Senate debates

Monday, 3 December 2018

Business

Consideration of Legislation

1:35 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move a motion relating to consideration of the bill.

Leave not granted.

Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Cormann moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to consideration of the bill may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.

And I move:

That the question be now put.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the question be now put.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave not granted.

Opposition senators interjecting

1:44 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I'm going to put the motion to suspend standing orders.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave not granted.

Senator Wong interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong! Please resume your seat. I am required to put the motion.

Honourable senators interjecting

Order! That's it! The Senate has voted to put this motion without debate; I am required to reflect the will of the Senate. I put the motion moved by Senator Cormann to suspend—

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a statement.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is not granted.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

This is an outrage—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, I ask you to resume your seat. I'm going to put the motion.

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

I am required to put this. This had better be a brief point of order, Senator Collins. The Senate has voted to put the motion.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

It is. I've had a chance to see the motion that has been circulated, as other senators have not—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

What's the point of order, Senator Collins?

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

The point of order is: is it a rescission of an earlier decision of the Senate from last week?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I have not been advised of such and I do not believe it is. The Senate voted to put the motion to be moved by Senator Cormann. He will then have an opportunity to move a substantive motion. I put the motion. The question is the motion to suspend standing orders, moved by Senator Cormann, be agreed to.

1:49 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

You'll raise a point of order after Senator Cormann has the—

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I've stood up first.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cormann has precedence, which I—

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

It's 1.50.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I have just sought advice on the matters that I could predict would come up.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

You didn't give us any courtesy.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Collins, please resume your seat. I'm going to allow Senator Cormann to move it, and then I will take your point of order. But Senator Cormann does have precedence. It's a tradition I respect for both the leader of the government and the Leader of the Opposition on numerous occasions. Senator Cormann.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I've called Senator Cormann. He's going to finish doing this—

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

I have called Senator Cormann. I have sought advice from the Clerk on the matter of the time, and I'm going to rule on it, but Senator Cormann had the call.

Opposition senators interjecting

Yes, and I'm allowed to let the person who had the call—

Opposition senators interjecting

I sought advice from the Clerk on this matter and the matter of 1.50, which I will soon explain, is not relevant to Senator Cormann moving this motion, which I will explain after the courtesy is granted to him to put what he wants to on the record.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That a motion relating to the consideration of legislation may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.

And I move:

That the question be now put.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Now, Senator Wong, on the point of order on time, I sought advice from the Clerk on this matter during the last division, before it reached 1.50, while the numbers were being counted, and the Clerk has advised me that, consistent with past practice, we have already suspended standing orders, and that allows the minister to move this particular motion, because the effect of that motion was the 1.50 cut-off did not apply to the moving of this subsequent motion subsequent to the previous vote. The Clerk has advised me that that is consistent with past practice. Senator Collins.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

The question I raised earlier that I was hoping for you to illuminate us on was on standing order No. 87. That has not yet been addressed. What all senators in this place need clarification on is how this motion, circulated very late in the piece with no notice, no warning, no consultation, was that he would move that the limitation of debate of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 no longer operate. We determined this matter last Thursday. We went through the correct processes to do—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you raising a point of order? Senator Collins, please resume your seat. You've raised your point of order, which is: does the motion moved by Senator Cormann contravene standing order 87. Now, that motion cannot be ruled on, by the way, until Senator Cormann has had a chance to move the motion, which is why I wanted to give him an opportunity to actually move the motion.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

Without debate.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Hang on. You can't raise a point of order about a motion being outside the standing orders until the motion is moved. So I have sought the advice of the Clerk on this matter, and you were kind enough to provide me with your query earlier to allow me to seek advice from the Clerk, and the Clerk has said, again, consistent with past practice, the suspension of standing orders means that standing order 87 does not apply to prevent the moving of this motion and that that is also consistent with the past practice of the Senate. I wanted Senator Cormann to move it, because the point of order can only be raised after it is moved. Senator Collins.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

If we are, indeed, dealing with the motion that Senator Cormann has now moved—which, as I said, is that the limitation of debate on the Sex Discrimination Amendment—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

What is the point of order, Senator Collins?

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

No, I'm speaking to the motion.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

No, he's moved 'and the motion be put'.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

How can he move that such a motion now be put?

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

We have the capacity to debate whether we should change our affairs in the way that he has proposed.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Collins, please resume your seat. The question is now that the motion moved by Senator Cormann be put—the procedural matter that the question be put. The question is that the question be now put.

1:57 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now is to grant precedence to the motion to be moved by Senator Cormann to allow it to be put without amendment or debate.

Question agreed to.

1:58 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the limitation of debate on the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, agreed to on 29 November 2018, no longer operate.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Cormann be agreed to.

2:02 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Responding to concerns expressed by a number of crossbench senators about the complexity of the issues relating to government amendments on this bill, I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018 to a committee.

Leave not granted.

I'll just flag that the government will move this motion at the earliest opportunity in the ordinary course of events.

2:03 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

I appreciate leave and thank the Senate. I think that's just belled the cat, hasn't it? The shenanigans we've been through have been aided and abetted by Centre Alliance, who, contrary to their indication that they would support LGBTIQ kids, have walked in here and helped Senator Cormann put off a vote on a bill they reckon they support. And this is a bill that Mr Morrison supports. Let us be clear. The only reason why we have had the shenanigans we have just seen—no notice, coming in and upending the Senate, overturning the previous agreement of this Senate to vote on this legislation for which there was broad support in this chamber by 10 to two—the only reason Minister Cormann had to suspend standing orders and pervert the process of the Senate is because he's worried about the House of Representatives. He's worried about the survival of the government on the floor of the House of Representatives. He's lost control. This is an indication of the chaos that is the Morrison government. They upend the Senate to not vote on protecting LGBTIQ kids because they're so worried about the lack of control they have of the House of Representatives. Do you know what the decent thing to do would be? Call an election. Call an election, and stop perverting the processes of the Senate by voting against the position the Prime Minister had and trying to desperately avoid a vote in the House. Call an election instead of lying the way that you have about this issue through the Wentworth by-election and through this week. And shame on you, Senator Patrick, for doing this and aiding and abetting it.

2:05 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—The government does support what this legislation is seeking to achieve, but it supports it with reasonable amendments to ensure that, for example, religious schools can provide appropriate rules for the proper conduct of their schools. The government put forward five very sensible amendments. Some of the crossbenchers indicated to us, in good faith, that they needed some more time to consider the issues that they raised.

Rather than doing what Senator Wong has indicated—up-ending the Senate—what we are doing is making sure that the Senate has the proper opportunity to consider all of the issues, which is actually its job. What was in place was a guillotine to prevent the Senate from properly considering all of the issues. We are actually, as a government, facilitating the proper consideration of what is a very important issue. We do want to see this legislation passed, but we want to see it passed in an amended form. We thank the Senate for having made a sensible decision today and for having backed our judgement.

2:06 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—This is an appalling use of Senate process, and it is leaving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in despair. Three-quarters of the Australian community want to see discrimination ended in schools, full stop—no ifs or buts—and they want it to end now. The Prime Minister himself said, before the Wentworth by-election, that it was urgent to act to end discrimination now. Yet we have just seen this appalling use of Senate process. This bill has been pushed off into the long grass.

We had the opportunity today to change our laws for the better, so that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students would have been protected, would have felt safe and would have felt supported in their school communities regardless of what school they went to. But the appalling actions of this government, together with Centre Alliance—who have shown their true colours in what they are doing today—have meant that this opportunity is passing us by. The Greens believed that we had the numbers in this place to end discrimination against teachers as well. But the government, coupled with Centre Alliance, is not allowing this debate to occur and not allowing a vote to occur today. It is an absolute travesty and it is incredibly sad for those many people in our community—the same people who fought a year ago for marriage equality—who were hoping that, a year later, as part of the anniversary of marriage equality, we would act to end discrimination and support young people in all of our schools. But it is not to be, because of the outrageous actions of this government and the Centre Alliance senators.

2:08 pm

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I thank the Senate and those observing this need to understand the process that has occurred to date. Indeed, Senator Macdonald has misrepresented the comments that I made during my contribution on this bill. Let's be very clear about what process occurred. We moved to have these matters referred to a committee for a report and for an interim report, to allow the Greens' bill and, indeed, other proposals, such as the now government amendments, to be considered in detail. What this government then did was come into the chamber, in a deal with the Greens, and circumvent that time frame—so severely that we have received complaints from people who appeared before the Senate committee that they were asked to provide further information to the committee and the committee reported even before such information could have been received by the committee. That was the farce, that this government agreed with the Greens about how we deal with issues related to discrimination against students.

The Labor Party had no part in that farce. Let's be very clear: things change on that side, on the government's side, every second minute. Now they're arguing we need more time. In the week before last they were arguing, 'Oh, no, we've got to do it right now,' and would not allow proper and due consideration. This is the chaos of the Morrison government. They cannot decide on a process that is legitimate, that is open, that is honest. Instead, we have the stunts, such as that we just received, where, with no notice, with—

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, sit down.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

All interjections are disorderly, Senator Collins, and I will call all senators to order.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

That was not the loudest interjection I've had so far this afternoon.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

No, no, Mr President, it was not the loudest, but, in terms of other matters we discussed last week, senators interjecting across the chamber with that tone—'Oh, sit down!'—is exactly the point just made, and should be refrained from. You shouldn't refer to people in that fashion. But aside from that, don't let me be diverted from my point. The point is that—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order. Let us continue this debate so we can get to question time. Senator Collins.

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. The point is, this process has been a farce because of the behaviour of government senators. It reflects the standing of the Morrison government and, indeed, reflects the position the former Prime Minister left this matter in. Let's try and deal with protecting religious freedom for the Australian community with more respect and with more dignity.

2:11 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

What has happened here in the 20 or so minutes before now is simply a matter of the Senate indicating its will on a matter, and what the Senate has indicated is that it wishes to have more time to debate this legislation.

Senator McAllister interjecting

Mr President, I'll take the interjection from Senator McAllister. The will of the Senate has been expressed, and the government alone does not have the numbers in this place. Crossbench colleagues indicated that they desired to have additional time to consider this legislation. That is something that the government took into consideration; hence, Senator Cormann sought leave to move his motion in order to allow a substantive motion to provide additional time. This is a case of the government listening to what crossbenchers, in good faith, have expressed, of it putting that matter to the Senate and the Senate deciding that there should be additional time. That is what happened. As we see time and time again, those opposite are always happy to crow about the will of the Senate right up until the point that the Senate doesn't agree with them. Then the will of the Senate doesn't seem to count for much.

This is important legislation; we all recognise it's important legislation. We want to make sure that there are appropriate and reasonable safeguards, and the Senate has expressed its will that the time should be taken to make sure that that is the case. There should be no doubt at all about the desire of this government, the desire of this parliament, the desire of both chambers, to ensure that students are not ever placed in a situation where a school would see them not continue. We are all agreed with that. But it is important that there are appropriate safeguards for school institutions, so that they can go about their business, as we would all want them to. That is why Senator Cormann moved the motion that he did—in order to ensure that the Senate has the opportunity to properly discharge its responsibilities to examine the legislation carefully.

2:14 pm

Rex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave not granted.

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I will be very brief, because I've expressed my views on this appalling situation many times before. I want to go on record as saying I support the amendments by the Greens to this bill, that have now been abandoned, to ban discrimination by independent schools against any pupil on the grounds of their sexual orientation. I feel as fervently on the issue of discrimination against teachers, too. I am surprised and disappointed, but, after being so gung-ho about protecting gay teachers last week, the opposition dropped the second part from its bill when it got here. That is why I supported several important Greens amendments which I believe would have passed and could have passed. I'm not surprised that the government has abandoned teacher protection for now, because Prime Minister Morrison made it quite clear to me personally that that would not happen. The Libs also, of course, have watered down the gay student protection with some of their amendments today. Now, of course, they've kicked it all to the long grass, as somebody earlier said.

I had a failed motion on this issue earlier this year, and another failed one that would have stripped discriminatory schools of any government funding or charity tax concessions. I still stand by that, although it failed. I suspect that the government and the opposition feared Catholic and Uniting school backlashes, even though neither has threatened, as far as I know, to expel a child or sack a teacher solely because of their sexual orientation.

Finally, going back to a hypothetical I've raised before in here and with the PM: if I were a person of faith—and I'm not—and I had three teenage kids, two straight and one possibly gay or unsure of their sexuality, could two of my kids go to a school of my choice and the third not be allowed to? How the hell do you explain that to a possibly troubled, insecure child? That's why what has happened here today is a bloody disgrace.