Monday, 14 July 2014
by leave—I move:
That the routine of business for the remainder of the day be as follows:
No. 3 Trade Support Loans Bill 2014
Trade Support Loans (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014
No. 2 Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013 [No. 2]
No. 8 Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014
Asset Recycling Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014
No. 6 Health Workforce Australia (Abolition) Bill 2014
No. 7 Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014.
The opposition will be supporting this motion because we take the principle that the government has the right to set the order of business. However, it is passing strange that this is the second time today that we have had a request from the government to change the order of business from the Senate red that we had when we all came into this place today. I acknowledge that the Manager of Government Business did tell us that this is what he wanted to do, but having already had one request for a change in the order of business, it seems odd that we are not able to get through the whole day without having another. The people on our side were all prepared to go through with the debate this evening on the Health Workforce Australia Bill and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill as listed on the red this morning. We were ready to go into that debate this afternoon. Also, the community affairs committee was requested to have its report in this evening so that we would be able to progress that process tonight. It is confusing that we are again being asked to go along with a request and we do not know why. It makes the red we get in the morning almost redundant. It is as if we should come in here in the morning and say, 'Hey government, what do you want us to do now?' We have no warning about what we need to do. This is not the way to run business. As the Manager of Government Business knows full well—after telling us for years—every time a motion came in from a manager of government business in the past we were lectured about our inability to run the affairs of the chamber. It was a regular occurrence. I have a number of former managers of government business behind me who have a record of being told they were not up to the job.
Senator Fifield, if you go back and check the Hansard, which I did, you will see that that phrase was used. The opposition and the Greens have had this discussion. We have said we will not stand in the way of this request for a change. We are taking note of the number of times we are asked to come in here and change our program for no known reason. This morning at 10 o'clock we had a vote to determine the order of business for a range of legislation that we are working through today. Already a number of bills have passed, yet this afternoon we were told that we have to make this change. This is not the way to make it work. We will not stand in the way, but we need to make our position known that this is not the standard way the Senate should operate.
I want to add to the remarks of Senator Moore. This morning I opposed the rearrangement of business and I say exactly the same thing again. We now have a situation where the government, it seems, is prepared to do the bidding of certain parties in the Senate but not others. I would like an undertaking from the government that, if the Greens come in here and decide we do not want to deal with any of this legislation, it will rearrange the business accordingly. It would seem that all that is required is that certain members or certain sections of the parliament just come into the Senate and say, 'We're not prepared to deal with that today,' and the government says, 'Okay, we'll jump. How high?' Then they just come in and change the business for the second time in one day. If this is how we are going to run the Senate, then it has to be fair and equal for everyone; it should be that, if anyone is not happy to debate a matter, we just have it moved. If that is how it is going to be, it is going to be chaotic. What we know here is that the government is clearly not in charge and is doing the bidding of other sections in the Senate. It is an unworkable arrangement that gives no certainty to anyone in planning their work for the day. I say again that it seems extraordinary that we come in here in the morning and rearrange the business and then rearrange it again now. We still do not know why the health bills are not coming on. They were clearly on the Notice Paper. Why aren't they coming on? Perhaps the Manager of Government Business in the Senate can tell us why they have suddenly rearranged the business again and whether this is going to be something that is done for certain sections of the Senate but not others.
What hypocrisy! I apologise to the Senate but I simply cannot allow to go uncommented upon the hypocrisy we have just heard. I sat in this chamber for the last six years when the Greens continually altered the arrangements of the then government. The then government rolled over every time. Why? Because the Greens political party supported the government of the time and it was the only reason Ms Gillard was Prime Minister. To sit here for three minutes and listen to the hypocrisy that has just been spoken is breathtaking. I say to those who are new to this chamber—unless they might be moved in some way by what the previous speaker has just said—that what has happened today happened continuously in the last six years. When we would complain was there any backward step taken by the Greens political party? Absolutely not. And that was fair enough. If that was what they wanted at the time—and they had the numbers—fair enough. But to have to sit here in this chamber and hear this hypocrisy just sickens me and I cannot let it go without commenting.
I thank my colleagues for their contribution to the debate on this motion. It is not an extraordinary or unusual thing, as Senator Macdonald pointed out, for governments on occasion to seek to rearrange the business. In this case, as I indicated to all parties and to all representatives of the cross bench that I spoke to, there was indeed a request for consideration of the two health related bills to be put later to allow additional consideration by those crossbench senators.
I thought that was an entirely reasonable request and is something that I flagged and indicated to those around the chamber. I might add that I did it at least a good four or more hours ago. So it is not something that has crept up. It is the government seeking to accommodate the legitimate desire of new senators to this place to consider these matters. As Manager of Government Business in the Senate I thought it was an entirely appropriate thing to do and those opposite, when they were on this side of the chamber, did this from time to time.
Regularly, indeed, Senator Macdonald. The then coalition opposition recognised that it was, on occasion, reasonable to do and we cooperated. I thank Senator Moore for her cooperation here on this occasion. Indeed, Senator Carr, has a shortish memory. But that is the reason why this motion to rearrange is being moved and I thank colleagues for their cooperation.
Question agreed to.