Thursday, 5 December 2019
The Leader of the House has moved that the motion be put—
Honourable members interjecting—
Members on both sides, for the benefit of all members I need to actually state what has happened, because they don't always hear when there is the level of interjecting we have had. The Leader of the House has moved that the motion be put. The Leader of the Opposition, on a point of order.
I refer to page 529 of House of Representatives Practice, 'Closure of member'. It says:
With the exceptions stated below, any Member may move at any time that a Member who is speaking 'be no longer heard' and the question must be put immediately and resolved without amendment or debate.
It goes on to say:
The standing order was introduced at a time when there were no time limits on speeches and, in moving for its adoption, Prime Minister Deakin said—
Mr Sukkar interjecting—
Members on my right!
Government members interjecting—
Members on my right will cease interjecting or they won't be here for what I suspect are impending divisions. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to raise a point of order, I'm entitled to hear it and I'm going to hear it.
It goes on to quote Prime Minister Deakin, on introducing it. He said:
The … new standing order need rarely, if ever, be used for party purposes, and never, I trust, will its application be dictated by partisan motives.
Mr Speaker, if you read House of Reps Practice, pages 529 and 530, which I'm sure you will, it provides—
I'm sure you have. I'm sure you've read every single word on every page, Mr Speaker, and that shows. It clearly provides scope for the Speaker, in my view, to determine whether the use of this particular method is designed purely to shut down essentially democratic debate in this chamber. It is my view that the government is using this provision to shut down democratic debate in this parliament, and it's an abuse of our democratic processes.
I think the Leader of the Opposition has raised his point, and I would like to address it. Like me, he's a keen student of the Practice. I know most of you read other books at night, but I certainly read the Practice. I have read that section, and it was of interest to me. It caused me to request the Hansard of that period that's footnoted there, and there are two things there.
What the Leader of the Opposition said is accurate from the Practice. That was certainly Prime Minister Deakin's expectation when the standing orders were introduced, and two things happened, according to my memory of reading the Hansard. One was that he said that; the other is that they did introduce time limits as well. They were more significant time limits than we have today and he did make that point. But the point I need to make as Speaker is it turned out that he wasn't right about that and those who opposed him at the time did predict that, if you look at the Hansard. It's been the practice of this House for questions like 'the motion be put' in this way for a long, long period of time. So, whilst I appreciate the historical point the Leader of the Opposition is making, and that he has certainly read all of that, the practice of Speakers hasn't been to go back a century and then rule in a way that might have been preferred back then. Ultimately, these questions are matters for the House and they're a matter for a vote. My duty is to put that question, so that's what I'm going to proceed to do.
The question is that the question be now put.