, and there was only one member of the opposition in the chamber at the time, so they could not even have a division on it. He forgot to turn up. He talked it up day after day, week after week, month after month. It shows that the opposition’s critique of the BER is nothing more than a stunt.
We then had accusations that the government had manipulated the timing of that vote in private members’ business because he thought it was going to be at 9.15 am. The problem is that they record the time of votes in the minutes of the parliament. He is very embarrassed by his performance in the last sitting week because it showed that he simply is not on top of the new procedures that have been put in place in the parliament.
This week it gets even worse. These processes are not that complex. He was involved in sitting down and negotiating these agreements but, when you have an agreement, an understanding and a commitment with those opposite, it often does not last very long. Last sitting week I spoke to the Manager of Opposition Business at three minutes to nine o’clock, as the bells were ringing, and said, ‘See you in the chamber.’ He got lost on the way.
This morning I spoke to the Manager of Opposition Business and we agreed that this amendment he is moving was not necessary and that these votes would occur next Wednesday. I agreed with him this morning that we would split the votes so that the two items he wanted this morning would be voted on next Wednesday and the other items would be voted on next Thursday. That was at about 10 minutes to nine this morning, after having discussed it last night. You cannot run the parliament effectively if you cannot keep your word for half an hour. But I give the Manager of Opposition Business credit—at least he is here. Good effort, Chris. You are getting better.
He went through the minutes of the Selection Committee—
Contrary to what the Manager of Opposition Business told the parliament, the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee, signed by the chair, Harry Jenkins, and dated 17 November 2010, say in writing:
The committee recommended that the following items of private member’s business orders of the day be voted on:
- Mental Health (resumption of debate from 25 October 2010 on motion of Mr Dutton);
- Joint Select Committee on Broadband (resumption of debate from 25 October 2010 on motion of Mr Turnbull);
- Overseas Trained Doctors (resumption of debate from 18 October 2010 on motion of Mr Scott);
- Special Disability Trusts (resumption of debate from 18 October 2010 on motion of Ms Moylan); and
- Climate change notice of motion given by Mr Murphy on 15 November 2010.
What does that tell you? It tells you that there are five items of business to be voted upon next week and that four of those five are from the opposition, none are from the crossbenchers and only one is from the government. How is that for fair—we give them four out of the five to be voted upon and determined next week? If they were at all fair dinkum, they would move all five here to be voted upon today. Why don’t they do that?
Let us take the introduction of bills as an example of the way we conduct business in this parliament. Bills are introduced on Wednesday or Thursday, they have their first reading, they then stand, and the debate begins after the caucus meetings are held on the next Tuesday. Because of the way we have changed the status of private members’ business we now determine this week what will be voted upon next week. That is what we have done with those five items, of which he has picked out two to be voted upon today with no notice being given.
I have operated properly. We give proper notice so that it appears on the blue in order that everyone in this parliament knows what is occurring. What is more, this was a unanimous decision of the Selection Committee on Tuesday. The fact is that we have a whole range of bills before this parliament. We are not voting on all of them today. We do not get to move legislation one day and vote on it the next day. It is not the way that the parliament works. If we are going to have proper scrutiny and proper processes, we must agree with the decisions of the Selection Committee.
This government has not refrained from debate or discussion about any of the things that need to be voted upon. Indeed, we have expanded the Selection Committee to accommodate the additional requests of the crossbenchers. We have had votes on private members’ bills, we have had votes on private members’ motions and we have had agreements. If people want to have a debate on mental health then—
Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will set there in silence. This is a debate. If she wants to make a contribution she can make a contribution, but it is unlike question time. If she feels aggrieved, she can get on her feet later in the debate.
They need to move it the week beforehand. But the fact is that we are having votes on things this week that were determined last sitting week, just as we had votes on things last sitting week that were determined the week before. This is not that hard. If they had wanted a vote on the mental health resolution, all any one of them had to do in the Selection Committee last week was to ask for it. They did not. They went through the debate in this parliament that occurred during private members’ business time and they did not even ask that there be a vote on that motion. Then, after the motion and the debate have been held and it is all over, they go along to the Selection Committee on Tuesday and say: ‘Sorry, we forgot to ask for a vote on that. Can we have one?’ That is what has happened here.
The minutes of the 17 November 2010 meeting of the House of Representatives Selection Committee reflect this. They go through it in detail. And that is important in terms of processes for this parliament because, if we are going to give proper consideration to private members’ bills and motions, it is important that people know what is coming and when it is coming. I, as Leader of the House, am determined to ensure that this new parliament functions properly. I am also determined to ensure that all 150 members, including those who do not have access to a party political machine, are able to know what is coming. It will simply make life untenable for the crossbenchers if every Thursday morning they come in here not knowing what the votes are going to be on. How is that conducive to proper consideration of good public policy? It is not. That is why this is simply a stunt that should be rejected. And I have no doubt it will be rejected.
Last night and this morning the Manager of Opposition Business and I had discussions about this. We agreed that these votes would take place next Wednesday. We agreed to split them because he was concerned about the number of votes. But let us be very clear—
Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will cease interjecting. The Leader of the House has the call. The question is that the words proposed to be added stand part of the question and the Leader of the House will be relevant to that question.
I am indeed being relevant, Mr Speaker, because what I am discussing is the ways in which the processes of this parliament function, particularly with regard to private members’ business. We need to make sure that everyone knows what is coming on, just as they do with government bills. We do not come in here and say: ‘Oh, we will just change the order; today we will have a vote on some legislation that we brought in yesterday.’ They never did that in government and we have not done that in government. It should not happen because it is not conducive to people being able to make a decision.
All 150 members have to make decisions today about what they think through the processes—what they think about the NBN financial transparency bill, what they think about the motion and amendment relating to same-sex marriage and what they think about the motion relating to asbestos. I would hope that they have looked at the Notice Paper and made an appropriate determination as to what they think about those issues.
If we come in and decide on the spur of the moment that we will have votes on other things, it is simply not conducive to good decision making. If those opposite were at all fair dinkum, I say to the Manager of Opposition Business, they would have moved an amendment including the motions from Mr Scott on overseas trained doctors, Mrs Moylan on special disability trusts and Mr Murphy on climate change. They would have moved those motions. If they had moved a week ago on the joint select committee on broadband or mental health—
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition continues to interject, Mr Speaker, in defiance of your ruling, about wasting time. We did not come in here and move this amendment; we came in here to vote as was determined by those opposite. I ask the House to reject the Pyne amendment. I believe that next week we will be voting on the motions on mental health by Mr Dutton and on the joint select committee by Mr Turnbull, and on the other three motions I have mentioned.
The Manager of Opposition Business has had a couple of shockers when it comes to dealing with private members’ business. Perhaps the reason they have moved this amendment today is that they were concerned about votes coming on and their missing out again on having a vote. If that is the explanation, it is perhaps as credible as the explanation that was put up last week, which was that somehow the Manager of Opposition Business had determined that, after talking about the BER for a year, he did not really want to vote on it after all because he was going to lose on it. If that is the case, if that is the sort of logic they have, they will not be calling any divisions on any of the legislation that comes before the House.
This is a stunt. The government is determined to make sure this operates fairly. The government has been more than reasonable. I repeat that next week there will be five votes: four votes on issues raised by members of the coalition and only one moved by a member of the government.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Selection who was there yesterday and who was appealed to by the Manager of Opposition Business, it is certainly my recollection that the Selection Committee did not determine yesterday that there would be a vote on the mental health motion today—the Selection Committee cannot do that—and that the first time a vote was requested was in fact yesterday, not the week before. I am more than happy to talk to the Manager of Opposition Business about whether we might amend the standing orders to give the Selection Committee the power to say when votes are going to be held, but at the moment a strict interpretation of the agreement, as I read it, is that it is in the government’s prerogative, that this is in accordance with the procedure that has happened to date and that nothing unusual is happening. I will not be supporting the amendment.
That the words proposed to be added (Mr Pyne’s amendment) be so added.
Original question agreed to.