Thursday, 4 February 2016
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
I support the comments made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Brandis. The government is opposing this amendment to the Selection of Bills Committee motion. As articulated by Senator Brandis, this is nothing more and nothing less than a move by the opposition to deliberately avoid a debate on this important issue. It is a delaying tactic for the sake of delaying and nothing more. Both the Labor Party and the Australian Greens have made their position in relation to the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2] and the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2] very, very clear, both in the past and more recently. They have stated and they continue to state that they are opposed to this legislation. They will not be voting for it and, based on recent comments, that position will not be changing.
This deliberate move to send the bill back to a committee that, as Senator Brandis has articulated, has already considered this exact bill should be seen for what it clearly is: a failure to deal with the legislation. Given the lengthy history of this legislation, the Australian people are entitled to certainty—certainty as to whether the bill to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission will be supported by this Senate or rejected. Whether or not those in this chamber support the bill, senators have an obligation to do what the Australian people elected them to do: to faithfully deal with the legislation before them without engaging in gratuitous tactics of delay. If the Senate engages in gratuitous tactics of delay and fails to decide its view on legislation, this is an abuse of the process of the Senate. This legislation, the subject of the debate of this motion, has now been passed by the House of Representatives twice in the term of this parliament. Undertaking a number of reviews on the same legislation to delay and frustrate its passage is a misuse of the powers and the processes of the Senate.
Senator Brandis has already been through the history of these bills. To recap: this exact legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on 14 November 2013, debated on 2 December and on 12 December 2013 and agreed to on 12 December 2013. It was introduced into the Senate on 11 February 2014. It was debated on 4 March, 5 March, 12 August and 17 August and negatived on 17 August. During this time, this legislation was subject to the following parliamentary scrutiny. It was referred to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on 14 November 2013. A public hearing was held on 26 November, and the committee reported on 2 December 2013. This is their report. It was also referred to the Senate Education and Employment References Committee. That committee—I have the report here—reported on 27 March 2014.
The Australian people have every right to expect the Senate to make decisions and not to engage in delaying tactics and distractions merely because they do not want to see a vote on this legislation take place. If the bill was in any way different to how it was previously considered by this Senate, both in committee and in extensive debate, or the context within which the bills were being presented had materially changed in any way, there could be some justification for the referral that has been proposed by the opposition. However, this bill is in exactly the same form as when it was last introduced in the Senate. What more other than delay can be gained by the Senate by failing to deal with this bill by referring it to yet another committee process?
Again, Labor and the Australian Greens have made their position on this bill abundantly clear. They will not support the bill. The longer this bill is delayed, the more the Australian people will be convinced that this Senate is not genuine about tackling the serious issues that have been raised in this bill. The government is seeking a process that will enable the Senate to actually consider the bill and pass judgement on it rather than engaging in delay. (Time expired)