Friday, 26 November 2010
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010
Order! The time for debate has expired so you cannot debate the motion to suspend standing orders, Senator Fisher. I can put the question but you cannot debate it. I understand that you are moving that so much of standing orders be suspended?
I thank the chamber. Leave is sought ultimately to put the motion to refer, to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, the National Broadband Network for inquiry, commencing as soon as that committee so wishes and reporting during August next year—designed to dovetail with the joint parliamentary committee that the Prime Minister seems to have promised Senator Xenophon.
The trouble for Senator Xenophon and his deal is that all that he has is a letter from the Prime Minister about the joint parliamentary committee. And all that that letter does is to make it very clear that the joint parliamentary committee is not established yet—there is nothing from the House establishing it. It will have a majority of government members, leaving the opposition and Independent members to split the spoils. Government members will decide the terms of reference. It will not start work until July next year. It will be able to hear from members of parliament, so it will become a parade ground for government members peddling the government’s NBN propaganda.
In an effort to cover the rear, I understand that Minister Wong has been deep in discussions with the Independents and is attempting to reassure them that something will be done to this committee—
to equal up the numbers of this committee and ensure that it is able to inquire into the National Broadband Network in an appropriate way, and to make it so that members of parliament are not invited to give evidence, which, of course, is the height of hypocrisy, given that this government refused to allow that to happen to the Senate committee inquiring into the botched and bungled Home Insulation Program. So I wish to put my motion, to establish that inquiry, to operate, as it were—
Mr Deputy President, I seek leave, pursuant to contingent notice of motion No. 3 standing in the name of Senator Abetz, to move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent the further consideration of the bill until 4 pm.
On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, I seek your ruling on this: the impact of Senator Brandis’s motion is to again test the Senate on a proposition he has already put to the Senate that has been defeated.
On the point of order: it is a different proposition. The earlier motion was an extension of the committee stage. This seeks an extension of the further consideration of the bill, the committee stage having now concluded.
Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order and almost a matter of privilege. I understand that the vote on that last motion was determined on the basis of an undertaking given by a government minister to two senators and it was as a result of that undertaking that they voted in a certain way. I raise this almost as a matter of privilege.
I am raising this as a point of order. The point of order is this: if Senator Wong is making an undertaking to two senators she should get up in this chamber and make the same undertaking to everybody.
Bill read a third time.