Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Madam Acting Deputy President, the coalition will be asking that you put the question separately on the first procedural element of the motion just put by the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion that these bills may proceed without formalities. I wish to speak to this procedural motion. The coalition wish to continue—and I am sure other senators would be of like mind—with the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009. This bill is in the final stages of the second reading debate. It will then move into the committee stage and will then be finalised. The government needs this bill completed to provide certainty—as would the coalition—for people who will be affected by this commencing in 2010.
The government proposes to move straight into the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills, which then pauses or halts the continuation of this legislation, the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009. If that happens, potentially we may not get back to that bill to complete that matter, and it would be foolhardy for us not to consider that bill when it has gone so far through the process and is nearing completion.
To be fair to the government, this morning we flagged at a very early stage with the office of the Manager of Government Business that we wished to do this. We wanted to give the Manager of Government Business the opportunity to facilitate the continuation of the social security and other legislation amendment bill. We had that request declined. After the declining of that request, we also offered to give up a matter of public importance that the opposition had lodged appropriately with the Table Office this morning at 8.30. That would then have facilitated an extra hour of debate for the social security bill. The government refused this request also.
We have gone out of our way to assist the government in allowing the finalisation of legislation that is basically complete, but the government through what seems to be its stupidity—I do not know what it is—wants to jump straight out of that bill into the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill when the legislation does not even start until 1 July 2011. I do not know why it will not finish off one piece of legislation which is near completion. For that reason and for that reason only—to finalise it and to put at rest the community’s anxiousness about the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009—we have been forced to use this measure so that the government can continue on with the social security amendment bill, and then debate on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill can be commenced tomorrow.
What we have now, of course, is the opposition seeking to delay the start of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. That is clearly what the opposition are now seeking to do.
What we now have is the proposal that I outlined earlier being rejected by the opposition. This would have allowed the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill to be negotiated during speeches on the second reading and, additionally, would have allowed the youth allowance bill to be proceeded with this week and to be dealt with, as we have done in the past in many different ways to allow extended hours to deal with the legislative program that is on the Notice Paper.
It is clear now that the opposition have only one task in mind—that is, to delay, to delay and to delay; to filibuster and to use the time of the Senate so that they do not deal with it. The opposition do not support the social security legislation. They have been adding speakers to the list, and we will find towards the conclusion of the seconding reading debate that they will go into committee and deal with it for a period unknown. So the sensible position is to deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill as we have foreshadowed and outlined. We have an opportunity to finalise the speeches on the second reading, which they rejected for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill, and for them to sit down meaningfully with the government and ask, ‘What time is available to deal with the social security legislation?’ The government would have indicated that, yes, it is a bill that we need to conclude and it is a bill that we can adequately deal with. As we have in the past in many other periods similar to this one towards the end of a sitting period, we could then have dealt with it either on Thursday or, alternatively, using Friday as well.
The Senate could then have sat to deal with the legislation, but instead you, the opposition, are grasping at straws. What you do not want to deal with is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. It is interesting that Senator Minchin is here as well, because we know that, as a climate change sceptic, he will do anything to ensure that we do not deal with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. The opposition might complain about the government’s ability to deal with the legislative program, but we now have the opposition clearly highlighting the fact that they want to deal with a bill at length and not get on with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. Why? It is because they do not want to deal with one of the most significant bills that we will confront this year. They do not want to deal with it in any way, shape or form. They want to deal with this other bill. They might like to highlight which other bills they would like to deal with before getting on with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill as another device to filibuster. We know the position that the opposition have adopted in relation to the bill. They do not support it; they never have. That is the position that we are now dealing with.
We will not vote against the government ordering the business as it wishes within the time frame that the Senate has allowed, but I reiterate what I said earlier. I note that Senator Ludwig said that after the committee stage of the CPRS legislation debate next week there will be time to deal with all of the other legislation. I would like him to explain what he meant by that. That seems to me to be totally fanciful. However, I repeat that we sent two letters to the Prime Minister and that we tried to get a proper scheduling of extra sitting weeks. It is possible that we may move to sit extra time next year to make up for the inability of the government to deal with legislation this year. I am not one, nor are the other Greens, to simply say that the Senate should do whatever the government wants it to do. This Senate is not a rubber stamp of the executive. The executive, as far as I am concerned, has not sought to negotiate with the Senate at any time this year a sitting schedule which could deal with the situation we are in.
The Greens will not oppose the government ordering its legislation within the time that is available for the government to deal with government business. However, we do see what the opposition is saying: that the youth allowance legislation is in some danger of not being dealt with by the Senate if it is left until after the CPRS legislation committee stage of the debate next week. If that happens, it will be on the government’s head. It is up to you to order your business within reason, within government time. But, beyond that, the government is already in difficulty with the Senate because it is trying to use truncated sitting times to get through what it wants without proper debate. We will not be supporting that.
Broadly, I endorse the remarks of Senator Brown. I can indicate that I will support the government in the order of government business for today. I see this as a day-by-day proposition, however. I am concerned that the youth allowance legislation may not have enough time to be debated, and that is of great importance to tens of thousands of students in this country. Therefore, I am looking forward to cooperating—
I am looking forward to cooperating with both sides of the chamber so we can deal with government business as expeditiously as possible. But I can indicate in relation to the CPRS that I did receive some documents from the government that were tabled yesterday on the assessment of the Frontier Economics proposal which will form the basis of amendments that I will be moving to the CPRS and also, I take it, that the opposition will be moving to the CPRS. I think it is important that we have sufficient details from the government on the government’s assertions about the Frontier modelling, and I reserve my position as to how we ought to deal with the CPRS legislation once we get to the end of the second reading stage.
I will make it clear that I think the youth allowance legislation does need to be sorted out first. Once we start on it the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme could take up quite a bit of time and, therefore, there could be a squeeze on debating the youth allowance legislation, so I will not be supporting the government in this regard. I want to see the youth allowance have quality time spent on it. Given the government made a bit of a note about Senator Minchin being here, I will note that Senator Carr is here—he is obviously raring to go on the youth allowance debate. He is ready to go; he must be here already knowing that we were going to get to the youth allowance first.
Maybe Senator Carr realises he is in a bit of trouble with youth allowance and he is trying to delay as much as possible getting to the real committee stage on youth allowance. Maybe that is the problem there—I do not know. But I do know that, as I said before, the government could not manage themselves out of a wet paper bag at the moment with ordering their business in this chamber. I will say it again: 50 sitting days next year is an absolute insult to the Australian public and it is an insult to this chamber. Think of it: a new government does not want scrutiny of its own legislation and is quite happy to make sure that next year the same thing will happen in the last two weeks again by having fewer sitting weeks to cover the issues and leaving them to the last minute to bring them through. I will not be supporting the government on this issue, and we should get on with the youth allowance reforms.
The question now is that the bills be taken together.
Question agreed to.
The question now is that the bills be now read a first time.
Question agreed to.
Bills read a first time.
Ordered that consideration of the bills be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.