Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
I seek leave to speak in relation to this matter.
We have to take our jobs very seriously in this place. If Senator Rennick has voted in the wrong way, that's one thing. If he missed the vote, that's another. But simply wanting to change the way votes were paired is really showing what a shambles this chamber is right now, and this is on the watch and under the management of the government. They've got renegades in their own team and they have no idea how to control them. I feel for Senator Birmingham. He's no Senator Cormann when it comes to being able to whip and control the team over there. He's a very decent guy. The government has lost control of its own team. That's what's happening here. It has lost control, and now we are seeing total, mass confusion.
The Australian people have every right to know how members in this place vote. I, for one, have been very concerned over the last number of weeks, and increasingly over the last couple of days this week, about pairing arrangements that are not disclosed to the public or to the chamber. It is just not acceptable. This is a democracy. We all have a responsibility to make decisions in this place, and we have to be accountable for them. What this has shown is what a shambles the pairing arrangements and the lack of disclosure is. It suits the government from time to time to keep this stuff secret. Why? Because, as we know, Mr Morrison changes his mind every day. Why would he want a record of how his own members vote? He doesn't. So here we go again. It has been talked about in this chamber, particularly over the last two days, that this is not being managed properly. What we are going to see happen one day is that a piece of legislation that passes in this place under these murky secret deals will be challenged in the High Court because it's not legitimate. We can't actually count properly the number of votes in this place and hold people accountable.
I'm very, very reluctant to agree to something like this, which is a stitch-up because the government can't control their own team. It's not Mr Morrison who votes in this place; it's individual senators, and their names should be recorded. The reason Mr Morrison doesn't want this is that he doesn't want to be held accountable for what his team is doing. He says one thing one day and does another the next and hopes the Australian people forget. We don't forget. We're watching and we're holding to account the people in this place.
Senator Rennick has every right to have a barney with his Prime Minister, every right to have concerns about how his Prime Minister is running the show, but to not take seriously your job in this place and to not stand up and be clear about how you are being paired—are you being paired because you want to or because the whips have done it on your behalf? I'd be pretty annoyed, Senator Rennick, if they're pairing you without telling you how your pairing arrangements have gone. If that's your frustration, you should be able to stand up and put that. I'd be questioning whether you can really trust what's going on on your front bench and with your Prime Minister.