Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023


Consideration of Legislation

12:25 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | Hansard source

The coalition will not be supporting this suspension of standing orders because, intrinsically, we believe it is the right of the government of the day to set the legislative agenda for the week, and therefore we will be voting against this. But in doing so I also put on the record that using the procedures and mechanisms of this chamber to try to divert, to delay, just because the government has not been able to reach an agreement with the other party of government that they need in order to get their bill through, is I think also quite an egregious breach of the use of the procedures of this chamber.

This is a government that often works with the Greens and the crossbench to breach conventions that have held this place in such good esteem for many, many decades. It is with pride that we have always come into this chamber and said that it's the processes, the procedures and the conventions that we have all upheld that have made this chamber work the way it has. But in recent times we continue to see that being eroded and eroded and eroded for the convenience of those trying to get through whatever it is that they're trying to shove through without going through those appropriate processes.

There are many examples I could use of how this has happened, whether it be committee referrals that go to the wrong committees, committee referrals that are denied, OPDs that are not answered, or responses that come back into this chamber that show complete and utter contempt for the procedures of this place. We'll probably see over the coming days a number of those OPDs and FOIs that we've received back, but particularly OPDs, where the ministers have just point blank refused to answer a legitimate question that this chamber has asked and has voted on and required the government to return. They're just refusing to do so. We also continue to see legislation that has not even been consulted on, yet they use their numbers in this place to shove it through. We constantly see legislation brought in here that has absolutely no substance to it at all, and apparently we've just got to trust the government, trust the Greens and trust everyone that it's all going to be fine, that everything's going to be contained in subordinate legislation, so we just have to go through on trust.

I think it's time that this place took a very serious look at itself and thought about what its intention really is in terms of doing the most important job that we have here, which is to constantly review everything that comes through this place, instead of doing dirty deals on the side and using the conventions and the mechanisms of this chamber to play games. I fear that, once again, this motion from Senator Faruqi that is before us today is absolutely doing that.

In relation to the argument that's going on between the Greens and the Labor Party around the substance of the bill that they're trying not to debate and the bill that they are now seeking to debate, these are both very important issues that this chamber should be able to have the opportunity to prosecute appropriately. But to come in here and ask us to allow you to bring on for debate a bill whose intention we didn't know anything about, to be debated now, giving us five minutes notice—to expect those in this chamber to make sensible contributions about something as important as making sure that the education and the financial commitments that sit around the education of Australians—is I think the most disrespectful thing that you can do to this chamber.

In summing up, what we're seeing today is disrespect around the way the conventions of the chamber are being used and the reason they're being used around really important, substantive issues that matter so much, particularly to young Australians. But, at the same time, we sit here looking at a government that doesn't seem to mind trashing the conventions that have stood this parliament and this Senate in such good stead since this parliament was first conceived many years ago. It is really quite a travesty that we are now standing here wasting the time of the Senate on cheap stunts.

So I would say to those opposite—all of those opposite, right the way down to the other end of the chamber—why don't we all move back to where we were, where we actually respected the conventions of this place, we respected each other and we respected the right to have a proper process to enable everybody in this place to be able to debate important matters in a respectful and timely way. Can we just stop the stunts and get on with supporting this parliament to deliver the best possible government and alternative government that is possible.


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