Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Consideration of Legislation
I'll follow Senator Wong's contribution as to why we oppose this suspension by firstly addressing Senator Fifield's reminiscing of days gone past. Some of that reminiscing, for instance—and I point this out to senators in the crossbench—is referring to standing order 142. The critical issue here is: what is the urgency? As far as we're aware, the only justification for this rush is that Senator Cormann is having a dummy spit because, an hour after he lost the vote, he realised he'd lost the vote. This is what the problem is. Senator Cormann is completely embarrassed about the fact that, as the Senate was addressing the running sheet, we started on the most significant issue. The most significant issue was stage 3. Senators in this chamber have addressed that matter and Senator Cormann and the government don't like it. To the crossbench: why should the Senate now cooperate with the government's dummy spit about the decision or the matter we have determined? Why would you do that?
I made the point about the urgency. There is no urgency in this matter. There is no urgency about how stages 1 and 2 could operate. Indeed, proper and detailed consideration of the amendments before the Senate are critical to ensuring that what eventually is resolved in relation to stages 1 and 2 occur appropriately.
Think about what the government have suggested here. They gave no notice. In the course of question time, they circulated a motion which I suspect was not even consulted on with the crossbench either. They left no opportunity to discuss alternatives to moving immediately into consideration of this bill and wiping out our existing program for the day. Senators, I ask you to remember the last time I made this point, which was the last time the government tried a stunt like this. It was only in the last sitting fortnight, if I recall correctly. The government say on one hand, 'We want cooperation; we want the Senate to work cooperatively in relation to how we work through that program.' Well, that's what we did yesterday. We said: 'We cannot imagine how you can get your legislative agenda through in the two weeks that are involved here. What do senators prefer in terms of when we should sit and how we should conduct our business?' We agreed to an additional 3½ hours last night to do that. But did the government give anyone any notice that this stunt was going to occur and that we were going to completely wipe out the program today to move to the committee stage consideration of this bill? No, they didn't. In fact, they probably designed it over the last hour or so once they woke up to the fact that stage 3 had been determined.
Senators, don't reward a dummy spit like this and don't be fooled by the characterisation that this is how things previously occurred. Senator Xenophon would have been very distressed if a gag of this character had been agreed to. The part of this story, of course, that Senator Fifield doesn't tell is that he wasn't particularly good at being a manager and, indeed, Senator Macdonald was the one running the floor most of the time. The problem with that disharmony was that they wasted an enormous amount of time, which then necessitated us managing their time to force them to deal with the critical elements such as what amendments they might propose. Even then they still wasted that time when they were time managed, because the current government, when in opposition, were not Her Majesty's opposition. They were too busy bickering and not addressing the critical issues that they should have. We're seeing similar things now, when, without any notice and with an enormous breach of faith in question time, they've landed a stunt like this. There is no urgency with this legislation.