Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Suspension of Standing Orders

12:35 pm

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | Hansard source

Labor will be supporting the suspension on this occasion. Whilst it's unfortunate that Senator O'Sullivan—I'm not sure if it's reasonable to say the government, but at least Senator O'Sullivan—denied formality, I'm pleased in one sense that we have an opportunity to reflect on what's occurring here. Senator Hanson-Young just referred to preselection issues, but Senator O'Sullivan is keen to continue to remind the Senate about his dissatisfaction in relation to the motion that he attempted to move—I think we dealt with it earlier this week, but originally it was proposed for last week—and why formality was denied. Senator O'Sullivan has mischaracterised elements of the procedure that occurred on that occasion but also has moved on to a new procedural ploy.

The problems that we've been having procedurally, which the Procedure Committee is about to discuss yet again this afternoon, have now exploded into an even bigger monster, if I can use that term. Labor has always been very clear about why we oppose formality in relation to complex foreign affairs matters. I think Senator Macdonald mischaracterised some of Senator Chisholm's one-minute statements in relation to the denial of formality on foreign affairs matters and, indeed, a statement I've read on at least three occasions now about denying formality on complex matters that need broader debate or consideration than just a tick or flick in formal motions. But we now have Senator O'Sullivan sitting here throwing bombs. There's no way to predict which motion on which day he's going to pull out. It may be an important matter in relation to an order for production of documents, which I think is a critical matter that should be considered expeditiously. On this occasion, in respect of this order for production of documents, the opposition will be opposing the motion on the basis that there are matters still before the courts, but other orders for production of documents, or indeed many of the other motions here today, are issues that still should be dealt with expeditiously. This one, 1011, is another of those.

So it will be interesting to hear from Senator O'Sullivan exactly what his criterion for his bomb-throwing is. Is it random, is it in the order of the alphabet—the alphabet is one theory I've heard from other senators—or is he going to look at the motions and say, 'Actually, this is important business for the parliament, so I'm not going to just deny formality as part of my tantrum,' or is it going to be which senator he likes or dislikes the most? Seriously, none of it really makes sense.

But what is important is for us to have this opportunity in the suspension debate—so I thank Senator Hanson-Young for that—to have a clear explanation of what really is going on here, which is that Senator O'Sullivan will be leaving us in the not-too-distant future. The issue of abortion is—fair enough—a very important issue to him and many others here, but this is not the way to leave your legacy, Senator O'Sullivan. There are countless other, far more dignified ways to leave your legacy, if you wish, in relation to important issues that are very meaningful to you. But just simply throwing bombs in procedural, very important parliamentary government management-type matters will not assist the parliament as a whole, the country as a whole, or, indeed, your own legacy.

There may well be criteria that you have in mind in terms of who you allow formality for and who you deny it for, and perhaps you might care to elaborate on that further, if this strategy is going to continue into the future—if indeed there is a future of this parliament. Senator Hanson-Young referred to issues about what else is occurring within the parliament today. Senator O'Sullivan, this strategy of yours may well continue into a new parliament, but it will be brief. I don't think it dignifies you to express yourself this way.


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