House debates

Monday, 22 July 2019

Business

Consideration of Legislation

4:49 pm

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

by leave—I move:

That the House:

(1) notes that:

(a) the Government first introduced the Future Drought Fund Bill and Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill into the House of Representatives in November last year;

(b) the Government failed to prioritise the bills, with the Future Drought Fund Bill being introduced but never debated in the Senate, and the Future Drought Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill never passing the House;

(c) the Government introduced 26 bills into the House of Representatives last sitting week but these bills were not among them;

(d) today, the Government is seeking to both introduce and debate the amended bills on the one day;

(e) it is usual for bills to be introduced by the Government in one sitting week and not debated until the following sitting week to allow Members the opportunity to properly consider bills before voting on them; and

(f) the drought funding in these bills is not available to help farmers until 1 July 2020; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Government to adjourn debate on these bills immediately following the Minister's speech on the second reading to allow all Members the opportunity to properly consider these bills before debate resumes tomorrow.

What has been put on the Notice Paper today is really unusual. There are times when we rush legislation through. I remember John Howard coming in here and rushing legislation through on national security issues where an amendment had to be made so that arrests could take place later that week. It was urgent. We held emergency meetings, and it all went through straightaway and it was cooperative.

When the parliament last sat, the government had broken its promise to recall parliament before the end of the financial year and there was a priority to make sure that the stage 1 tax cuts were able to get into people's pockets. That week only had three days scheduled and one of them was to be dedicated to the memory of Bob Hawke. Therefore, the only way we could make sure that the bill could make it to the Senate was for there to be cooperation across the floor and to make sure that the debate could go through all stages on the first night. We did that for a very good reason. We had to get something through both houses that was to be backdated. There was a level of urgency and immediacy in the actions of the parliament.

Today, we are about to have legislation before us which starts taking effect on 1 July 2020. Whether it goes through this House today or tomorrow—and it's going to make it through the House; no-one doubts that, and I suspect it will make it through the Senate as well—

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

Why play the game?

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

but there is a procedure here that the government—and I acknowledge the interjection from the minister because it actually says it all. He said, 'Why play the game?' I say to the House, this place is not meant to simply be a game. There is a process that happens with legislation that I have to say does matter. It does matter that members have the opportunity to read legislation which is being introduced in an amended form before they are asked to vote on it. Given that the vast majority of members of this House are members of political parties, it is reasonable that those party room meetings are allowed to take place not while the House is sitting but actually during the Tuesday morning period on the timetable of this House that is deliberately set aside so that the party room meetings can happen and we can then make collective decisions on legislation.

There is only one reason why the government have decided that they want this legislation to be rushed through tonight—it's because they have decided to play the game. There is no other reason.

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

There is.

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

He's not the agriculture minister anymore; he's the minister for drought. He acknowledges that and says that there is a reason. Yes; the reason is politics. There's a giveaway. Every time the opening line of a government minister is, 'This will be a test for Labor,' and not, 'This will help farmers,' we know what you're on about. Every time the opening line from a minister of this government is, 'We're going to find out whose side Labor is on,' we know the objective has nothing to do with the people who are the subjects of the legislation. That of itself isn't necessarily an argument against the bill, but it is an argument against rushing the bill and it is an argument against demanding that members of this House vote on legislation without having had an opportunity to consider it.

We just had first speeches from members of parliament who are now in their second week of sittings. Saying that something was introduced in the last parliament doesn't give a whole lot of consolation to people who were not members of it—those on our side, on the crossbench and on the government benches as well. The public have a right to believe that members of parliament will at least have time to read what is in front of them. The public have a right to expect that the debate in this House will in some way be informed by the contents of the bill, not the report of the focus group. The public have a right to expect that the government will do more than, as the minister said, play the game—and that is what they're doing.

I want to remind every member of this House of the impact of this motion. People need to know that this is not a procedural motion in the sense of suspending the standing orders. Leave was given so the question is in fact in front of us. The motion I have moved does not suspend the standing orders. It is simply asking the government to adjourn the debate after the minister's speech and resume the debate tomorrow. There will be people who are concerned. Will this make a difference to the timing of any farmers receiving drought assistance? The answer is no. Will this make a difference to the timing of the Senate consideration of the bill? The answer is no. Will this make a difference to the proper order of the parliament and good process in this room? The answer is yes. The House would simply be resolving that that is what we are asking the government to do.

There is in nothing in this motion condemning the government and there is nothing in this motion that is in any way critical of the legislation, but just wait for the speeches from the other side as to why they are opposed to this motion. There will be nothing about process in it. There will be nothing there about proper consideration. They'll pretend that this means that Labor is somehow opposed to farmers receiving assistance, and that will be because they're still wanting to play the game.

There is a really simple principle at stake. Some people will say: 'Why don't you just roll over? Just put up with it and let the debate move on. Don't let the government attack you.' The reason is simple. We can't let the parliament degenerate to this, where pieces of legislation are brought in and immediately voted on even though there is no public policy reason for urgency beyond waiting till tomorrow. There is nothing in this motion that creates any difficulty for a single farmer. There is nothing in this motion that makes a tiny bit of difference to when the Senate will debate and consider this legislation. Certainly, they will say that it makes a difference as to whether the Senate will start on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. It certainly doesn't make any difference to when it will get to the Executive Council, which is the moment when it becomes law.

The only issue that is in front of us now is: are we going to allow the government to keep playing the game? Let's face it, this Prime Minister at the moment thinks that whenever he can put pressure on Labor, whenever he can play the game and whenever he can bash a political opponent about the head is a good day for him. I have to say that a day when you help farmers who are in trouble is a good day. A day when you deliver something to stop people having their wages stolen is a good day. A day when the parliament functions like an adult chamber is a good day.

I want the government members to note that we haven't come in here condemning them for what they have put on the Notice Paper. We are genuinely asking them to do on this legislation what we do on everything else. We are asking them to do this legislation in the way this parliament functioned last term, the term before that, the term before that and the term before that, all the way back to the time that it was recognised that most members of this House were members of parties. In that, I respect absolutely that there are different issues for Independents too in wanting to have time to consider the bill.

I ask members of the House, given that this motion will make no difference at all to the timing of drought assistance, to consider deeply whether or not we believe that it should become standard practice in this place for legislation to be rushed through without being read—because that's what's about to happen. We know that the bill that's going to be introduced is an amended bill. It is not the same bill that last went to the parliament. We know that it's amended. We also know that the last time they brought a bill in—the last time they did this—they never bothered to put it to the Senate for the vote.

We also know that, when the parliament last sat, they introduced 26 bills to the chamber that week. There were 26 bills, and this government said to the members of the House, 'We want you to go away during the break, consider these bills and come up with a position on them'. The different shadow ministers have been working through the bills that were introduced and making sure that we have finalised our position on each and every bill. We have been getting briefings from the departments to work through, clause by clause, the contents of the bills. We are always grateful to the assistants and the ministers who make sure that those briefings are available. That doesn't happen when you introduce a bill in this form and deny even a party room meeting where backbench members can ask the shadow minister who has been briefed about issues of concern that they have.

To the government, I say: think carefully about this one. From the government's perspective, they might think, 'Oh, wow. Here's a chance to put a bit of pressure on Labor and that will help us in a few newspapers tomorrow morning,' and they're probably right. But I remind the government: if the government decides that proper process in this House no longer matters, then don't come to the opposition asking us to assist with proper process. If it is the government's view that legislation that is not time sensitive between today and tomorrow afternoon is going to be rushed through, simply for the sport of preventing the Labor Party caucus from meeting and simply for the game of preventing members of this House from being properly informed, then don't think our response will only be with respect to one item of legislation and don't think our entire response is contained in the contents of the motion being moved right now.

If I haven't made it simple enough and if I haven't been blunt enough to the government members, let me put it in these terms: what has been put on the Notice Paper in the long term, in the medium term and in the short term is a really dumb idea. It is a tactic that I reckon will play well for the government in the media cycle for the next 24 hours on one particular issue. But government members should think of the number of times they come to the opposition seeking cooperation and the number of times leave is requested of the opposition for the proper workings of this parliament. They should bear in mind that the only thing that the opposition has requested in this resolution is that we continue the debate after the minister's second reading speech tomorrow. That's all we're asking for. Because it makes a fundamental difference to the processes of this House to the extent to which members of parliament are properly informed and the extent to which members of this House are responsibly voting. Because, first and foremost, beyond everything else, our constitutional responsibility in this place is as legislators. That's our job. We've got lots of other things we do as members of parliament, as advocates, as helping people with their problems but, constitutionally, first and foremost, our job is as legislators. And if this government wants to undermine that and thinks that there won't be a response, then government members are sorely mistaken.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business seconded?

5:05 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. If this motion moved by the member for Watson is not supported by the government then any doubt that people in this nation might've had about what the major driver of this government's third-term agenda is will ebb away entirely. And it's already ebbing away for farmers who are doing it tough in drought ravaged communities who saw the Prime Minister at the Bush Summit last week offer not one single new agenda item for them. For manufacturing businesses and workers, hundreds of thousands of workers, who are coming to grips with the most serious energy crisis to afflict this country since the mid-1970s, this is not an energy crisis caused by an internal shock as was the case in 1974; it is an energy policy caused by mismanagement of that policy area by this government. For households who are experiencing unprecedented wage stagnation, and plummeting consumer confidence and living standards, it is becoming increasingly clear what is driving this government.

This government is simply driven by the creation of conflict. It is simply driven by increasingly crude attempts to divide the nation, to divide this parliament, instead of helping us come together to deal with the very, very serious issues that are confronting Australia. All we have from this Prime Minister is a laser-like focus, to use the words of the last parliament, on partisan politics instead of the national interest. So it is with this latest crude, transparent attempt to ram this legislation through without any proper parliamentary process or the ability of the opposition in the longstanding customary way to hold a caucus meeting and consider the terms of the legislation. We're not asking for the usual convention, which is for a bill to be presented and then the subject of debate, perhaps, in the next week; we're simply asking for 24 hours so that the Labor Party caucus can come together tomorrow morning and consider this bill.

As the member for Watson made clear, this is not the same caucus that considered the bill earlier this year. This is a different caucus. The bill reflects the terms of amendments that were adopted by this House. It is not the same bill that was considered by a different Labor caucus earlier this year, and we are only asking for 24 hours. Now, just to give a sense of that being quite a significant concession by the opposition to the government, the former manager of parliamentary tactics for the coalition, the member for Sturt, said back in November 2012:

The convention has always been that a bill should be introduced and then debated the following sitting week, not the next day. Only in the rarest circumstances is the parliament required to have a bill introduced and then debated the next day.

The former member for Sturt saw a 24-hour period of consideration of a bill to be the rarest of circumstances. He didn't even acknowledge the possibility that a bill would be introduced and debated and dealt with by this chamber on the same day. This is just extraordinary. I challenge the minister in his response to this debate to point to another circumstance where a bill has been introduced, debated and dealt with on the same day without the ability of the opposition caucus, whether it's a coalition or Labor caucus, to consider the bill and come to a proper conclusion. As the member for Watson said: what is the rush?

This is a government that saw only one of these two bills pass the House and then just lie on the Senate table. They didn't even bring it on for a vote in the Senate, week after week, over the course of the earlier part of this year. And, as the member for Watson made clear, the bill itself—if passed, which presumably it will be—would see money able to be drawn down under its provisions on 1 July next year at the earliest, presumably funding projects that you wouldn't expect to see starting to feed into regional communities until calendar year 2021 at the earliest, you would have thought. That is the year after next. What on earth is the rush that would not allow this government to grant the opposition and crossbench members 24 hours to consider the terms of this bill?

Well, we know what the reason for the rush is. It is this Prime Minister's obsession with creating conflict, his obsession with seeking to divide this nation and to divide the parliament, instead of bringing us together to deal with issues of national interest. And that's all in spite of Labor's very strong record over recent years of supporting all the government's significant measures designed to deal with this terrible drought that is afflicting Australia—changes to the farm household allowance, increases to the farm asset threshold, and many more measures that were proposed by the government, considered in good faith by the shadow minister, who's joined us in the chamber, and supported by the Labor caucus.

So, we have a good record on this. And, as I said, in the ordinary course of events we'd have a shadow cabinet meeting tonight and a caucus meeting tomorrow morning and would be able to come into this chamber tomorrow and have a debate—24 hours notice between the introduction of the bill and debate. Even the former Manager of Government Business, the former member for Sturt, said it would be the rarest of circumstances to have only 24 hours. We are happy to have a proper debate about this bill. It is an important bill from the perspective of drought-ravaged communities and the perspective of Australia's infrastructure agenda. This is an important debate for this parliament to have, but it's proper that the debate happen after due consideration of the provisions of the bill by the opposition and frankly also by members of the caucus—consideration that would happen, as I calculate it, over the next 16 to 20 hours. What on earth is the rush?

But it is increasingly clear—and this is a very serious issue for this parliament and this nation—as this third-term government starts to frame its agenda for the next three years that this Prime Minister doesn't care about this parliament coming together to deal with the national interest. This Prime Minister cares only about fomenting division. He cares only about trying to create conflict and create some short-term political advantage for him and his political party as a result of that conflict. As the member for Watson said, even the minister—who I thought was better than this—has fallen into this trap that you're either with the government or against the government. Whatever the policy topic of the day is, clearly the talking points went out this morning from the Prime Minister's office and every minister—and I thought this minister was better than that—used the talking points. Whatever the issue is—insert issue—whose side are you on? Could you be any more juvenile than this? But that's what you get from a Prime Minister focused only on fomenting conflict.

The bigger issue here than just this bill—and this bill is a very important bill, for drought-affected communities and for Australia's infrastructure agenda—is that this is starting to frame every single approach by this government. As a result of simply trying to foment conflict, this government is able to distract from the really big issues facing this nation, and the complete lack of an agenda this government has particularly to deal with the deteriorating nature of our economy. As I said, in my portfolio area we have the most serious energy crisis afflicting this country since the mid-1970s. On my last count, the government is, since 2016, up to its 13th or 14th energy policy. And instead of trying to land something that will actually alleviate the position of households and businesses, all they can do is foment conflict.

There is no agenda by this government to deal with the fact that GDP per person in Australia has gone backwards for three quarters in a row. That hasn't happened since the early 1980s. Productivity growth is falling off a cliff. Wages have been stagnating for years. There is no plan by this government to deal with any of those serious economic issues and, as a result of their complete lack of an agenda to deal with the serious issues facing this country, all this Prime Minister can do is foment division, foment conflict.

We're not going to sit back and watch the longstanding processes and conventions of this parliament fall victim to a Prime Minister so focused on partisan politics—so focused on dividing this nation and dividing this parliament. We insist upon having 24 hours for our caucus to be able to consider this bill properly, come back to this parliament tomorrow and have a full debate about the implications of its provisions, to ensure that parliamentary process is followed with this bill and every other bill that this government seeks to introduce after it.

5:15 pm

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge those from the opposition who have spoken. This is about process. This is about process and—I acknowledge the member for Watson talking about us here being legislators—understanding the practical application of the legislation that we put in place. That's why it's time critical. The reality is we are putting in a process of integrity—and I have to acknowledge the former member for Indi for the amendments that she put forward in October that put greater integrity around what this Future Drought Fund Bill is about, to make sure that both Australians in the agriculture sector and Australian taxpayers have faith and confidence that the money, the $100 million a year that we'll be putting in place, has the integrity and structure around it in time to be delivered in July 2020. That's what we're doing.

We have to create a consultative committee, an independent one, that will go out and consult the community for a legislated period of 42 days. What a crazy idea that a government might go out and tell the people who are impacted and going to continue to be impacted by the drought that they are being listened to, and ask them that they come back with concepts and ideas for how this $100 million can be spent in a responsible way! We also have to get the Regional Investment Corporation in a position to give us the advice to be able to implement that by 2020. That's why it's not coming in till 2020. But we've got measures in the interim—$1.9 billion here and now—to keep them going. This is about making sure that this is there is a long-term and sustainable approach to drought support in this country. This is about us making sure we get this right. But we have to get it done by July 2020. We are running out of time.

Let me make this clear. While we in this place might pass this bill, we will then have to move it to the Senate, and we are unaware of how long it will take us to negotiate the passage of that bill through the Senate. Unfortunately, the track record of those opposite is not great, because in October last year they voted against this bill. They voted against it. So why would we not want to put this in train straightaway for me to be able to deliver it? Those opposite say, 'It's taking so long.' It's because of due process. It's about good governance. It is about good government. It's about consultation with those that we are going to impact. But let me say this: when those opposite talk about wanting to have a caucus meeting, I haven't been asked by the opposition—

Mr Burke interjecting

No, no, no—

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order!

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

If the member for Watson would let me finish, because this is an important one that he actually alluded to—that he'd like some time for the opposition spokesperson to be briefed. We haven't been asked. He never asked.

Mr Burke interjecting

He never asked. The legislation is, as in my last point, what we are doing. What the member for Watson doesn't understand is that we are incorporating the amendments from the former member for Indi that quite rightly put greater integrity into this. You saw the substantive motions of this bill in October and you voted against it. You came into this place and you politicised the misery of Australian farmers.

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

That's what you're doing now.

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

No, I'm about making sure that we get the bill through this place and into the other place, the Senate, as quickly as possible, because I do not have confidence around the passage of that bill through the Senate because of the actions of those opposite in October. We need as much time as we can possibly get, because it could go to a committee. We don't know what will happen in the Senate. And I don't have the days to play with anymore. This is about us making sure we get this through.

It was important, over the last couple of weeks, that we got this bill right and that we incorporated the amendments by the former member for Indi to make sure that they are truly reflective of what we are putting before this place. I have to acknowledge the former member for Indi for her leadership and maturity through this. She is truly a great Australian. She worked in a pragmatic way for an outcome for regional and rural Australia, and she was able to achieve it through good communication and cooperation. She deserves a lot of credit for what we are trying to put in place.

It is time critical for me to put in place these structures by the day, to be able to deliver by 2020, so that I don't have to walk into to this place and have those opposite condemn me for not having that bill passed and implemented by June 2020. That's why we sit here today making sure that we can put that through.

We're making sure that those opposite understand the bill. In October last year you had every opportunity to tell us what was wrong with it. You were able to go to your caucus. You did go to your caucus and you said no. You cannot deny it. Since then you have not asked for a briefing. In fact, I reached out to the Leader of the Opposition and I said did he want a briefing. This is what we are trying to do, because this is time critical.

I represent those people out there. My electorate has been in drought for eight years. This is above politics. This is about—

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

Don't start that, David. That's rubbish and you know it—

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, member for Hunter!

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

With all due respect to the member for Hunter—

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

The member for Hunter has finally found the courage to come out from under the rock that he has been hiding under for the last two years. It's funny that a near-death experience finally brings him out. There was not one question to me while I was ag minister, even about the drought. And now you sit here not even asking me for a briefing. Let's be honest about this. This is about us delivering what we promised. This is about us making sure that we put in place a sustainable drought policy that will support Australian farming families.

This isn't about what those opposite said when we put this up. They said, 'Let's just appropriate the money'. Let me tell you what happens when you just appropriate the money. A couple of years down the track what happens is you will find a Treasurer who says, 'We're a bit short this year. Instead of $100 million we're only going to put in $25 million.' What we are doing is we are legislating the $100 million, protecting it for Australian farming families in climate risk management. In extension, to be able to give farmers the tools and understanding to be able to go out and use those, to be able to work through a change in climate as we have, to complement the $1.1 billion that farmers and the government are putting into research and development. Farmers are ahead of the game in terms of climate adaptation. We're proud of it. There is more to do. This underpins the agricultural sector but it also underpins regional communities.

Let me tell you, it's not just farmers who hurt; it's also the small businesses in those communities who hurt. The bricks and mortar down the main street of Longreach or Colac are fighting to be able to keep their employees. This is about making sure that we have a sustainable approach and that we have a centrepiece for a drought policy. For the first time in our nation's history we're showing leadership. That's what this is about but it's time critical.

I don't know what's going to happen in the other place and it's important that every day counts. Unless we can get this through, I can't guarantee that I'll be able to deliver by June 2020. That's why it's important to me that we get this through, and that's why it's important to those regional communities out there, who we respect. It's important to Australian farming families that for once the drought policy in this country is supported by both sides.

5:24 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I was there in Dubbo last Thursday at the Bush Summit convened by The Daily Telegraph. I was there talking with farmers, reaching across the aisle to try and get agreement for something that should be above politics.

What we've seen with this quite extraordinary reaction by the government is an attempt to play politics, not just on the policy outcomes but now on the procedures as well. I've been in this place for 23 years. I can't recall any time in which a government had a sitting week—just a couple of weeks ago—where they introduced some 26 bills into the House of Representatives and then a couple of weeks later they said, 'We need to introduce legislation on Monday and have a debate and conclusion of that on that very day.' The reason those processes exist is to get good governance, to get good outcomes and to enable appropriate processes, including caucus processes, to take place. It's about respect, it's about a bit of decency for those processes, and the government is trashing it. It's trashing it so that it can try and play a little wedge game about drought. That's why it's doing it. The minister knows it's wrong. This minister, the Leader of the House, might know it's wrong—I'm not sure—but the minister knows it's wrong. I'll tell you why it's wrong also on policy outcomes. When the legislation was debated in the House of Representatives, the truth is that it was improved by proper processes. There was greater accountability put around the scheme that was originally proposed—good governance. Amendments worked out by the cross-benchers with the opposition—eventually, reluctantly, agreed to by the government—led to a better outcome. That's a good thing. That's why we have proper processes: you get better outcomes. You would on this issue as well.

The problem with measures like this is that what goes around comes around and bad behaviour creates other bad behaviour. We formerly had a member here who lost his seat to the member for Warringah at the last election, in part because of a perception amongst people in his own constituency about negative politics and just saying no to everything. Don't tell me, like the Prime Minister did today, about oppositional politics, because I went to that drought summit and I offered to support any level of funding under the system designed, now by this legislation, and put up by the government and to put it straight through the parliament, with proper processes. That was just last Thursday. The Prime Minister, before the Bush Summit, gave no notice that he was going to make that request of me. It was not one-on-one, when we were having a chat beforehand, but from the lectern. That is how that was done. That's okay. I'll cop that. It's the right of someone who's the Prime Minister of the country to occasionally play those cards. I responded. I didn't complain about that process; I responded. Then there was a briefing to TheDaily Telegraph and others the next day that somehow we were opposed to drought funding. We had said precisely the opposite—that we not only supported it but would support it at any level the government wanted.

What's the difference in terms of the impact on the budget of abolishing the Building Australia Fund in order to fund this drought fund? There is zero fiscal difference because the Building Australia Fund only has an impact on the budget bottom line when it's expended. At the moment, it's just there. There's no difference to the fiscal position of the government whatsoever, which is why this is so dishonest. Just like when the government put forward legislation seeking to abolish the Building Australia Fund in order to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, it's just a ruse to avoid having the Building Australia Fund, which is an essential component of Infrastructure Australia. Infrastructure Australia was microeconomic reform that made a difference. It was reform allegedly supported by both sides, after they opposed it when it was passed in 2008.

The whole model was that Infrastructure Australia would make assessments of projects, including water infrastructure projects, and prioritise them and then governments would fund them through the Building Australia Fund. That's the model, to increase transparency, to stop people just saying, 'Well, I want to fund this because it's in a marginal seat.' Because of that rigour, there were projects like the Pacific Highway, $1.3 billion under the Howard government, $7.6 billion—under half the time—under the Rudd and Gillard governments. You know what? The Pacific Highway didn't run through a single electorate or voter who had a Labor member of the House of Representatives. The Nats did nothing about it. They were in safe National Party seats so they didn't worry about it. They didn't worry about Cowper or Lyne. It took a Labor government to fix it.

The Hunter Expressway is funded in the member for Hunter's electorate. I'll tell you the difference it makes to people in the agricultural sector. If you're a banana grower in the mid-North Coast you need to get your products to market. Road projects that involve freight, whether in the Hunter Valley connecting up with the New England Highway or the Pacific Highway, stack up. What you're saying, in doing this, is, 'Because it was a Labor government initiative, we will just seek to get rid of it.' It's out of—I'm not quite sure what the motivation is. You may as well get rid of Infrastructure Australia. There's no point in having an independent advisory body to the government on which projects to fund, if you haven't got a funding mechanism for it.

That's why this is bad policy. It's just like you tried to say, 'If you don't support abolishing the BAF you don't support people with disabilities.' Now you're saying, 'If you don't support abolishing the BAF you don't support people in need of drought funding.' Neither of them are true. We have supported people with disabilities and supported the NDIS, but this is just a farce. To go through this process of playing politics just shows that this is a government without an agenda. You don't have an agenda, so you seek to come in here and—your backgrounding to journalists is the giveaway— seek to wedge Labor: 'We're going to make it a test for Labor.'

I'll tell you what, to those opposite: the test is on you. You just got elected for your third term in office. You'd better get an agenda that's a bit bigger than, 'We're going to sit down and work out ways to wedge Labor,' because it won't be good enough. They'll be onto you, because that is all you're on about at the moment. All of the legislation before the parliament this week is about trying to play political games. Here's an idea for you: why don't you just try and govern properly? There's an idea. Just govern. Do what the people want you to do.

Now you say this is urgent. It doesn't begin funding—$100 million; forget $5 billion. That's the other trick, these ridiculous figures. It's $100 million next July and $100 million the year after. That is all that will happen this term: $200 million. We're prepared to back that but we think you should do more. Bring it forward. Have a proper debate. Get some outcomes instead of some arguments.

5:34 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the question be now put.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be put.

The question now is that the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business be agreed to.

5:54 pm

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask leave of the House to present a bill for an act to establish the Future Drought Fund and for other purposes.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is leave granted? Leave is not granted.

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent:

(a) the introduction immediately of a Bill for an Act to establish the Future Drought Fund, and for other purposes, to be followed by the introduction of a Bill for an Act to deal with consequential matters arising from the enactment of the Future Drought Fund Act 2019, and for other purposes, with a cognate debate to occur, and passage of both Bills through all stages today, without delay at any stage; and

(b) any variation to this arrangement to be made only by a motion to be moved by a Minister.

5:56 pm

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

The government's proceeding right now to do something really dumb and they're trying to do something really dumb because the Prime Minister's decided that he wants a fight rather than an outcome. All that this House is asking for is a chance to be able to read legislation before we vote on it. All that this House is asking for is the opportunity—and, look, he wanders off now; let's not forget this is the same Prime Minister who's done it before. He's got form on this. Those of you who've been here for a couple of terms remember this Prime Minister coming in here with Treasury bills when there weren't enough copies here, when nobody knew what they were voting on and it was all meant to go through that night. He'd struck a deal with the Senate and he cared about his negotiation in the Senate but treated every member of this House with absolute contempt, and that's what's happening right now.

Right now the suspension of standing orders that's been put in front is one which the government cannot carry on their own numbers, so I say to the crossbench: think about this seriously. Because if you want your vote to be treated with contempt, you've got the opportunity to be treated with contempt because that's what this government is doing with this motion right now.

Most people when they come to this place have some view and have been involved in discussions beforehand.

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

You want to shut down this, too, do you? You don't want any debate.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I call the Leader of the House.

5:57 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the question be now put.

A division having been called and the bells being rung—

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

A point of order: I have received from the clerks a copy of the motion that is before the House. It is different to what the Leader of the House read out.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I will say to the Manager of Opposition Business—

Mr Hunt interjecting

The Minister for Health is not helping. I'm trying to rule on the issue. The minister has moved the motion. Obviously I wasn't here to hear every single word, but I think the overriding point is it was without notice.

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

I presume, any moment, the doors will lock. The only way members have of knowing what they are voting on is by virtue of what the minister read out. The minister did not read out the whole motion. I have a written copy of the motion from the clerks. We are deciding a question now that has not in any way been said out loud to the parliament. If I may, I've already put the objections to the whole process tonight about the fact that we still don't have a copy of the bill that we're about to vote on, but—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Pause for a second. The time has lapsed, so I ask for the doors to be locked and will continue to hear from the Manager of Opposition Business.

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

I'm working on the basis that, first of all, when a motion has to be provided in writing, it has to be the same as what was said out loud. I'm also working on the basis that, right now, members of parliament are not allowed to move because the doors have locked. The minister did not tell anyone that he was moving that the whole debate would be limited to 25 minutes. He did not tell anyone that there would be shortened speaking times within those 25 minutes, and yet that is the question that is now before the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

It won't be any surprise to anyone that I have copies of everything that's before me. That section that he's referring to is never read out. It's not. I'm going to solve this very quickly. I realise that there are lots of arguments—and I think there will be no shortage of arguments tonight—but I'm going to make a prediction. If the Manager of Opposition Business has such a problem with the fact that, as I understand it—and you correct me if I'm wrong—the minister read out the section 'I move' and read out all of (a) and all of (b) but he didn't read out the time limits, one, it was without notice. If your point is you're concerned members didn't know that and they're about to vote, all right, I'll ask the minister to read out those time limits and, if necessary, if members want to shift, they can say that to me now.

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

This is a point of order: can I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that what you are then saying is, for them to shift, they'd be doing so in the middle of a division while the doors were locked.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

No, I'd order the doors opened.

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

If that's the case, why can't the minister just move the whole motion again and we ring the bells again? That's what the standing orders would require.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't agree that's the case. I don't agree that time limits—I'll read them out now. The time limits are: whole of the debate, 25 minutes; mover, 10 minutes; seconder, if any, five minutes; member next speaking, 10 minutes; any other member, five minutes. And it's on the motion that's there. It's on the motion.

Government members interjecting

I don't need interjections on my right either. So this is on the motion, not on the bill. This is standard—

Honourable members interjecting

Hang on. Members interjecting might make themselves feel better, but they don't move this forward. That is standard operating procedure. It's been moved without notice. I've now read it out. The Manager of Opposition Business has taken a point of order in the appropriate way from the appropriate place. If anyone wishes to take a point of order to say that changes their decision, they can do so now. All right. The time for points of order has concluded. The question is—yes, the member for Indi?

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

No, you've got to sit down.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Could I say to the member for Mayo: it is not your role to tell anyone to stand or sit down.

An honourable member interjecting

No, and I've made my point. I don't need an explanation. I'm going to move forward with this. So let's be clear where we are: the question is that the Manager of Opposition Business be no further heard. That's the question. The member for Mayo on a point of order?

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, the crossbench would like to see the motion.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The motion is at the table. The crossbench can always approach the clerks if they wish to. But the way procedure sometimes works is—the closure has been moved. I'll try and be as simple as I can. There is nothing happening now that doesn't happen all the time, and I'm happy to take that up with the member for Indi afterwards. Just so there's no misunderstanding, we're referring to the motion. The question that members are voting on is that the question be put; that's what members are voting on. If that question is carried, the question will then be on the motion moved by the minister, not on the bill. And if that is carried the minister will be able to introduce the bill.

The question now is that the motion moved by the minister be agreed to.