Thursday, 29 November 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. This week the Morrison government has opposed the establishment of a national integrity commission, voted for the establishment of a national integrity commission, declared it a 'fringe issue' and indicated that they're considering it. Is this what Mr Turnbull meant when he promised Australians stable government at the 2016 election?
As I hear Senator Kitching not even contain her student laughter, I'm reminded of debates in student politics. You of course know that making a broad, generic statement in relation to a headline is very different than making a statement in relation to a detailed bill, which has serious ramifications. No doubt the reason Labor hasn't put forward a bill proposing a national integrity commission is that you yourself are having to grapple with some of the complexities that are involved in this.
The crossbench in the House of Representatives, to their credit, have gone though that work, but there are issues—there are problems, there are complexities—in relation to a bill that they have put forward. And I would suspect that the Labor Party are not ones to support the bill that was put forward by the crossbench. If you are supportive of the bill that was put forward by the crossbench, please let us know. Translating the question that Senator Kitching just asked—presumably it means that Bill Shorten is both in favour of a national integrity commission and against a national integrity commission. Unless you are not telling me here and now that you are supporting the bill put forward by the crossbench in the House of Representatives, in favour of a national integrity commission, then, on the basis of your logic, I put it to you that Mr Shorten is both in favour of a national integrity commission and against a national integrity commission. Is that the sort of wibble-wobble flip-flop we're going to get from Mr Shorten? That is the extension of your logic. We are saying that we support efforts to improve our anticorruption policy framework; absolutely we do. But we've got to act carefully to ensure that all the principles of natural justice, procedural fairness and the rule of law are appropriately reflected and that we don't have unintended consequences, and that is what we're focused on.
This week the Morrison government has lost almost one government seat a day: the seat of Wentworth on Monday, the seat of Chisholm on Tuesday, and now the threat of losing the seat of Hughes. Is this what Mr Turnbull meant when he promised Australians stable government?
I remember being involved in the federal government in a much more junior capacity back in 2001, and I spent a lot of time on the plane with Mr Beazley. Let me tell you: Mr Beazley and his team were getting very cocky. They thought they were going to surf into the Lodge. And Mr Beazley was much more electable than Mr Shorten.
Let me answer the question directly. Firstly, the Morrison government's been a minority government from day one, but it's a government that continues to enjoy the majority in the House of Representatives, because if we didn't then the Labor Party would have long ago initiated a no-confidence motion. The fact that you don't means that you accept the fact that we enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives. The next point I would make is that the last time the Labor Party was as cocky as you are now was when you thought you were going to surf into the Lodge. Mr Beazley and others were already measuring for curtains. (Time expired)
This week the government released the 2019 sitting calendar, which will see the House of Representatives sit for only 10 days in eight months. With the government losing up to three seats to the crossbench this week alone, and incapable of providing stability, is it any wonder the Morrison government is running scared from parliament?
The first piece of advice I would give you is: don't always believe the Labor Party talking points, because they're not always accurate. If you look at the parliamentary sitting calendar that was put forward, what you will see is that, in the first eight months, we didn't schedule 10 days; we scheduled 11 weeks. Now, as it happens, everybody knows there's going to be an election due by the end of May, so the timing of the election will interfere with the parliamentary sitting calendar, as it always does every three years. Guess what else happens? Because the last election was a double dissolution election, we have to have the election in time to replace the Senate by 1 July 2019, which means that we've had to bring the budget forward by six weeks. When you bring the budget forward by six weeks, that also has implications for your parliamentary sitting calendar. That is all there is to it. Again, are these really the big issues for the nation? Why don't you ask questions about the economy and opportunities for Australian families to get ahead?