Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019



9:31 am

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

There have been a number of discussions around the chamber about amendments to this government business motion. Obviously we only have one day of sittings in this fortnight, and this is likely to be the last day of the Senate sitting before the election. The opposition have a view that there is some legislation which, in this truncated time frame, does need to be passed, so we will be supporting the motion to rearrange the routine of business today. I make the point that we would not be in the position of having to do so if the government had actually put forward a sitting calendar which had the Senate sitting more than five days in four months. I think the sitting calendar confirms what many people know and which the budget has demonstrated—that this government has given up on governing. As a responsible opposition, we won't be holding up the passage of relevant bills for the sake of making political points. The motion enables key legislation, including appropriation and supply bills, to be passed prior to an election and preserves time for first speeches and valedictories, which all of us would like to ensure we give departing and arriving colleagues the courtesy of engaging in. I move an amendment to the motion:

After paragraph (1) (a), insert:

"(aa) the following motions being put sequentially, and determined without amendment or debate:

  (i) general business notice of motion no. 1430 standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) relating to racism, extremism and hate speech;

  (ii) general business notice of motion no. 1450 standing in the names of Senators Watt and Cameron relating to Senator Cash answering questions at estimates related to her former role as Minister for Employment; and

  (iii) general business notice of motion no. 1470 standing in the name of Senator O'Neill relating to the appearance of witnesses before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee at budget estimates hearings on Friday, 5 April 2019;

(ab) consideration of a motion, to be moved by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Di Natale), relating to the conduct of a senator;"

There are three opposition motions that we wish to add to this program and deal with today. One relates to an issue which has been a subject of much discussion in recent days and weeks since the tragedy of Christchurch; that is, how people might show leadership in how they direct their preferences. The Labor Party for 20 years has had a very clear view about putting extremist parties such as One Nation last, a view that even John Howard came to. We think that is a principled, correct position for parties of government. We wish to put to this chamber a motion that calls on parties to do so. I hope that the Greens and the relevant crossbenchers will vote for it—other than One Nation, who I suspect will not vote for it. And the senator who is the subject of a censure motion later possibly won't vote for it. But the rest of us can show some leadership to the Australian community. I encourage support on that.

Senator Williams interjecting—

I'll take that interjection about extremist positions from the Greens. I don't think anybody would suggest I have a Greens view of life—I disagree with them on the US alliance, I disagree with them on inheritance taxes, I disagree with them on how to go about implementing change—but they do not engage in racist hate speech, and that is what is inimical to our democracy. You should show the leadership that Ron Boswell and Tim Fischer did. They understood that you put the country first sometimes. Don't get into this moral equivalence argument, which everybody knows is self-serving. Show some leadership!

Anyway, there are two more motions—that was a nice little diversion, wasn't it?


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