Thursday, 24 June 2021
Dissent from Ruling
On that basis, I move:
That the ruling be dissented from.
I make clear to the House that in doing this very unusually—I think you were the first since the first Speaker to be nominated by both sides of the House—this is something we do not do lightly. We have resisted at all times doing anything that would in any way be seen to be a lack of confidence in your ruling. There have been rulings we've liked and plenty we haven't, but your consistency with respect to the standing orders is not something that we've ever questioned. Our reason for moving that your ruling be dissented from is simply this: we want the opportunity for the House to have the debate that has come forward to us today. In giving leave we believed we were giving that opportunity, but if it requires an additional vote of the House then we'll do it that way. I flag that my other course of action would have been to move a suspension of standing orders. That option is not open to us simply because of COVID. A whole lot of people have had to get back across borders, which makes it impossible to get to 76 votes; otherwise, that would have been our preferred course of action.
I'll just read the relevant section from Practice, because not everyone viewing this will necessarily understand it:
Any dissent from the Speaker's ruling is not necessarily interpreted as a censure of the Speaker.
There are lots of examples where that's been made—particularly during the Menzies government, actually. So that has been moved. It doesn't require a seconder but it can obviously be debated. Sorry—it does require a seconder, I should say. Is the motion seconded?
We have a situation now where the people of the Murray-Darling Basin simply want an outcome. By agreeing to the Labor Party's dissension motion against the Speaker's ruling it is going to give us an opportunity to have a political debate in here that has nothing to do with the outcomes in the amendments. I know deep in my heart that the four amendments that I've put forward here will all be knocked away by the Labor Party. They go to the core of what the Labor Party disagree with. They go to the core of what the Labor Party do not believe in. There is not—
Opposition members interjecting—
My opportunity to actually create a difference in water policy lies not with doing a deal with the Labor Party; it lies in doing negotiations with the Liberal Party. The only chance that I have of bringing about water policy change within this parliament is to work with the Liberal Party. At the moment there is a gulf between our beliefs. But I am not going to be party to this grandstanding by the Labor Party to try and bring about some dissension on this side. We will continue to work with the Liberal Party to bring them on board with our policies, and that is why I will have no part in this dissension motion against the Speaker's ruling.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
I certainly know, from the Manager of Opposition Business, that it was not a reflection on the chair or your capacity—which is recognised by all members in terms of the decision that he made. He made that, and made it clear to enable debate in this chamber of amendments that the member for Nicholls said he wanted to have debated and voted upon. If the member for Nicholls is now saying that he doesn't want to do that, well, so be it. The member for Nicholls has quite rightly indicated that Labor won't be supporting his amendments—spot on, digger. Because we on this side actually don't support an undermining of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, we don't support stopping water going to South Australia and we don't support the sort of denigration that we heard from the member, saying that just about the only people who care about this are people in Adelaide. The fact is that this is a national issue.
Speaker, I appreciate that you can't intervene in this debate, given the nature of it, but this debate should be about why your ruling should be dissented from. If I had been in my seat I would've taken the point against the member for Nicholls, but I wasn't by the time he sat down.
I was certainly responding to the comments from the member for Nicholls. That shouldn't have been allowed to let stand unresponded to by this side of the House. It's important that we indicate what the basis of the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business was. It was about democratic forums. This debate is about whether this parliament functions effectively and whether this parliament gets to vote on matters that are before the chair.
One of my concerns, on an ongoing basis since the change of leadership in the Liberal Party in 2018, has been the failure to have proper debate and democratic outcomes in this chamber. The sort of shutting down of debate that we see consistently in this House doesn't bring credit to this House or to this chamber. That is why, consistent with that, even though we disagree with the motives, the strategy and the policy put forward by the member for Nicholls, we think he has a right to say it and put it forward. That is something that we defend. I, as Leader of the House, didn't shut down every debate that was before this parliament in the way that this parliament has functioned.
Yesterday, we put a question to the Leader of the House about the very principles that are at stake here. The old principle of 'I may disagree with you but I will fight for your right to say it' is an important principle for this parliament. That is something that those opposite seem to have forgotten. That was the basis of the Manager of Opposition Business moving this proposition. If the member for Nicholls wants to fight for the right for him not to have the right to speak, well, so be it—that's the modern National Party. That appears to be what the member for Nicholls is saying—so be it.
We've shown that we're consistent in terms of wanting the building to be able to debate. But there is no point in the House going through this exercise if the mover is saying that he won't support a motion to allow his own motion to be moved. It would be like me moving that I be no further heard.
I know I'm welcome to. It's the sort of thing the DPM might do. On that basis, Mr Speaker, given what the member for Nicholls has said, I'd simply seek leave to withdraw the motion. It becomes a waste of the House's time if it was carried and he wouldn't move it anyway.