Tuesday, 16 June 2020
We might be able to deal with this quickly. I just want to confirm from the minister at the table: at whose request has the postponement been moved? It might be the Leader of the House; I'm just asking him. It has to be moved at someone's request, and I'm asking at whose request the postponement has been moved.
Honourable members interjecting—
I agree it can be done at the request of another minister, and we've just been told it's at the request of the assistant minister, but it's postponing a notice of motion that is not from the assistant minister, so this is postponing other business. That can only be done by the relevant minister or at the request of the relevant minister. We've just heard from the minister at the table that he's postponing a notice of motion at the request of someone else. Standing order 113 doesn't allow that.
I'm just going to disagree with the Manager of Opposition Business. I can see where he's trying to come from. I refer him to 110(b), which is:
… change the day proposed for moving the motion to a later day by notifying the Clerk in writing before the motion is called on; or notifying the Clerk in writing before the motion is called on …
Opposition members interjecting—
Members on my left, I'm now going to refer to the Practice page.
Mr Robert interjecting—
The Minister for Government Services is warned. I'm not going to have rolling interjections, particularly pointless ones, can I say, from both sides, when the Manager of Opposition Business is asking me to rule on an important point of procedure. The Practice makes it clear on page 257 and it states:
The practice of the House is that one Minister may act for another and, accordingly, a Minister may move the postponement of a notice given by another Minister.
An order of the day may be postponed on motion without notice moved by the Member in charge of the order or, in the Member's absence, by another Member at the Member's request.
I can go on. I'm happy to hear from the Leader of the House or the Manager of Opposition Business on that point.
Both the section that you refer to and the standing orders have it that the postponement has to be moved at the request of the member. What we hear here from the member of the executive at the table is he has the request of the minister whose legislation he wants to bring on but he doesn't have the request of the motion on the Notice Paper for what he wants to postpone. What you just read is about the postponement.
Okay. Just before I call the Leader of the House, I'll say that standing order 112 makes it very clear when it states 'the order in which motions are called on is the order in which they appear on the Notice Paper', so that's why we're dealing with that now. A member who gave notice of a motion may move its postponement without notice. Let me just try and save time—although I suspect I may not necessarily be successful—essentially, the point the Manager of Opposition Business is making is that the assistant minister named the wrong minister. Is that essentially the point?
No. My point is—I work on the basis that the assistant minister told the truth to the House as to which minister had made the request. And, if that's the case, then the motion can't be put before the House, because the request has to come from the minister whose motion is being postponed. So I believe the assistant minister absolutely gave accurate information to the House. It just means, if that's the case, he can't move it.
I don't know whether the Manager of Opposition Business asked the question in the specific terms as to who asked for the postponement. He spoke to the motion. As I understand it, the Assistant Treasurer is asking for his bill to come on. The communications minister has asked for his bill to be postponed.
We've just heard from the Leader of the House that, in his opinion, the communications minister has made that request. The assistant minister has already advised the House that the person who made the request was—
Members on my right, I will eject you under 94(a). Those that aren't party to this are not going to try and involve themselves in the debate by interjecting. They're really not. Yes, just so that I'm absolutely being clear, that includes the Deputy Prime Minister. If members wish to raise a point of order, they're welcome to. The Leader of the House is now doing that on behalf of the government. The Manager of Opposition Business.
We were told it was at the request of the Assistant Treasurer. The Assistant Treasurer is not the person who has a motion on the Notice Paper that is being asked to be postponed. The Leader of the House has now raised the minister for communications, but that's not who we were told the request came from. The request has to come—and the standing orders and Practice are specific that it has to be at the request—which is why, had the answer from the assistant minister been that the request was from the minister for communications, I would have had no point of order to object on.
I've got no objection to it being done the proper way, but at the moment what's happening is we have something that has been put before the House which has not been requested of that individual by the minister for communications.
He can move it, which is what the standing orders presume—if someone's postponing something that they've bothered to put on the Notice Paper, that they would bother to have the courage to actually put the arguments before the House as to why something that last night they thought should go on the Notice Paper today they think should be taken off.
He could have easily done that and saved the confusion. But the postponement is being requested by the minister for communications, and the intervening bill is being requested by the Assistant Treasurer.
Before I call the minister for communications, I'm going to make two points. I allowed the Manager of Opposition Business to essentially ask a question of the assistant minister which has led us down this alleyway that we're going to need to reverse out of. It is the established convention that ministers act on behalf of other ministers. That is the established convention and that goes back a long way. Given where we are now, we can look at the technicalities, but all that really matters is that what's being moved is really being moved on behalf of, and with the consent of, the minister concerned. Given he's here, I'm prepared to hear from him. The minister for communications.
Mr Speaker, I'm somewhat surprised that the point needs to be made express, given it is entirely in accordance with the normal practice of the House. But, if it assists the House, I can absolutely confirm that I have requested that this motion be postponed.
Minister, I think it's probably easier if we say that it is therefore so moved. So the question is that the motion moved by the minister for communications be agreed to. That's the question that's before the House.
An honourable member: Is someone speaking to it?
I don't prompt people to speak.
An honourable member interjecting—
Very generous of you, I think! I think he's moved his motion. The Manager of Opposition Business.
Mr Speaker, I move, as an amendment to the motion before the House:
That the words 'to a later hour this day' be deleted and the words 'until 7 pm this day' be inserted in their place.
This amendment would allow the government to still deal with the bill that they want to deal with, but would make sure that this House voted on the Australia Post cuts. Only last night, the minister for communications decided this was important enough that he was going to put it on the Notice Paper. I invite the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business to second the motion.
I'm not going to call the seconder. We're getting into a very technical area. The same page of Practicethat I read from earlier states:
A private Member—
who is not a minister—
cannot move to vary the order of government business in the House—
that's what I mean—
nor can he or she move an amendment to a postponement motion—
It would have that effect, so I need to rule that motion out of order.
Mr Dutton interjecting—
I'm ruling that motion out of order, unless the Minister for Home Affairs wants me to rule it in order. I'm ruling the motion out of order; it can't be moved. The member for Hindmarsh.
On the actual motion? Yes, sure. The amendment is out of order. The question is that the motion moved by the minister for communications be agreed to. The member for Hindmarsh. The member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. The assistant minister.
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the private Members' business notice relating to the disallowance of the Australian Postal Corporation (Performance Standards) Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2020 standing in the name of the Member for Grayndler being called on immediately and given priority over all other business for final determination of the House.
The fact is that this change, which will scale back services and will mean that people will only be able to get basic letter services on two days a week, is a disgrace. There has been no proper public debate on this. With the cover of the pandemic, what they are doing is saying to older and vulnerable Australians, 'We will rip up the community service obligations'—