Monday, 26 October 2020
Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (General) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Customs) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Excise) Bill 2020; Third Reading
I ask leave of the House to move the third reading immediately.
Leave not granted.
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the motion for the third reading being moved without delay.
The standing orders presume that we deal with the third reading on the following day. That's why you have to suspend standing orders to do it otherwise. Ordinarily, governments prefer to be able to get something through on the same day and so they seek leave, and cooperation is ordinarily given. But you've got to say two things. First: why does it have to go through today? When it finishes here it goes to the Senate, and the Senate is not sitting. Why is the Senate not sitting? There's a thing called Senate estimates! If you get on your TV and start moving through the channels—don't spend your whole time on Sky News—you will find there are all these committees called estimates. They're meeting at the moment, and that's why this motion shouldn't be agreed to. We should go through this in the ordinary way. We should deal with this in the normal way, which standing orders presume.
What those opposite have to understand is that so much of this building relies on cooperation, so much of the way parliament works relies on cooperation. If this bill were urgent, if whether we dealt with it today or tomorrow made a difference to how quickly this could be implemented, then I would not be arguing this at all, because there would be a difference in the real world. The only difference here is to the convenience of the government, and we're all a bit sick of everything being about the convenience of this government. There is an obligation, when people get elected to a parliament, for the parliament to function as a parliament, for the parliament to function as a place where ideas are debated and different points of view are heard. If you want cooperation to make life convenient for the government then you need to behave like one and allow the parliament to act like a parliament.
The last time we had environmental law dealt with in this chamber, everything was bulldozed through. I was on the list to speak. I'm a former environment minister; I had something to contribute to that debate. Members of the crossbench had amendments to move. But the legislation was steamrolled through. What was the urgency? It was sent to the Senate, and since it got there they haven't done a thing with it. The simple obligation and demand that this government had was that they wanted make sure that there would be no scrutiny in the chamber. They wanted to make sure that there would be no debate in the chamber. You behave that way and then turn up and say, 'Oh, can we have leave so that everything's more convenient?' No. No, you can't. Because a whole lot of members of the government—not all of them, but a whole lot of them—have gone through life where everything was about them. They have gone through life where they expect that the whole world is there to serve them and their privilege, and they then expect to be able to treat other members of parliament with such contempt that they will not allow them to speak on legislation of substance, where they will never accept an invitation for a debate from the Leader of the Opposition. They behave that way, and then the moment there's something for their convenience they'll ask for leave and they reckon they'll get it.
This won't be hugely inconvenient for those opposite. It's going to mean that, whatever meetings the ministers are having, they're going to have to wander down to the chamber for a non-controversial bill. It's all a bit silly that people will have to do that, but what else do we have to push back with? Because this chamber is being treated with contempt, and that matters. It does matter as to whether or not debate is allowed in this chamber, and if this is all we've got to push back on, then we will. Because this term those opposite have voted more times that the member be no further heard than they have voted in support of legislation. That is the major parliamentary contribution for those opposite this term. No other term has ever been like this. I know that some of the newer members have been told this spin of: 'The moment for the opposition to talk is the MPI. That's their debate, and everything else belongs to the government.'
Well, sorry, since Federation that's not how this place has worked. Even on the day of the Dismissal there was a suspension moved and it was accepted. When leave was sought for a debate, it was accepted. Even in the bitterness of that, the parliament was allowed to function. And I've got to say, if they were secret ballots I reckon we would have had a few more debates, from the number of corridor conversations people have had. Because some of us—and I dare say a majority of us; in fact, possibly everybody in the room now—believe it's okay for there to be debate in this chamber. They have enough belief in their own convictions to hold their own in those debates, and they're happy to bring the argument on.
But we have a Prime Minister of a different view. We have a Prime Minister with a glass jaw who is not willing to engage in debate. He's certainly not willing to engage in debate publicly on the floor of the chamber, and, from what I understand, not that happy when debate comes to him in private meetings either. That is the way Australia is run right now, and if the only chance we have to push back on that is procedurally, if that's all we've got between now and the next election, then, when leave is sought, it will be denied. When a suspension is moved like this, it'll be opposed.
Think of the radical nature of what Labor is asking for at this moment: we're asking that parliament be allowed to have debates. That's what we're asking for. We're asking that, when someone starts to speak, they will be allowed—as I have been allowed right now—to use their time. It might be persuasive for some—I reckon it's not that persuasive for some very close to me across there.
A government member interjecting—
I reckon I'm winning here. And welcome back to the chamber—you got booted earlier—but welcome back. The fact of that debate matters. Think of it in these terms: there are some countries around the world where the opposition is not allowed to speak when they have their meetings. Do we really want to be on that list of countries? John Howard never had us on that list of countries, Malcolm Turnbull never had us on that list of countries. Tony Abbott never had us on that list of countries. We had lots of issues with each of those people at different points, but none of them did this. None of them did what has happened this term, where there has been not one occasion when a debate which has been invited and requested from the Leader of the Opposition has been accepted—not one. And then there's this on legislation on issues as important as the environment. Remember the number of dixers we had about the ensuring integrity bill and how important and urgent we were told that that was? You were a supporter of thugs if you were going to oppose that bill, we were told. What then happened? The first thing that happened was it got pushed through when the only person who spoke on it in this chamber was the minister himself. Then, having sent it to the Senate, they did nothing with it and now it's gone. So the argument that they never heard apparently ended up winning. But we had a right for that debate to take place on the floor of the parliament.
When those who come here were first elected, they would have imagined making a contribution and that their contribution would come to some pretty core values for everybody here. I'm yet to find anyone who doesn't arrive here for the right motivations. For some people, by the time they leave, their motivations aren't that great. But I think most people—everyone I've known—when they arrive here arrive with the right motivations. To then put the backbench of the government in the situation where they have voted more times to shut down debate than for legislation is an absurd circumstance. It's something that shouldn't be happening. It's only happening because of the glass jaw of one man. At some point, some of those opposite are going to have to talk to him.
The one thing you can say about some of the Liberal Party's heroes—people like Robert Menzies and John Howard—is that they loved this place. They loved its debates, they loved its standing orders, they loved the cut and thrust of question time and they loved the opportunity to have their ideas tested. But that's not what's happened to the modern Liberal Party. The modern Liberal Party of Australia don't love democracy, don't love debate and don't want to have their ideas tested. They want this parliament to be their own personal rubber stamp. That's why they don't allow the Leader of the Opposition to have his say on issues of utmost importance to the Australian people.
On Friday, I was sitting in the House of Representatives economics committee expecting a regular briefing from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission when Commissioner Shipton opened up by saying that he was going to step down while an inquiry was held into $69,000 of relocation allowances paid to Daniel Crennan and $118,000 paid for his tax bill, which had to do with what was euphemistically called the 'optimisation' of his tax bill.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy President, I will let the member gather his thoughts, but he has been going for one minute and 30 seconds and the question is why standing orders must not be suspended and he must go to the question.
The standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital that Australia hear from the Leader of the Opposition on matters of high importance. One such matter of high importance is what the government knew about these payments that were being made. Standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital that the parliament hear from the Leader of the Opposition on the government's culpability on these matters, whether the government picked up a full year ago, when it was reported in the Financial Review on 23 October 2019, that Daniel Crennan was being paid more than the Chief Justice. You'd think that would ring some bells. You would think that would make someone think, 'Maybe that's a Remuneration Tribunal issue.' But it clearly caused no-one to take issue. Standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital to know why the government is cutting the budget of the Auditor-General at the very time when it is the Auditor-General that has highlighted the issues that are before the Treasurer. An issue of ASIC's making inappropriate payments was flagged not by the government—they didn't notice it—but by the Auditor-General, who has asked for a $6.5 million increase in his budget.
Standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital that the House instead have the opportunity to consider why it is that this government, which can rack up a trillion dollars of Liberal debt, can't spare $6.5 million to see the Audit Office continue its work. The Auditor-General isn't asking to double his work; he's saying he's been dipping into his reserve funds just in order to keep the operation going. You'd have to think that they don't want the Auditor-General to do his work. They know that he is the bloke who discovered sports rorts and who discovered air rorts.
Standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital that the Leader of the Opposition instead have the opportunity to ask this government why they are reducing the budget of the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General has saved the taxpayer money. Daniel Crennan and James Shipton have repaid those payments, putting hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers as a result of his careful investigations. Standing orders should not be suspended, because it is vital that this House consider why the Auditor-General's budget should be cut at a time when he's saving the government money.
Gosh knows the government need the money to be saved, given that they've been splashing it around on their mates, mates such as the former Liberal staffer Peter Crone, who has been given a $242,000 job in the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. When asked whether he was aware of the bushfire recovery credentials of Mr Crone, the head of the agency said he was not.