Thursday, 5 December 2019
Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019; Second Reading
The Leader of the House has moved that the question be put. All those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. Division required? Ring the bells for one minute.
A division having been called and the bells being rung—
Honourable members interjecting—
Members on both sides! Member for McMahon, there is still time for me to invoke standing order 94(a).
A division having been called and the bells having been rung—
Mr Hill interjecting—
The member for Bruce will not have his argument through me. I need to try and maintain order.
Opposition members interjecting—
Members on my left! The member for Bruce will contain himself.
The member for Bruce will cease interjecting. I'm going to respond to the Leader of the Opposition. I can only administer the rules as they are. I appreciate members have strong feelings on the matter, but there is no point in the member for Bruce shouting at me to try and get a legislative outcome. He well knows I'm the umpire. I have the rules. The rules are there. The House has agreed to them. The Leader of the House is acting within the rules. I understand the passions of those on my left, but shrieking at me in an uncontrollable fashion, asking me to do something, is patently absurd. You are asking me to break the rules. I can operate only within the rules that are there. The Leader of the Opposition, on a point of order?
Yes, Mr Speaker. I respect the views that you have put, and they are correct, and you are not responsible for this. However, this very institution exists so that people will have a voice.
Mr Porter interjecting—
This parliament exists, and democracy exists, so that people will have a voice—not just majority voices, but the people, such as those who voted to send people to this chamber, representing Grayndler or Watson or Brand, get a voice, as well as the crossbenchers. This is not a totalitarian state.
Opposition members: It's getting very close.
It's getting very close, and this undermining of democracy in this chamber by this government is unprecedented.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker, referring to the comments that you made from the chair earlier: your role and your office, we respect, as it says in Practice, as 'an essential feature of the parliamentary system'. We don't have a parliamentary system if there is no debate, by definition, and the normal mechanisms that you would have, as the chair, to throw people out, are actually irrelevant if they're not allowed to make speeches anyway. The precedent that is happening now is not a debate management motion but a complete silencing of anything other than the government voice. There is no precedent in the Menzies government. There is no precedent in the Howard government. What is happening right now is a change in the role of this House as to whether it is a parliamentary debating chamber or whether it is here only for the voice of the Prime Minister and his chosen ministers.
As I've said to both the Leader of the Opposition—indeed, to all members of the House—and as they've acknowledged, I can operate only within the standing orders, and the Leader of the House is operating within the standing orders. I understand the frustration of members on my left, but to ask me to act in any other way—of course, I cannot do.
Point of order: we are being asked now to vote to put legislation which I don't have. There are no copies anywhere. I haven't seen it. How can we possibly do that? Is it within standing orders for us to be voting on legislation—I don't know what it is, substantial or not. There has been no second reading amendment. There is no speech from the government today. Is it appropriate for us to be voting on this without having copies of it?
As I said yesterday—
Ms Catherine King interjecting—
Member for Ballarat, do you wish me to address the point of order from the Leader of the Opposition? I addressed this issue yesterday, and what is required is that there are sufficient copies of the legislation. That is always done. As I also said, it's never been the practice or the convention of the House that there are enough copies at a given point in time for every member. Indeed, as I said yesterday, if members want to have a very strict ruling on that, I'd be compelled to have strict rulings on all sorts of other matters, including how questions are asked. So it's been the convention of this House that we're governed by the standing orders and the Practice.
You've raised your point of order. I'm consulting. I'm advised now that there aren't copies there. What I said yesterday was that there needed to be sufficient copies of the legislation, not enough for 150 people but that they be there and they be replenished. It is the case—and I urge members to hear me out on this point—that, on occasion, Speakers have said it's sufficient that there are copies on the APH website. I myself, whilst I have made that point, haven't been comfortable with that, because I don't think that it's sufficient when you're in a debate to be looking at legislation on a phone or a tablet. So what I am going to rule is: there need to be copies there. I thought the copies that were there were the copies of the legislation. The Manager of Opposition Business.
Given that the motion before us right now is that the question be put and, if that is carried, the House will be compelled to immediately vote on the second reading of a bill which is not present in the chamber, I think we are now in the situation, given the ruling you've just given, where the House cannot proceed. If we resolve that a question be put and under standing orders it can't be, then I don't see how we can go forward without the House adjourning for a period.
I just say to the Manager of Opposition Business: I've got no intention of suspending the sitting. I've now been advised there were some copies on the table. I'm going to be very practical and note—can we be straightforward about it? I'm trying to be as clear as I can. I said yesterday I thought there needed to be sufficient copies and they be replenished. I was advised there were some but they've been taken. I'm not going to proceed further until there are more copies. Now, the difficulty we have is we're in a division and the doors are locked. That's the position we have.
But the additional problem is the motion that's before us allows no time, if it's carried, for those copies to be then spread around the chamber, where people are meant to be immediately casting a decision on this bill.
I'm just going to reflect on that point.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
Honourable members interjecting—
No, I'm sorry, that was my error. That was my error. We're in a situation where the doors are locked. The division hasn't been reported yet. As Speaker, what I require is that there be copies of the legislation there. So, in order to proceed, that needs to be facilitated in some way.
The Minister for Home Affairs is warned. In a point of order from the Leader of the House, I'm not going to have the Minister for Home Affairs barking at me in the way the member for Bruce was. This is obviously a matter of contention. I have received updated advice that 60 copies had obviously been provided when the bill was before the House yesterday, and another 10 this morning. That's what I'm being advised. They were here in the House.
Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting—
No. You can say you haven't got one. That doesn't mean they weren't here, member for Gorton.
I'm in the hands of the House. As you can see, I'm trying to find a resolution to this problem. I'm not seeking that the government not act within the standing orders. I'm not doing that at all. We've spent a lot of time on this now and, obviously, the government is seeking to move quickly. I think it's reasonable there be copies of the legislation here, notwithstanding the motions that have been moved. That's what I think. I don't think it's satisfactory to proceed with a bill when there are no copies here. That's my view. The Leader of the House, on a point of order?
I think that's what we require, because we're in a division. Given the point of order from the Leader of the House, we can do one of two things. The important thing is we get the copies of the legislation in here. The Leader of the House has suggested that the House suspend for 15 minutes, and it's within my power to do that. What we should do is call the division off first. But, while those copies are being obtained—it might be 15 minutes or it might be shorter, as they might be out there, I'm not sure—rather than suspending, I just put it to the House that once the division is called off we could go back to the bill that was there—
Honourable members interjecting—
You don't wish to do that? Okay. In that case, we'll call the division off. Given the area we're in with standing orders and Practice, I'll put that as a motion. All those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no. The division is off. The doors can be opened. It being 12.30 pm, the sitting is suspended until the ringing of the bells.
Sitting suspended from 12:30 to 13:01
I just say to members, obviously, the clerks, the attendants—everyone was in a difficult position because the points of order that were made, with respect to the number of copies of the bill, were made during the division, which meant no-one could move, as the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out when the Leader of the House was coming to speak to me, at my request. I have been able to ascertain some facts. I realise that emotions are running high. I can report, notwithstanding the view—and it seemed a very passionate view—that there were no bills present, that wasn't correct, and I have checked. There were bills present. I'm not going to have an argument about this, because I'm not going to—
Government members interjecting—
Those interjecting on my right are not helping. I am just going to work on the basis that that was a genuine belief. Anything else on the matter doesn't matter, because there were, prior to the ringing of the bells, I think, 25 or 22 copies. Some had been taken while the bells were ringing. I've seen that myself, and now I'm going to ask the Serjeant to bring in, I think, about another 40 or 50 copies. I am just going to make clear: that is more than is the case on every other occasion, and there are more being printed now. They will continue to come forward. That is all I can do. I'm not going to entertain any debate on the matter, on that subject, any further. We now can proceed with where we were, and I will again put the question that the motion be put.