Monday, 24 June 2013
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Superannuation, Australian Education Bill 2013, Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013
I am so glad to see the minister whose answers we are taking note of today, Senator Conroy, come back into the chamber so I can remind him of his shameless hypocrisy in relation to the answers he gave to the questions asked by Senator Cormann, myself and Senator Mason. The minister, when answering the questions in relation to the guillotining of certain pieces of legislation, said that we as a coalition were shameless to stand here and ask the questions we did. He then referred to the debate on WorkChoices, stating that it had been gagged. But when you consider that WorkChoices was given a full day's hearing, that is nothing compared with the motion that the Labor Party, along with their little alliance partners—the doormats the Greens—voted to support in the Senate today.
In relation to the minister's hypocrisy, I too would like to read into the record some things the minister said when he was in opposition and the former Howard government was in office. This is what this minister said in relation to the guillotine: 'It is the worst abuse of parliamentary process in my 9½ years. What they are doing today has been a travesty of parliamentary democracy. What we are seeing now is an absolute farce, a guillotine. The ultimate expression of the Howard government's contempt for the Senate, however, can be seen in the government's willingness to gag debate in the Senate.' And the list of quotes goes on and on and on. But nothing that the minister was commenting on when the former Howard government was in power compares to what this Senate voted on today. As of this evening, we are going to be ramming through this place 55 pieces of legislation. There are certain pieces of legislation that are of a highly contentious nature, and the Senate is being given less than 15 minutes to debate them.
The government wants to ram to the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013—the bill I asked questions about today in the Senate—through the Senate because this, of all the bills that have been guillotined, has been solely designed by Minister O'Connor for his mates in the union. This is not good public policy. The government's own Office of Best Practice Regulation stated, in relation to the labour-market-testing aspects of this bill, that it was beholden on the government to conduct a regulatory impact statement. And do you know what the Prime Minister said to Minister O'Connor when he asked for an exemption? The Prime Minister said: 'No worries, mate. Don't worry about it, because we made a promise to the CFMEU, we made a promise to the TWU and we made a promise to the AWU that we would ram this bill through the other place and then we would get it into the Senate and ram it through the Senate.'
And that is exactly what this motion does. It gives us all of 15 minutes to debate what probably is one of the most contentious pieces of legislation to come before this parliament in the sitting period; we get 15 minutes. But, again, this is why: the Prime Minister herself, as we all know—despite the fact that she tells the people of Australia that the 457 system is being rorted—employs her chief spin doctor, Mr McTernan, on a 457 visa. The Prime Minister has been asked on several occasions under the Freedom of Information Act to produce the labour market testing in relation to Mr McTernan. Her office, on two occasions now, has asked for an extension in excess of 40 days. She has now asked for a further extension in excess of 40 days, which has been denied by the information commissioner. If the Prime Minister was dinkum about the 457 visa system, she would automatically come to this parliament and she would produce the labour market testing in relation to Mr McTernan. But she refuses to, and the only conclusion that can come from that is quite possibly that there was no labour market testing and the Prime Minister herself is guilty of a rort in the 457 program. That is why this legislation has been rammed through the parliament. (Time expired)
Question agreed to.