House debates

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Motions

Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013; Dissent from Ruling

12:46 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Speaker's ruling be dissented from.

Madam Speaker, it is extraordinary for us now to be having a conversation about whether or not the parliament is allowed to debate what has been debated throughout Australia for so long. It is extraordinary, after all the conversation that has happened up until now about the shift to emissions trading and making sure that there is actually a limit on pollution rather than pollution being unlimited that we are now being told in this new parliament that that is a conversation you are not allowed to have, that in this parliament those amendments—not simply the debate—gets gagged, which we thought was bad enough. Your ruling, Madam Speaker, is not that the debate gets gagged, it is that the debate is not allowed to occur at all.

If there is a duty of the Speaker in this House, it has to begin with the concept of facilitating debate. If there is a view that you think amendments that have been circulated are in fact contrary to standing orders and you know full well that the debate has already had a gag put on it by the government, you know full well that there might not be time for redrafting to occur unless you provide the opposition with notice.

What would possess you, Madam Speaker, in those circumstances to wait until the commencement of the debate before we were told? In doing so, you guarantee that the debate cannot occur on the floor of this chamber. You guarantee the opposite of what is generally understood to be the role of the Speaker. You guarantee not that a vigorous debate will occur but you guarantee that a vigorous debate will be ruled out.

I have been critical of the Leader of the House for the gag resolutions that he has brought down in this chamber. I have been critical of the Leader of the House for the idea that debate on amendments would be limited to an hour. It never occurred to anyone on this side of the chamber that there would be an attempt from the Speaker that to view one hour of debate as to be too long, and to say that the figure of one hour needed to be reduced to zero for the purpose of discussing these amendments.

Madam Speaker, it should be within the remit of this parliament to be able to debate the issues which have been discussed and flagged well in advance with the knowledge of the one-hour deadline already applying to the conduct of this debate. The precedent which you quoted, I have to say, is a real stretch because in that debate, even though as you say it was not brought to your attention until the beginning of the proceedings, I hazard a guess that there was not a one-hour limit on consideration in detail that day. I hazard a guess that we do not have those circumstances.

Most importantly, to think that you would refer to standing order 179(a) and (b) as though part (c) is not on the page—just not there. The reason that you will not refer to standing order 179(c) is that it would allow the amendment. That is exactly why we have a circumstance, Madam Speaker, where you are consciously and knowingly ignoring one of the standing orders. If (a) and (b) were the only standing orders which were there, the ruling that you have made would at least be arguable, notwithstanding the fact that the process you have followed restricts debate in an unacceptable way in this chamber. But you ignore the words of 179(c):

A Member who is not a Minister may move an amendment to the proposal which does not increase or extend the scope of the charge proposed beyond the total already existing under any Act of Parliament.

The amendments which are to be before the House, and which have been circulated by the member for Port Adelaide, fall entirely within that standing order. Madam Speaker, you have put the House in a situation where we do not get a written copy of your ruling. I think it would be more helpful if you were provided with a written copy of the standing orders because a written copy of the standing orders, I believe, would have led you to a circumstance where no reasonable person could have made the ruling that you have just made. It cannot be justified under the standing orders and it certainly cannot be justified if you have the slightest part of belief in having debate in this chamber.

I must say it is the first time I can recall that I have had a Speaker refer to the government's position using the pronoun 'we'. That was an extraordinary part of the way you sought to explain yourself to the chamber. If it was not enough for us to have a Speaker physically brought to the chair by a Prime Minister and a Leader of the House, to then have rulings that are governed by the term 'we' referring to yourself and the government as one, changes the role of your chair entirely and changes the role of the high office you occupy entirely.

Madam Speaker, we were told that you would be an independent Speaker. This ruling is entirely inconsistent with that. The timing you have given on this ruling is entirely inconsistent with that. The lack of notice you have given to the opposition is entirely inconsistent with that. We were told that things would be transparent. I have to say, you have delivered on that one because this is entirely transparent! These amendments would force those opposite to actually vote squarely on the question of the tax alone and change it to a circumstance where you could get rid of the tax but pollution could not be unlimited. That is exactly what these amendments would do. Now, government members, because of you shielding them from that question, get to avoid that.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

That is a reflection on the chair and I ask you to withdraw.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a dissent motion. I have moved the motion because I think your ruling is wrong. I do not resile from that for one moment.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not referring to that.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I think that the point that the Speaker is making is not that you should not be able to dissent from her ruling—

Mr Mitchell interjecting

Be quiet, you buffoon.

An opposition member: What is the standing order?

Disorderly conduct. Check it out. Look it up. The point is in the member's dissent he is perfectly entitled to disagree with the Speaker's ruling, but he is not allowed to reflect personally on the Speaker and her impartiality. That is what the Speaker is asking you to withdraw, and I would ask you to do so on behalf of the Speaker.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask you to withdraw the reflection on the chair that was made.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. On saying that they would be transparent, they have delivered in spades. We have a situation now where all of this means one very simple thing: the government get to avoid a vote and this parliament avoids a debate. What does it say about how they feel about the strength of their arguments when this is where we end up? Had there been early notice, I have no doubt this would have been able to be rectified to your satisfaction, Madam Speaker. I have no doubt there would have been a way. Notwithstanding the interjections opposite and notwithstanding the shaking of your head, Madam Speaker, when I said that this could be rectified, you did refer to the opportunity for things to be redrafted and I take those words of yours in good faith.

In turn, I acknowledge that the timing of this makes it impossible. The timing of it, the manner of delivery, the ruling itself, the ignoring of standing order (c), within the very section you chose to refer to, have put this parliament in a situation where debate is being silenced. And it is not like through the amendments we were about to form a majority of the chamber. It is not like that was about to happen. It is not like they needed to be running scared from the outcome. It should be reasonable that there is never a culture of secrecy here on the floor of the chamber. Madam Speaker, when you ask for things to be withdrawn, when you make different rulings and when you have asked us to quieten down at different points when you get on your feet, we will respect your role. Madam Speaker, but you need to abide by the standing orders—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

and on this occasion you have not.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Again, that is a reflection on the chair and I ask you to withdraw.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

May I speak to the point of order?

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

You can disagree with my ruling, but you cannot say that I am not abiding by the standing orders?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Then how can I move dissent? I am not presuming any ill will on your part, but I do not know how I can move dissent without saying that you were wrong on the standing orders. I do not know how else a dissent motion can take effect.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

You are correct to disagree with my ruling on the standing orders. That is not to say, at large, that I do not comply with the standing orders. That is a reflection on the chair.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, your ruling must be dissented from. I presume on this occasion—

12:57 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

Since your ruling, Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity—

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is the member for Port Adelaide seconding the motion?

Mr Butler interjecting

He needs to say so.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the member seconding the motion?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. Since your ruling, Madam Speaker, I have been able to read your written statement. As the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out, the statement appears to rely particularly on standing order 179(a) and 179(b)—

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

but does not refer expressly to the provisions in 179(c), which provides:

A Member who is not a Minister may move an amendment to the proposal which does not increase or extend the scope of the charge proposed beyond the total already existing under any Act of Parliament.

What is the question here at issue? The question here at issue is what is the effect of the amendment moved by me on the existing act that is proposed to be amended or repealed by the government? The effect of the amendment proposed by me is to change the way in which carbon pricing works in the financial year 2014-15. What is the way in which it will change? The way in which it will change is that it will move from the fixed price that is currently set out in the legislation, described by the opposition over a long period of time as the carbon tax, to a floating price. So it moves to an emissions trading scheme. It does not bring in any additional liable entities. There is no change to scope. The only way 179(c) can be activated is an argument that it increases the charge—the charge currently set, I think, at $24.15 per tonne. That is a judgement to be made and it is a judgement that you have made, Madam Speaker, from which we greatly dissent.

This is not a new set of amendments. These are the set of amendments that we released when in government as an exposure draft before the 7 September election. The draft was subject to public consultation, and it was released with very clear statements—from then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, from then Treasurer Bowen and from myself—about Treasury's advice on the impact in 2014-15 of moving from a fixed price—the carbon tax, as the now government like to call it—to a floating price under an emissions trading scheme. Treasury's advice was very clear. Treasury's advice was that the price would move from around $24 to around $6, that it would be reduced by 75 per cent. It seems to me, although the now government refuses to release any information about the basis of their current policy; they will not release the incoming brief, which Alan Kohler has told us this morning apparently indicates that direct action, their policy, will cost $10 billion per year—

A government member interjecting

Release your incoming brief and we will know whether or it is false. The only thing we have to go on is articles from Alan Kohler.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Port Adelaide needs to be arguing why your ruling should be dissented from. He should not be arguing about the substance of the amendment or the bill. He has had that opportunity, and in consideration in detail he could have the opportunity again.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Leader of the House makes a very valid point and I would ask the member to return to the substance of the motion.

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

The point I was trying to make, with the greatest of respect, was that your ruling has sought to make an assessment about the financial impact of the change in 2014-15—

A government member interjecting

No, not the scope, the financial impact. There is no change to scope, there is no change to the liable entities. What is changed is the way in which the price per tonne is fixed. Treasury's advice was that that price would reduce by three-quarters—

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

You are now not debating the question as to why my ruling should be dissented from—

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I am directly debating it, because—

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, with the greatest respect, your ruling makes an assessment that a change from a fixed price to a floating price in 2014-15 will increase that price. That is the only way in which standing order 179(c) cannot apply and cannot cover my amendments.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, with the greatest of respect, the dissent motion is about your ruling that the House is not capable of considering this amendment. You have made no assessment at all about the financial implications of any of these matters. To accuse you of doing so is quite out of order

Opposition members interjecting

You need to study exactly what you are dissenting from and then you will be in a position to argue it more successfully.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I simply ask the member to continue to address the motion.

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

It is based on an assessment that the impact of our amendments would increase the charge. The only advice in the public realm is that it would reduce it by 75 per cent. (Time expired)

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business, that there be a dissent from the Speaker's ruling, be agreed to.

1:02 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I do not wish to detain the House at great length, because the debate management motion that I had passed earlier in the debate provides for the consideration in detail to begin once the second reading has been carried and you have stated that the House will now consider the bill in detail. The opposition are in fact denying themselves the opportunity to consider the bills in detail by moving this dissent motion. Very simply, the ruling that you have made, Madam Speaker, is entirely consistent with every other ruling of a similar nature to do with the capabilities of the House to amend or change legislation introduced by the executive. It is very clear in standing order 179(a):

Only a Minister may initiate a proposal to impose, increase, or decrease a tax or duty, or change the scope of any charge.

It is very straightforward. It is there because the government needs to initiate money bills in the House of Representatives. And any amendment to try to change money bills is outside the capability of anybody other than someone from the executive. The opposition know this, because we had these debates quite routinely when we were in opposition before 7 September. The opposition know this, and this dissent motion, along with their amendment, is a try-on. It would be quite unprecedented for you to have ruled in any other way than that the House is incapable of dealing with this particular amendment, and you did—very generously, I thought—give the opposition the opportunity to try to move another amendment in consideration in detail which did not offend the standing orders or the Constitution of Australia, which makes it clear that only the executive can initiate money bills.

For the benefit of the House, and for many of the new members, why is that so? It is so because the history of the Westminster tradition is one of civil war in the 17th century which caused such great ructions in Britain that the parliament that replaced the civil war only allowed the executive to initiate money bills to make it clear between the Crown and the parliament who was responsible for what. We have inherited that Westminster system; therefore, it would be quite improper for you to have ruled in any other way than that the opposition cannot initiate changes to a money bill. The member for Port Adelaide made it very clear that that is exactly what his amendment seeks to do. I quote him. He said that his amendment 'changes the way the charge is collected and changes the timing of the act'—in other words, it extends the scope of the bill. That is your quotation from your speech. The Manager of Opposition Business in the House did it as well, throughout his contribution. He kept repeating that his amendment extended the scope and that he believes that we are capable of doing that in the House of Representatives today on a motion initiated by the opposition.

When we were in opposition it was very clear that only the executive could initiate such changes and it is very important that the House upholds the standards that have been set over the course of our parliament. I could go on at great length, but I want to get on with the consideration in detail, and, as a consequence, I move:

That the question be put.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the question be put.

1:14 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now before the chair is the motion, moved by the member for Watson, of dissent from the Speaker's ruling.

1:23 pm

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The House will now consider the bills in detail. In accordance with the resolution agreed on 18 November, the bills will be taken together.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, on a point of order under standing orders 91 and 92: on social media, the members for Moreton and McEwen have been reflecting on the chair, on the impartiality of the chair. I point out to you that the member for McEwen is the Second Deputy Speaker and that it is what I would regard as disorderly conduct.

Ms Macklin interjecting

So the member for Jagajaga thinks that reflecting on the member for McEwen is the same as reflecting on the Speaker, does she?

The member for McEwen has a higher level of responsibility. On social media, on Twitter, during the division and during the debate, the members for McEwen and Moreton were reflecting quite improperly on the chair and your impartiality. I ask you, as the Speaker, to consider whether this is disorderly conduct and what action you might like to take. I do not wish to take it to another level of privilege, for example. It might well be because of the inexperience of the members and their lack of knowledge of opposition. I would certainly ask the Manager of Opposition Business in the House to counsel members about reflecting on the impartiality of the chair. But I ask you to consider it rather than acting immediately—unless you choose to act immediately—to consider whether it has been a reflection on the chair and therefore is disorderly conduct and how you might like to deal with it.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the House for his point of order. I would say that we have decided in this chamber that we do allow electronic media to be used and that it is the responsibility of individual members to abide by the standing orders in the way in which they use those electronic and social media. I would be disappointed if the Second Deputy Speaker had so reflected. I would find that if others have so reflected then they might like to consider their actions themselves. But I would simply remind you that, on the use of electronic media, the same rules pertain as to speaking in the House.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I would point you to precedents in these matters. The member for Canning was involved in a precedent in a previous parliament involving Speaker Andrew and was asked to apologise to the Speaker in the House, under threat of more serious action being taken—

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

For what?

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Reflecting on the Speaker, which is not allowed to be done.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Where?

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

In the chamber—

A government member: And on Twitter.

And on Twitter. You are not allowed to do it. I simply point out that precedent to you, Madam Speaker.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the House, and call the Manager of Opposition Business—on the same point of order, I take it?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, if I may speak to the point of order, or on indulgence—

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

No, we do not do points of order on indulgence. You are either speaking to the point of order or not.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

A point of order will do.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

On that point of order as raised?

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, on the point of order that was raised: the issue of digital media within the chamber is one that I know has been raised with you in the interviews that you did shortly after becoming Speaker, and if you do wish to provide clarity at some point on how it is to be used within the chamber then the opposition would welcome that clarity.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, I have actually just done that. I have said—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

It appeared to be different from what I recalled from the Sky News interviews.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

It is still used in the chamber.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no intention of not having it used in the chamber. But you do have to abide by the standing orders in its use.

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, on indulgence, a point of order—

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

No, there is no indulgence, sorry—certainly not indulgence!

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Madam Speaker, on a point of order—

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition—

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

No, this is not a debate on the issue. We have just ruled on the point of order. The Manager of Opposition Business asked me how it was to be used and I have answered the question.

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was seeking to assist—

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, that will be new! The member for Moreton is speaking to what?

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To the reflection on the chair, and I do wish to apologise for the retweet that I put, and I did make a line-ball call. I will certainly refrain from so doing in the future, and I will make every endeavour to assist the House wherever possible, Madam Speaker.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is that an apology, as well?

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If you so require, Madam Speaker. You take it as you may.

Photo of Mrs Bronwyn BishopMrs Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member for Moreton for his apology. We are now going to the consideration in detail.