Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Consideration of Legislation
On behalf of the Leader of the House, I move:
(1) The resolutions of the House on Monday, 26 October 2020 agreeing to the third readings of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020, the Recycling and Waste Reduction (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2020, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (General) Bill 2020, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Customs) Bill 2020 and the Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Excise) Bill 2020 be rescinded; and
(2) The order of the day for each bill be called on successively and without delay, with the third reading of each bill to be moved by a Minister and the question to be put for resolution without debate, and each bill to be disposed of.
We'll be supporting the resolution, but I think it's important, given that all we have heard is the words of it, for me to explain to the House why the House is now doing this. I can't remember the last time we had a rescission motion moved by the government, and I think it's important for people to understand exactly why this procedure is being adopted right now. On Monday afternoon, we all spent 1½ or two hours on these bills in the chamber. I explained at the time that a whole lot is done in this chamber through cooperation and it is easier to just provide cooperation and allow debate to take place in the chamber. The government didn't go down that path during question time that day and, as a result, cooperation was withdrawn. What then happened procedurally was that when we denied leave to move to the third reading—we said it should be dealt with on a subsequent day, which is what the standing orders presume—government ministers stood up and moved what is called a contingent motion. If you've got a copy of the Notice Paper, you will find them at the top of page 6. It says:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the motion for the third reading being moved without delay.
We then voted on that—I think it was after I had been shut down each time, or something like that—but the House having resolved that the third reading be moved without delay, on five separate occasions the minister forgot to then move the third reading. So what then happened was that the House sat there going through procedural motions for 1½ hours and voting as to whether the third reading would be agreed to without the third reading ever having been moved—even though, on each occasion, a minister had moved a motion insisting that they be allowed to do that.
Do I blame the minister who was there at the table? Not particularly. There are not many people in here who will be following the procedure that closely. But I do say: have a think about the price of cooperation, because it's not that high. The price of cooperation from us is that we allow the chamber to be a debating chamber. That's it. And all we were asking for, and the reason we stopped cooperation, was to say, 'Well, you can deal with it on a subsequent day, which won't matter, because the Senate isn't sitting at the moment anyway.' As it's turned out, we're now dealing with it on a subsequent day. So, in terms of what we said the price would be, tada!, we're here anyway.
I just remind those opposite that, for the price of making sure that the opposition doesn't get to give speeches at different points, an hour and a half to two hours of the time not just of the parliament but of every House of Reps member of the cabinet, including the Prime Minister himself, was spent here voting to be stubborn, to prove a point, and it turns out that every one of those votes were completely irrelevant because, in the moment, they got the procedure completely wrong anyway. The presiding officer was changing at different points. It's not on the presiding officer. It's not on the clerks. It's on the government for basically putting itself in this position for no good reason.
I've put it in a more fiery way on previous occasions. Today, I just say, calmly, in terms of 'be careful what you wish for', this is what you wished for. Now, for the first time in I don't know how long, we are having to move a rescission motion on votes because a minister, having demanded that they be allowed to move a third reading immediately, then didn't move a third reading after the House had resolved that they could. They didn't make that mistake just once; they made it five consecutive times during that hour and a half.
Let this place be a debating chamber. We all come from different parts of the country. There are 150 different parts of Australia represented. We all come here, and people have a right to believe that the people they voted for will be able to put their point, whether it's agreed to or not, and will argue it back and forth. But the silliness of constantly shutting down debate is what lands us in this sort of situation. How much time does that take now? These third readings will go through really quickly. It will happen really quickly. But Monday night wasn't quick. And what did the government achieve that night? Absolutely nothing.
Question agreed to.