Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee; Reference
That the following matter be referred to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 10 May 2012:
The Law Council of Australia's concerns about the government's amendment to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012.
The Law Council's serious concerns about the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill need to be submitted to a Senate inquiry. The draft bill, which was on the table for some years, was examined by a Senate committee previously, but in a deliberately sneaky manoeuvre designed to yet again avoid scrutiny the Greens-Labor alliance waited until the Senate inquiry into the bill had been completed before moving a far-reaching amendment to the bill. Any self-respecting senator who takes their role as a legislator seriously should be aghast at this behaviour. If they are here simply as union hacks, they will not be aghast, but if they are here because they want proper process to be undertaken then they will be aghast.
This is an amendment which the Law Council of Australia says requires reconsideration 'in light of the serious impact it will have on the role of the regulator'. The Law Council says it has serious concerns about the amendments. We as a coalition want to hear those concerns and to have a response for those championing the concerns. This is an unprecedented and unprincipled amendment. Let us hear what the Law Council has had to say. The Law Council has said that the amendments will:
… significantly impact the ability of the independent regulator to enforce compliance with the relevant legislation in the building and construction industry.
It went on to say that the Building and Construction Commissioner:
… will be unable to either institute or continue civil penalty litigation for breaches under Commonwealth law because there has been a commercial settlement between the contravener and persons affected by the offending conduct.
Talk about buying your way out of prosecution! This is what the Greens-Labor alliance is now trying to put forward as legislation in this place, and that is why the Law Council has said:
These proposed amendments will give precedence to the interests of private litigants over the application and enforcement of Australian law.
This is something with which the Prime Minister used to agree. It was in relation to the Australian Building and Construction Commission that she said:
Anybody who breaches the law should feel the full force of the law.
She went on to say:
Each and every breach of the law is wrong and each and every breach of the law should be acted upon.
We now have this important caveat: unless you have got enough money to buy your way out of trouble. That is the precedent that the Greens-Labor amendment to this legislation will establish for the first time ever in Australian law.
The example is clear: if you run a red light and you collide with somebody, surely you have an obligation to fix their car and pay for their personal injuries if there are any, but if you pay that person it should not stop the police from charging you with running a red light. Labor now has this principle: if you have enough money to buy the silence of the other party you can escape prosecution. That is a terrible precedent to set in Australian law, and this is why the Law Council of Australia has come out in this very strong and, might I suggest, unprecedented manner. It is right to have come out so strongly. Sure, the Law Council ventures opinions from time to time—that is not unprecedented—but the strength of its response on this issue is unprecedented, and I think it shows the importance of why this matter needs to be referred to a committee.
We as a coalition believe, and believe very strongly, that this is a matter of such importance that it should be resubmitted to the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee for ventilation and for a degree of examination. Let us make no mistake: there have been other amendments to this legislation. When we put it before a Senate inquiry we found the unions did not support the amendment, the employers did not support the amendment and the department did not know about the amendment because it did not come up in any of their consultations—it came from the minister's office with no explanation. Now we have another amendment even more far reaching, one that undermines one of the fundamental principles on which our legal system is based—the principle that says that just because you have the money you cannot buy your way out of a prosecution. That is what this amendment will do. It will set a precedent, and that is why it is so important to have this matter examined.
This will be the clause on which large companies and large unions will be able to buy their way out of trouble. Individual workers will not have the money to buy their way out of trouble and small contractors will not be able to buy their way out of trouble. It will be the big unions and big businesses. Once again, we have big government, courtesy of the Greens-Labor alliance, giving succour and comfort to bribery, sweetheart deals and all sorts of unseemly negotiations that give precedence to those with big bank accounts to buy themselves out of trouble. We as a coalition stand firmly against that concept. We will continue to do so, but in the meantime we believe that the concerns of the Law Council of Australia should be ventilated, and ventilated as soon as possible.
I understand that Senator Abetz and the coalition are opposed to this legislation and to the amendment. That is very clear. But I think Senator Abetz just demonstrated the real reason for this motion before us today. It is simply to give him and the coalition an opportunity to rail against the government's agenda with respect to this bill and the amendment that was made in the House of Representatives.
They have said they are going to vote against the bill. They have said they are going to vote against the amendments. That stands, and I believe them. I know they are passionate about that. Senator Abetz has been passionate about that for a long time. But what is being put before the chamber today is quite bizarre. It has been suggested that just because someone disagrees with an amendment that was made by the House of Representatives we should have another Senate committee inquiry into that disagreement.
That is simply bizarre. That simply does not happen. I have never seen that before. There are countless times when legislation has come to this chamber and has been amended after a Senate inquiry. Legislation is often amended in ways which the committee never foresaw and in ways many of the senators in the chamber never foresaw.
The government does not have the numbers in its own right in this chamber, nor does it have the numbers in the other chamber. So it is a really bizarre proposition to say that because somebody disagrees with an amendment made by the House of Representatives we should return the whole bill to a Senate inquiry. The Senate committee has already had two inquiries into this bill. The normal process would be that the House of Representatives would debate the bill, and once it was amended it would come here. Generally, then, it would be referred off to a committee for inquiry. And we would look at the amended bill.
But in this case the opposition got exactly what it asked for. The opposition did not wish to wait for the bill to come here before referring it off to an inquiry. The opposition referred the provisions of the bill immediately it was introduced in the House of Representatives—sent the bill off to an inquiry before it passed the House of Representatives. The coalition asked for that. They have got what they asked for, yet they now complain because someone—the Law Council—has a different view to the House of Representatives. The Law Council is entitled to do that. I have enormous respect for the Law Council. I value its opinion. But just because the Law Council disagrees with the government does not mean that we need to rush off and have a Senate inquiry. I have never recalled our doing that before.
I think this is bizarre, and that brings me back to the real reason Senator Abetz is moving this motion. It is to give him an opportunity to rail against the bill itself. That is fine. We understand the opposition's policy position on this. They disagree with the government and the Greens and the Independents in the House of Representatives on this matter. It is their right to do so. They can do so, but this is not the question before the chamber. The question is, simply because the Law Council has been critical of that particular amendment we should refer it back to the committee.
Senator Abetz has not always had this view of the Law Council. The Law Council has been very active in providing views on this government's legislation and previous governments' legislation. We could just go, for a minute, to their view on the policy position of the former, Howard government on children in immigration detention. The Law Council said:
The Law Council calls on the Federal Government—
they are talking about the previous, Howard federal government—
to abolish the current policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers who arrive in the country without a valid visa. The Law Council also calls on the Government to ensure that all persons seeking Australia’s protection are treated equally, in accordance with the Rule of Law, and with due respect to human rights and to Australia’s international legal obligations.
When they made that criticism of the former, Howard government's policy position did we hear, from Senator Abetz or anyone else in the Howard government, cries to send their views off to a Senate inquiry so that the Senate could consider their views on a matter of government policy of the day? No, we did not. Did we hear anyone from the opposition, at any other time during the Howard government, when the Law Council was critical of the then government policy or legislation, say: 'Hang on, the Law Council has now said they disagree with the position of the government. We should now have a Senate inquiry so that we can air their views.' No, we did not.
This is nothing but a beat-up and a bizarre attempt simply to give the opposition an avenue to criticise the government's position. The parliament is absolutely entitled to make the laws as the numbers fall, and the House of Representatives moved an amendment to a government bill. There is nothing strange or unusual about that. That is the nature of government. That is the business of government.
What then happened was that the bill came to the Senate. The Senate may amend the bill too. It is the right of the Senate to do so. And if the Senate does that and the Law Council, in a week, says, 'We're unhappy with that amendment,' should we then go and have another Senate inquiry? And what if someone else does not like the amendment that the parliament has agreed to? Should we then say, 'Let's go off and have another Senate inquiry'? Of course not. That is not the way legislation is dealt with here or in the House of Representatives.
So I cannot support—we should not support—Senator Abetz's legislation, because it does not make any sense. It is not the normal practice of the Senate. It is not the normal practice of the House of Representatives. As I said, this is just a bizarre stunt to give the opposition an opportunity to rail against the bill. It has not been put forward for any other reason. It should be rejected for that reason.
Madam Acting Deputy President, thank you for the opportunity to speak and support the motion of Senator Abetz to right a wrong and, I suggest, reverse what could well be a miscarriage of justice. This matter should have been the subject of scrutiny by the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee at its hearing in Melbourne. It was known very well by the Labor Party and by the Greens that they were going to introduce this amendment to the parliament at the next opportunity. I support Senator Abetz when he quite rightly says that this matter, incomplete at its last assessment and adjudication, must now go back to the same committee—not to some new process, as Senator Marshall has just indicated—to complete its own process of investigation.
We have the disgusting and regrettable circumstance in which not only the Law Council but also three state attorneys-general have raised concerns about dilution of the building and construction industry regulator's role. They have equally raised their concerns since this circumstance was raised in this chamber the other day. It is unconscionable; it is unacceptable. For those who participated in that hearing, it has been an insult. I suggest that it is an insult to the Senate, to senators and to the process of law in this country. Senator Abetz's statement earlier and his motion before the Senate is to right that wrong.
This would allow—as you would understand, Madam Acting Deputy President—a circumstance where the regulator would not be able to undertake investigations and bring charges in relation to matters that have been settled between parties outside the scrutiny of law. They would not have the powers that the police, ASIC, the Fair Work Ombudsman or any other equivalent regulator has. It would surely be a precedent in the Australian parliament and in Australian law where at least one of the parties could possibly engage in illegal activity—paying or bullying the other party to the extent that they settle prior to the time a regulator could address the issue.
Relatively recently in the state of Victoria, we had a precedent with the West Gate Bridge project. Two parties, a major employer and a union, found themselves the subject of adjudication, investigation and, I think, a $1.3 million fine as a result of those two parties doing exactly what this amendment would prevent: a circumstance where the regulator was able to investigate, enforce, fine and bring them to justice. If this amendment were passed and that same event occurred again, as happened in the West Gate Bridge project, the two parties could settle away from public scrutiny and there would be no opportunity for a regulator or an investigator to examine that event.
What are we going to find? Are we going to find a new raft of brokers whose role it is to professionally broker these deals between the parties? I asked Senator Arbib this very question. He said he was happy to take my question relating to whether the matter should go back to the very committee that investigated it, and all he could say to me was:
I am happy to take that on notice and seek the views of the minister.
So we appear to have a circumstance now where the Senate is subordinate to the other place and we rush back to the other place to seek instructions. This is its own chamber. This is the place of review. This is the place where the sorts of investigations that Senator Abetz, I and others want to pursue should be pursued, not at the behest or whim of somebody in the other place. Even more interesting, Senator Arbib then said:
We believe the new body will provide a tough cop on the beat …
If we take that to any state or federal legislative circumstance then two people could get into a dispute, one could decide that they want to buy their way out of it, they could pay or bully the other party—clearly an event that is illegal under Australian law—and the police, or whichever regulatory authority investigates it, could be told, 'No, the two parties have done a sweetheart deal and you can no longer investigate it.'
I address some of the statements expressed by Law Council President Catherine Gale. She said that the proposed amendments may give rise to many unintended consequences for the independent regulator. She said:
There is potential for significant waste of tax-payers money if the regulator is forced to discontinue litigation or an investigation …
Can't you just imagine the circumstance: two parties are in dispute; the regulator is involved; one of the parties decides it would be cheaper to buy off the other crowd, using, I would suggest, a broker or doing it directly; and they go to the regulator and say, 'Despite the time and taxpayer money that you have invested in this process, unfortunately we have arrived at a deal.' Catherine Gale went on to say that the amendments would also mean that the regulator would need to be expeditious in commencing proceedings to preserve the integrity of the prosecutorial process.
It is unprecedented that we would have the Law Council and three state attorneys-general protesting about the possible illegality of this action when it could be readily addressed by returning the matter to the committee which has the charge from this place to investigate the matter. It must go back to that committee so that it can be truly examined and then it must come back to the Senate to address the concerns expressed by the Law Council and lawmakers in the different states to give some level of satisfaction and comfort to the Australian community.
I rise to oppose Senator Abetz's motion to refer consideration of the government's amendments to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012 to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee for inquiry. The Greens do not support this motion because, as the opposition well knows, there has already been an opportunity for the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee to inquire into this bill, including the amendment. The amendment referred to in Senator Abetz's motion passed the House on 16 February this year. The committee did not report until 29 February.
It is obvious that this is nothing more than a hollow delaying tactic. There is no principle here. The opposition has already made it quite clear that, regardless of the outcomes of any inquiry, it will oppose the bill whether it is amended or unamended. The Greens support the government's amendment, which limits the exposure of building industry participants to multiple and ongoing proceedings. The amendment is necessary and important, and it is supported by the Greens. However, the Greens do not support the motion moved by Senator Abetz, as the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee has already had an opportunity to inquire into this bill, including the amendment.
I also rise to oppose the motion moved by Senator Abetz. If the Senate were to agree to this motion, it would make the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2012 one of the most inquired-into pieces of legislation in the history of this place. I recently had a look at the number of times this legislation has been inquired into by not only the House of Representatives but also the Senate. It is quite interesting.
In 2003, when the building and construction industry improvement legislation was first proposed by the Howard government, an inquiry was established. That inquiry never went ahead, because the legislation lapsed due to the proroguing of the parliament. But the Howard government persisted and in 2005, when the legislation was brought back before the parliament, there was another inquiry. But that was not the last of it. In 2008, there was a further inquiry into reforms in the building and construction industry regarding regulation. Not to be outdone, in 2009 there was a further inquiry into regulation and provisions relating to amendments that had been sought by the government to legislation regarding the building and construction industry. Then, in January this year, the matter was again referred to a Senate committee. Senator Marshall chaired that committee, I was a member of that committee, and many people who have spoken in the debate this afternoon were also members of that committee. We conducted a thorough investigation into the provisions and the changes that are being sought.
I must be frank and say that, when you read through the submissions that were provided to the committee—most recently in January of this year—and you look back, they are the same organisations that presented submissions in 2009, 2008 and 2005. And what do you know? The positions that they took in relation to regulation in the building and construction industry are exactly the same on each occasion. There was nothing new from any of the submitters in respect of this legislation. Let us be honest: this is controversial legislation. It is controversial because it relates to regulation of workplace relations in this country, and that was the hot election topic in 2007.
The Australian people made it clear in 2007 at the election that they wanted to rid workplaces throughout the country of the Howard regime—of Work Choices and the draconian measures that were introduced by the Howard government in the building and construction industry. They wanted fairness restored to workplaces. We did that through the process of the Fair Work Act, but we also committed, prior to that election, to undertake an investigation into the efficiency and effectiveness of the laws relating to the building and construction industry improvement legislation. We delivered on that commitment. In the wake of the election, Justice Murray Wilcox was entrusted with the process of looking at and inquiring into the effectiveness and efficiency of laws that existed in the building and construction industry. He handed down a report entitled Transition to Fair Work Australia for the building and construction industry. He made a number of recommendations, and principal among those was for the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill to bring the conditions and regulations for the industry under the umbrella of Fair Work Australia and to bring in a new set of compliance arrangements that are fair and effective yet balanced and that take into consideration the recommendations of the Wilcox inquiry. And that is what has been done. That is what the outcome of the Senate process was, that is what the outcome of the deliberations in the House of Representatives was, and that is the outcome of the legislation that is before the Senate today.
I make the point that it is not good practice for the Senate to be reopening inquiries—particularly in the context that there have already been five inquiries into this legislation—on the basis of a media release by a particular organisation which may have a difficulty with legislation that all of us in this place admit is often quite controversial. It is not a practice that I believe this place should be beginning to instigate and, in the context of the large reform agenda that the government has and will be bringing before the Senate in upcoming weeks, it is a diversion to have motions such as this when inquiries have well and truly been versed in the issues associated with regulation in the building and construction industry. On that basis, I strongly urge the Senate to oppose this motion.
I rise to support Senator Abetz's motion. The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill should and must be referred again to a Senate committee for inquiry because the amendment that was made to this bill by the House of Representatives in the previous sitting week has never, ever been subject to inquiry, and not only that; it stands to create precedent not just for building industry law or workplace relations law but for every law in this country. That is evidenced by the letter from Catherine Gale, the President of the Law Council.
What is the government really thinking in agreeing to this amendment proposed by the Greens in the lower house? It is pretty interesting and pretty evident that none of the Labor senators who have spoken on either Senator Abetz's motion today or his motion last sitting week to refer this bill to a Senate committee have explained what the government is thinking with this appalling amendment—not one of them. Senator Doug Cameron has complained before about being a 'policy zombie' in this government. Well, he sure is on this point, because not even he attempted to justify this amendment. He talked about John Lloyd being a Tory and he tried to wave the spectre of Work Choices, but there was not a word from him in defence of this particular amendment. There was not a word in defence of it or even an explanation from Senator Thistlethwaite today or last sitting week when he spoke on this matter. There was not a word in defence of it from Senator Polley when she spoke last sitting week on Senator Abetz's previous motion. And there was not a word in defence of the amendment from Senator Gavin Marshall, a veteran of workplace relations stoushes and chair of the relevant committee. Labor senators do not know what the government is thinking in agreeing to this amendment, but what they do know is that they cannot defend the indefensible. And this amendment is indefensible because, in the words of the Law Council president, it gives precedence to private interests over law enforcement.
So what is it really about and what could the government be thinking? That is part of exactly what the Senate committee should be inquiring into. Is the next step to prevent ASIC from investigating or prosecuting where one or more of the perpetrators of an alleged breach of law, or a perpetrator and one or more of the victims, reach a deal? Is that the next step, or is this government's planned next step to prevent the ACCC from investigating or prosecuting where perpetrators—for example, perpetrators of an alleged collusion—are involved? Is that the next step from this government, or is this government's next step, a bit closer to home, to prevent the Fair Work Ombudsman from prosecuting where an employer reaches a deal in respect of deliberate underpayment of its workers—or is where this government going even closer, closer, closer to home? Is this government going to the heart of Fair Work Australia if, say, Fair Work Australia is investigating the activities of a particular union and officials of that union at the time?
Let us take, for example, the investigation into the Health Services Union. I wish the member for Dobell well in terms of his hospital stay at the moment. But, aside from that, let us take the investigation of Fair Work Australia into the activities of the Health Services Union and the activities of those who were in office in the union at the time. It is very clear there has been a demonstrated go-slow from Fair Work Australia: three years and still counting, $1 million of taxpayers' money and still counting, and no result. Tim Lee, the previous general manager of Fair Work Australia, was moved sideways into a commissioner role in an ill-fated attempt to take him out of the public spotlight on this issue. Bernadette O'Neill, the new Fair Work general manager, has attempted to refuse to release information that might assist, for example, the police were they to be running any sort of inquiries on this issue. That was until Stuart Wood SC opined that were it, for example, to be the Federated Ship Painters and Doctors Union involved—
Sorry—the Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Mr Wood opined:
Do the general managers—
of Fair Work Australia—
really contend that if they discovered, during the course of their investigation, the type of criminality associated with that union—namely, drug importation, tax evasion, robbery, assault and murder—they are prevented by statute from providing such information to … the state or federal police forces?
The trouble with what this government is thinking with this amendment in relation to the building industry is that the next step could well be to legislate to stop Fair Work Australia from investigating or prosecuting in the event that any illegal activity were suspected, and that would have the very consequences that Ms Gale has warned about in her letter to the government about this amendment to the building industry bill. She says:
There is potential for significant waste of tax-payers money if the regulator is forced to discontinue litigation or an investigation.
There goes a million bucks, and still counting, in terms of what Fair Work Australia has expended in investigating the HSU and associated activities. She goes on to say the amendment to the building industry bill:
… would also mean that the regulator would need to be expeditious—
well, that is a bit of a joke—
in commencing proceedings to preserve the integrity of the prosecutorial process.
Again, three years and still counting. Finally she says:
We also may have situations where undue pressure is placed on parties to settle out of court to preclude the regulator from pursuing civil remedies.
Back to the building industry. That is, of course, the most ominous signal for an industry that, prior to the establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, had a reputation for thuggery and lawlessness.
Senator Abetz said that this amendment in the building industry would be licence for those with deep pockets—those with money—to buy their way out. Not only that, it will be licence for those with muscle to exert it as they have in the past and to force their way out. This is bad law. It is bad law; it is mad law. Labor senators opposite will not defend it, because they know they cannot defend it, and it is clear that they do not know what the government is thinking. The Senate committee is entitled to inquire into the bill and that particular amendment in some effort to ascertain what the government is thinking.
In summing up this debate, can I simply make the point that this is not any simple inquiry that we are asking for as a coalition? This is an issue of fundamental principle of how the law operates in this country. It will set a precedent if the Labor-Greens amendment gets carried.
The Law Council of Australia has expressed 'serious concerns' about this. Three attorneys-general have come out expressing concern about the precedent that this will set. Just to restate the case, the precedent would be that if you have enough money to buy yourself out of trouble you can escape prosecution. Ms Gillard promised the Australian people that in dismantling the Australian Building and Construction Commission she would maintain 'a tough cop on the beat'. That was allegedly the way it was going to be, all the way through the Senate inquiry and all the way through when the bill was introduced into the House of Representatives. Then in a very sneaky last-minute manoeuvre in the House of Representatives, after the Senate had finished its inquiry into the bill, Labor moved this amendment. It is an amendment which would emasculate the regulator.
In introducing this motion I indicated the Law Council's concerns. They are there for all to see and read. It is interesting that nobody in this debate was actually able to join issue with the concerns on the issue of principle. Sure, we got all the sophistry that we expect from those opposite but we did not get an engagement on the fundamental issue. And the fundamental issue is that just because you have money does not mean you should be able to buy yourself out of a prosecution—a very fundamental principle on which our system of law is based.
The example I used in introducing this motion was that if one runs a red light and has a collision with another car, then just because you are able to pay that other car driver off that should not stop the police from charging you with driving through a red light. Most Australian people would accept that and that that is the proper way to go about things. Now, under the industrial law of this country we are going to have a situation where if a big company or a big union breaches the law and is then able to pay somebody off so that they can say, 'Mr Regulator, the issue is settled,' they can escape prosecution. Take the tip: no individual worker will have that sort of money and no small contractor will have that sort of money. The only people who will have that sort of money will be the big companies and the big unions. And who is championing the cause yet again of the big unions and the big companies in this place? It is the Greens-Labor alliance. Yet again they have forgotten the small people in Australia: the individual workers and the smaller contractors and subcontractors in the building and construction sector.
All they are interested in is the sweetheart deal, the payoff and the funny money. As a coalition we agree with three state attorneys-general. We agree with the Law Council of Australia that that sets a dangerous precedent. Indeed, I would go further and say that it sets a rotten precedent.
In its original form this bill was before this place for a number of years. We did not hear any reason or rationale from those opposite during this debate as to why this last-minute amendment snuck through after the Senate had finished its inquiry and why this all of a sudden became so urgent. We were not told who initiated this amendment. We do know from the previous Senate inquiry into the bill that there were certain provisions in the bill that the unions did not want and that the employers did not want, and that the department had no explanation as to why it was in the bill other than that the minister determined that it should be in the bill. We now know that, clearly, the Labor ministers for workplace relations will make up their own minds in relation to how the law of this country should be developed.
Can I tell you that that is all fine? They are elected to make those decisions, but why are they running away from scrutiny? That is what the issue here this evening is. Why is it that the Greens-Labor alliance do not want this last-minute amendment—this important amendment—scrutinised? I know why, because it is unprecedented and unprincipled. The Greens and Labor senators could not sit before a Senate committee and look the Law Council of Australia in the eye and try to argue that this is a good precedent. They could not look the three state Attorneys-General in the eye and say: 'This is highly principled law making. This is good for the rule of law in our country that people should be able to buy their way out of trouble.' The Greens senators know that. The Labor senators know that. They, in all conscience, cannot look the Law Council of Australia or, indeed, the people of Australia in the eye and say that this would be good law.
We are confronted with a situation yet again this evening where the Greens-Labor alliance majority in this place will ensure there is not a Senate inquiry into an important matter of principle. This follows on from their voting earlier today to guillotine 16 bills through the Senate in indecent haste, which follows on from the 19 bills late last year that they guillotined through this place in indecent haste and then cut three days of sitting from the parliamentary timetable. Let no Australian be under the misapprehension that the Greens-Labor alliance in this place is allowing for proper scrutiny of legislation. They are in fact doing the exact opposite. They are ruthlessly using their numbers to ensure that controversial issues are not even vented in Senate committees and that bills are properly debated.
I trust that my prophecy in this regard is wrong and that this motion will not be lost. I fear it will be; nevertheless, the coalition will be putting it to a vote because this is such an important matter of principle that we want to ensure that Australians, especially the Greens, remember that we have taken a very strong and principled stand in supporting the forms of this place so that proper scrutiny of legislation can take place.