Senate debates

Monday, 14 July 2014


Suspension of Standing Orders

10:06 am

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Deals might have been done between the government and another political party in here—in this case, the Palmer United Party—but the Senate is not a plaything. Let us go back to why we are in this situation. According to Senator Fifield, in the ordinary course of events the government should be able to list its order of business for the day as it so chooses to. It did do that last week but it was not supported by the Palmer United Party in doing that because, apparently, there had been a breach of a deal that had been made that the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2] would come on immediately following the debate on the abolition of the carbon price bills. As a result of that there was at least half a day wasted and then we came around to changing the order of business to bring on, at the request of the government and the Palmer United Party, the Climate Change Authority bill immediately following the abolition bills. That happened because neither the government nor anyone else was aware that at the end of the week the abolition bills would be defeated. That now brings the Climate Change Authority bill on.

The decision around the Climate Change Authority bill will of course go to not only keeping the Climate Change Authority but considering an emissions trading scheme. I can see why the government does not want to have a debate about an emissions trading scheme ahead of its vote on abolishing the carbon price. Of course the government does not want to do that, because it does not want to have to admit to people that if the Senate passes an emissions trading scheme, the government will not accept it in the lower house and it will die between the two houses and will simply be another trigger for a double dissolution, which the government is running away from.

Why wouldn't we have that debate first, as was agreed last week? What has happened in the meantime has reversed the order in a way that the government does not like at all and wants to run away from. We are seeing this reverse in the order of things because the government does not want to have to face the fact that it will have voted down an emissions trading scheme ahead of the abolition of the carbon price, proving to the whole country that it has no intention of having any serious policy, in any shape or form, in dealing with climate change.

The community wants us to deal seriously with climate change. The West Australian today, unbelievably, ran an editorial supporting the retention of a carbon price. There are some things in life which I thought were certain, but when I looked at that I thought: 'My goodness, nothing in life is certain.' I hope Senator Wang saw that today in The West Australian. My colleagues from Western Australia saw that in the newspaper and had to look twice to see if it was real or not.

But the point here is that we now have the worst case scenario for the government: a reversal of the order so that we deal with an emissions trading scheme this week ahead of the abolition of the carbon price. It is also the issue of what the amendment is that the Palmer United Party wants to make to the emissions trading scheme. It will have to be a lengthy and complicated amendment, and the sooner we get that amendment onto the floor of the Senate then the sooner we can see how we can deal with it or at what point we need to make changes to it and so on.

That is why I do not want to see a rearrangement of business. The last thing we want to see at the end of this week is an absolute logjam of bills, including the Climate Change Authority bill. If it gets logjammed at the end of the week the Senate will not have an opportunity to have a proper look at what is being proposed in terms of an emissions trading scheme. And, of course, a logjam at the end of the week would mean that the government gets cover for the fact that it is voting down both the existing emissions trading scheme and the alternative emissions trading scheme and we would end up at the winter break with absolutely nothing.

That is what the Australian community recognises is the worst case scenario for the climate. We want serious action on global warming. We want action that reduces emissions seriously and that is why, if you want to recall the parliament when we would normally be on a winter break, to deal with the issue of global warming then you should not be fiddling around with the processes of the Senate in private deals that use the Senate as a plaything. This is not a plaything of the government. (Time expired)


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