Senate debates

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Business

Consideration of Legislation

4:23 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I'm getting a lecture from Ian Macdonald about being patronising; that's fun!

They have agreed to a motion which prevents this chamber from debating a message from the House of Representatives. That is what paragraph (c) of this motion does: it prevents this chamber from debating a message from the House of Representatives. That is an extraordinary thing. I would invite the crossbench to consider what we were sent here to do as senators, which is to legislate.

We accept, as we accepted during the debate, that Senator Hanson, for example, had a different view to the Labor Party on the tax package. We disagree with her view, but we accept that she has a right, obviously, to that view. We accept that Senator Patrick and Senator Griff had a different view on stage 2. They were with us in our opposition to step 1 but opposed us in relation to step 2, and we accepted that.

What we are saying is that this chamber at least ought to have the opportunity not only to debate the bill in substantive but to debate the bill when it comes back after the House of Representatives takes out the amendments Senator Patrick supported. You ought to have the opportunity to have the chamber debate the bill that comes back from the House, given that the amendment that the House of Representatives will take out is the very amendment that Centre Alliance put into the bill. It is entirely illogical, frankly—and I shouldn't just say Centre Alliance; it was Centre Alliance, the opposition, Senator Storer and the Greens.

The majority in this chamber have voted to remove step 3 from the government's tax package on the very sound basis that they do not believe that this tax package ought to be held hostage to tax cuts for high-income earners put in place in six years time. That was a sensible amendment. So I'd invite members of the chamber to consider whether or not it is sensible to pass without amendment a motion which ensures that we cannot debate a message from the House of Representatives. That is our job. If the House does not accept amendments from the Senate, we ought to at least have the opportunity to debate whether or not those amendments should be insisted upon. That is what this second chamber does.

I'm told that there's some deal whereby every party leader will speak when the message comes back. That kind of deal is not a substitute for the right of this chamber to insist on an amendment.

I put this point to Senator Patrick, Senator Griff and all of the others on the crossbench: the only amendment that has the prospect of being insisted upon is the amendment that you supported this morning. So why on earth would you allow a process whereby the government prevents you from debating and insisting on that amendment? It is an extraordinary thing to agree to that, to say, 'I'll vote for an amendment in the morning and then in the afternoon I'll vote for a procedural motion which prevents the chamber from insisting on that amendment.'

The motion that Senator Cormann has just moved, which we cannot amend because of the procedure, is saying that the message be put immediately without amendment or debate—in other words, this chamber works as simply a tick-off on whatever the House of Representatives has decided. That is not what senators were sent here to do. So I would urge the crossbench to support the suspension of standing orders to enable the statement to be made, and I would urge them to reconsider their position on paragraph (c).

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