Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019



9:31 am

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

I move:

That, on Wednesday, 3 April 2019:

(1) The routine of business from 9.30 am to 2 pm and from 3.30 pm to 5 pm shall be:

(a) consideration of:

(i) a censure motion concerning Senator Anning,

(ii) a motion to be moved by a minister relating to gun control, and

(iii) the notice of motion standing in the name of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Cormann) relating to the qualification of senators under section 44 of the Constitution;

(b) consideration of the following bills and a related order of the day:

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2018-2019

Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2018-2019

Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2018-2019

Advances provided under the annual Appropriation Acts Report for 2017-18

Supply Bill (No. 1) 2019-20

Supply Bill (No. 2) 2019-20

Supply (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-20

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Energy Assistance Payment) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (Increasing the Instant Asset Write Off for Small Business Entities) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (North Queensland Flood Recovery) Bill 2019

Governor-General Amendment (Salary) Bill 2019

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Amendment Bill 2019

Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (Mutual Reforms) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Foreign Investors Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia and Other Measures) Bill 2019

Income Tax (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Amendment Bill 2018

Income Tax Rates Amendment (Sovereign Entities) Bill 2018

Corporations Amendment (Strengthening Protections for Employee Entitlements) Bill 2018

Treatment Benefits (Special Access) Bill 2019

Treatment Benefits (Special Access) (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2019

Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019

Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (Design and Distribution Obligations and Product Intervention Powers) Bill 2018

Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Reforms No. 1) Bill 2019

Customs Tariff Amendment (Craft Beer) Bill 2019

Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Bill 2019

Excise Tariff Amendment (Supporting Craft Brewers) Bill 2019

Australian Business Securitisation Fund Bill 2019; and

consideration of the notice of motion standing in the name of Senator Farrell for the disallowance of item 4 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019 [F2019L00177].

(1A) In respect of the motion listed under subparagraph (1)(a)(i):

(a) senators speaking in the debate may speak for not more than 10 minutes each; and

(b) the motion shall be determined without amendment.

(2) Divisions may take place between 12.45 pm and 2 pm.

(3) If, by 5 pm, the matters listed in paragraph (1) have not been finally considered, any questions required to dispose of the matters shall be put without debate at the conclusion of the items listed in paragraph (5).

(4) Paragraph (3) of this order shall operate as a limitation of debate under standing order 142 in respect of each of the bills.

(5) From 5 pm, the routine of business shall be as follows:

(a) first speeches by Senators Askew and Spender, without any question before the chair; and

(b) valedictory statements relating to Senators Scullion, Moore and Cameron.

(6) Immediately after the valedictory statements, or after the determination of any questions in accordance with paragraph (3), whichever is the later, party leaders and independent senators may make responses to the Budget statement and documents for not more than 20 minutes each.

(7) The question for the adjournment shall be proposed after the conclusion of responses to the Budget statement and documents.

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

There have been a number of discussions around the chamber about amendments to this government business motion. Obviously we only have one day of sittings in this fortnight, and this is likely to be the last day of the Senate sitting before the election. The opposition have a view that there is some legislation which, in this truncated time frame, does need to be passed, so we will be supporting the motion to rearrange the routine of business today. I make the point that we would not be in the position of having to do so if the government had actually put forward a sitting calendar which had the Senate sitting more than five days in four months. I think the sitting calendar confirms what many people know and which the budget has demonstrated—that this government has given up on governing. As a responsible opposition, we won't be holding up the passage of relevant bills for the sake of making political points. The motion enables key legislation, including appropriation and supply bills, to be passed prior to an election and preserves time for first speeches and valedictories, which all of us would like to ensure we give departing and arriving colleagues the courtesy of engaging in. I move an amendment to the motion:

After paragraph (1) (a), insert:

"(aa) the following motions being put sequentially, and determined without amendment or debate:

  (i) general business notice of motion no. 1430 standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) relating to racism, extremism and hate speech;

  (ii) general business notice of motion no. 1450 standing in the names of Senators Watt and Cameron relating to Senator Cash answering questions at estimates related to her former role as Minister for Employment; and

  (iii) general business notice of motion no. 1470 standing in the name of Senator O'Neill relating to the appearance of witnesses before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee at budget estimates hearings on Friday, 5 April 2019;

(ab) consideration of a motion, to be moved by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Di Natale), relating to the conduct of a senator;"

There are three opposition motions that we wish to add to this program and deal with today. One relates to an issue which has been a subject of much discussion in recent days and weeks since the tragedy of Christchurch; that is, how people might show leadership in how they direct their preferences. The Labor Party for 20 years has had a very clear view about putting extremist parties such as One Nation last, a view that even John Howard came to. We think that is a principled, correct position for parties of government. We wish to put to this chamber a motion that calls on parties to do so. I hope that the Greens and the relevant crossbenchers will vote for it—other than One Nation, who I suspect will not vote for it. And the senator who is the subject of a censure motion later possibly won't vote for it. But the rest of us can show some leadership to the Australian community. I encourage support on that.

Senator Williams interjecting

I'll take that interjection about extremist positions from the Greens. I don't think anybody would suggest I have a Greens view of life—I disagree with them on the US alliance, I disagree with them on inheritance taxes, I disagree with them on how to go about implementing change—but they do not engage in racist hate speech, and that is what is inimical to our democracy. You should show the leadership that Ron Boswell and Tim Fischer did. They understood that you put the country first sometimes. Don't get into this moral equivalence argument, which everybody knows is self-serving. Show some leadership!

Anyway, there are two more motions—that was a nice little diversion, wasn't it?

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (Senate)) Share this | | Hansard source

Well done, Wacka. See what you started!

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

I'm not sure whose side Senator Sterle's on.

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (Senate)) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm on your side. I was chastising Wacka.

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

He's always on my side. Thank you, Senator Sterle.

We also have two motions relating to Senator Cash turning up to estimates to answer some questions about the fact that it's quite clear from the previous estimates round that her failure to comply and cooperate with the AFP has had the direct result of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions not engaging in a prosecution in relation to the media leaks of a police raid—something which is contrary to the law, something which is illegal. And we have a further motion, standing in the name of Senator O'Neill, in relation to public statements by the Australian Greens on a motion to suspend Senator Anning. We have indicated a position that, whilst we do not support the substantive, we accept the right of the Australian Greens to put that motion. Notwithstanding that Labor will not be supporting the substantive, I've included in the procedural motion the capacity for that to be moved separately, and I hope that this amendment can gain the support of the chamber. Thank you, Mr President.

9:37 am

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the hours motion. The Senate's been on strike for the past few months and now we're being asked to support 30 bills, ramming them through this parliament with the support of the Labor Party. We haven't even seen some of these bills! We have not even seen the bills that will be rammed through this parliament. We're dealing here with some legislation that will fundamentally change people's lives. Let's look at what we're actually being asked to support.

There's the cashless welfare card legislation. We've got this dodgy deal between the two major parties, who want to implement a piece of legislation that's got no evidence behind it and that makes life harder for people, mainly Aboriginal people. Let's name it here—it's racist, because it targets Aboriginal people above everybody else. Every single evaluation has shown that it doesn't provide any benefit when it comes to improving the lives of people. We've got a budget that delivers no money for Newstart, yet we have this paternalistic, top-down, we-know-best attitude from the Liberal Party when it comes to people managing their affairs. This is a party of 'personal responsibility'—not if you're Aboriginal, though; if you're Aboriginal it says, 'What we're gonna do is tell you how you can manage your money, even though it's gonna make your life harder.' The cashless welfare card is a massive waste of public money that could be spent on targeted initiatives to help people. Compulsory income management should be abandoned, yet it's going to be expanded and rammed through this parliament with no debate.

We've got the Efic bill. This is again a capitulation to the coalition by the Labor Party. This is a bill that expands fossil fuel infrastructure—coal, oil and gas infrastructure—across the Pacific. We're now going to use taxpayer money, while we're in the middle of a climate emergency, to bankroll more fossil fuel infrastructure in the Pacific. Here's a news flash: some of those Pacific countries are now drowning; they are now under water because of the unmitigated disaster that is climate change. The only response from the coalition and Labor is: let's bankroll more coal, oil and gas projects. This is an existential threat for our neighbours in the Pacific, yet here we are ramming this bill through at a moment's notice. That's not to mention what this does in the aid and development sector. We're hearing from people who work in the aid and development sector, 'We need more scrutiny.' The Labor Party could hold off on this. This has got nothing to do with appropriations. It's got everything to do with allowing the Liberal Party to implement their agenda so that they can hide behind it when they're in government, and they'll almost certainly be in government. Will they repeal this? No, they won't, because they facilitated the passage of this legislation.

Then we've got some of the most significant changes to social media online regulation that we have ever seen. This bill hasn't even been introduced. It hasn't even been introduced and it's going to be rammed through. We haven't had an opportunity to see it. Of course, in the wake of Christchurch, we need to look at how we regulate social media and online content. Of course we need to do that. People shouldn't be subjected to the abhorrent material that's posted online. But you don't go about this by introducing legislation that the parliament can't even debate and scrutinise. And it's all done with the support of a compliant Labor Party.

We've got no beef with ensuring that appropriation bills pass this Senate, but don't sneakily ram through legislation that hasn't had the opportunity to be scrutinised by this parliament. If we're going to regulate social media, let's do it properly. Let's have an inquiry. Let's talk to the people who know something about this stuff—not the Liberals whose only intent here is a knee-jerk reaction in the lead-up to an election, to show they're doing something, which may, in fact, even prove to be counterproductive. So we need an inquiry into this legislation to make sure that whatever change is made, when it comes to the regulation of social media, is done in a way that achieves what we want it to achieve.

When it comes to this hours motion, what we've got is an amendment that prevents the Greens from amending that censure motion. The Greens believe that hate speech has no place in Australia, and it's certainly got no place in this parliament. We wanted to amend the censure motion so that it makes it very clear that, if somebody in this parliament can be booted out for calling out sexism, they sure as hell should be booted out for invoking the 'final solution'—and for disrespecting the lives of those people who were killed as a result of a terrorist incident—egged on by some of the voices in this chamber. We can't amend that censure motion because of this hours motion. The Liberal Party and the Labor Party are getting together, preventing us from amending a censure motion that would suspend Fraser Anning from this parliament.

There is something wrong with the rules of this chamber if somebody can be suspended for calling out sexism and yet if somebody in this chamber invokes the final solution not only do they not get suspended but also they get handshakes from members of the government. It says everything about this government. No, what we're seeing here is what we've seen for the last three years—indeed, for my time in this place—and that's another stitch-up between the Liberals and the Labor Party to avoid any scrutiny on pieces of legislation that deserve a full and thorough airing in the house of review, in the Senate.

9:43 am

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

I rise to speak to Senator Wong's amendment. As Senator Wong has indicated, the government does have before the chamber a primary motion that seeks to deal with, in an orderly fashion, the business that's expected, that we as colleagues will transact. Senator Wong has moved an amendment to seek to bring on three particular motions. I want to speak briefly as to why the government doesn't support these.

First is Senator Wong's motion No. 1430. Let me be absolutely clear, the coalition senators have absolutely no truck with racism, extremism and hate speech. And that could not have been more thoughtfully or eloquently displayed than by Senator Birmingham yesterday in question time. Senator Birmingham spoke on behalf of all coalition colleagues when it comes to matters of racism, extremism and hate speech. It is not for this chamber to speak to and to seek to determine matters that are for the electoral determination of party organisations, which is the other part of that particular motion that Senator Wong is seeking to bring on. Electoral determinations are for party organisations; they are not matters that should be sought to be determined by the Senate chamber.

On (ii) of the amendment that Senator Wong seeks to bring forward, in relation to Senators Watt and Cameron and Senator Cash, Senator Cash has addressed time and again every one of the matters that have been put to her in this forum and in Senate estimates committees previously. What this amendment seeks to do is establish a new precedent whereby estimates committees could seek to call ministers who don't actually hold portfolio responsibility for the matters that the Senate estimates committees address. Senate estimates committees, budget estimates, seek to address expenditure by government, and to do so by portfolio agency. Senator Cash does not hold portfolio responsibility in these areas; she is therefore not the appropriate minister to appear before that committee. This amendment would seek to establish a precedent which we haven't previously observed.

And in (iii), Senator Wong seeks to bring forward, on behalf of the opposition, a motion in relation to the foreign affairs legislation committee sitting as a budget estimates committee. Now, this is extremely concerning, because it seeks to establish a precedent where a private business can be called before an estimates committee, where the CEO of a private business can be called before a budget estimates committee, and where a former employee of a private business, who would appear to have some issues with his former employer, can be called before a Senate budget estimates committee in order to talk about the issues that he has with his former employer.

The purpose of budget estimates committees is to call forth Commonwealth government agencies and the officials of those Commonwealth government agencies, and to inquire into Commonwealth government expenditure. It is not a forum to call forward private businesses. It is not a forum to call forward former employees of private businesses and to canvass the issues that they may have with their former employers. There are appropriate forums for individuals who have issues with their former employers to pursue. There is Fair Work Australia. There are the legal recourses through the courts. They are the appropriate forums for an individual who has a matter in relation to a former employer. To have Senate budget estimates committees used as forums for former employers to raise matters, and to do so under parliamentary privilege, would establish a very unusual precedent. This is not the appropriate forum for those matters, and I think Senate colleagues should think very, very, very carefully when looking to establish what would be a new and unusual precedent—one which I think would undermine the purpose and intent of Senate budget estimates committees and would be an abuse of the Senate budget estimates committees processes.

With those observations, I indicate that the government won't be supporting Senator Wong's amendment, and I would encourage Senate colleagues to take account of what I've outlined on each of those propositions.

9:49 am

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is not my first speech. I am new to this place but I can tell when the fix is in. This is a fix between the coalition and Labor to do lots of terrible things to our democracy. In particular, we're talking about an hours motion that prevents us from debating a dozen or so bills. Now, I selfishly would like to speak on these bills, because I might not have a lot of time in this chamber. So I would love it if, instead of just saying at five o'clock tonight we're going to ram all these things through without any debate—I've not had an all-nighter in this place. I know some of you have. I'd like one. I know you've got the stamina, so, please, let's have an all-nighter. I'll debate all of these things. You'll get to hear my fantastic views about the idea of expanding a government bank. Surprise, surprise: I don't support expanding a government bank. Government banks are complete failures. But this government wants to do it with this.

Last night we heard a lot from our fantastic Treasurer about doing lots of things without increasing tax—doing something else without increasing tax. Well, what are we doing this afternoon at five o'clock without debate? We're increasing tax. And then a bit later on, if I can remember what that bill does, we're increasing tax. It's a complete lie that the government is not increasing tax, and it wants to ram through some bills that increase tax the day after it said it's not increasing tax. It is a complete lie. We've also got some increased government spending, but that's par for the course.

We've got this bill that I have no idea about, no-one has any idea about and we have not seen. It's called the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Bill 2019. Is that bill going to say we shouldn't do live streaming? I've heard a lot of debate in recent weeks that we shouldn't have live streaming. Where did I hear that debate? During live streaming. I was listening to ABC Radio. I was watching ABC TV. I was watching commercial TV and listening to commercial radio. You know what that is? Live streaming. This debate needs debate so we don't make completely stupid decisions—but anyway.

I'd love to be able to debate these things at five o'clock. There are also other matters. I have a motion which we're not going to get to under this proposal: general business notice of motion No. 1455, which would be to say that Senate estimates can continue even if we call an election. By the government and Labor proposing this motion and blocking the ability to have the motion that I will have about Senate estimates, they are basically just voting to have a week off. Next week you're supposed to be in Senate estimates. The Senate is a continuing chamber. You do not need to call off estimates simply because you call an election, but you guys don't want to do any work. Well, I've only just got here. I'd like to do some work, thank you very much. So next week let's have estimates. Let's have motion 1455 included in this.

9:52 am

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

Mr President, I would ask that, when you put Senator Wong's proposed amendments, you separate (aa)(iii), which is relating to general business notice of motion No. 1470. I'd like to vote on that differently.

Photo of Tim StorerTim Storer (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek to insert an amendment to Senator Wong's amendment to government business notice of motion No. 1, which I believe has just been circulated in the chamber, relating to the Parliamentary Transparency Charter:

After subparagraph (aa)(iii), insert:

(iv) general business notice of motion no. 1446, relating to a Parliamentary Transparency Charter;

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

I will commence by putting Senator Storer's amendment to Senator Wong's amendment.

Question agreed to.

The motion is now amended with Senator Storer's. Following the request of Senator Patrick, I will actually put paragraphs (aa)(i) and (ii); the new paragraph (aa)(iv), which is the amendment accepted that was moved by Senator Storer; and paragraph (ab) of Senator Wong's motion, because Senator Patrick has asked that paragraph (aa)(iii) be dealt with separately. Is everyone clear on what we're voting on? We're voting on everything in Senator Wong's amendment, with Senator Storer's amendment, minus (aa)(iii) of Senator Wong's amendment. Senator Cormann?

9:55 am

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

The government intends to vote separately on the amendment that has been added as a result of Senator Storer's amendment, so we need to take that separately. We will be voting against all of the other parts of Senator Wong's amendments, with the exception of Senator Storer's amendment, which is why it probably would have been easier to do what Senator Griff is doing—to amend it separately.

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

All right. I'll deal with paragraphs (aa)(i) and (aa)(ii) as a block up front. The question is that parts (aa)(i) and (ii) of Senator Wong's amendment to the motion moved by Senator Fifield be agreed to.

10:03 am

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

The question is that part (aa)(iii) of Senator Wong's amendment to the motion moved by Senator Fifield be agreed to.

10:07 am

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

I now put the question that part (aa)(iv) of Senator Wong's motion, which was the amendment moved by Senator Storer, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

I now put the question that part (ab) of Senator Wong's amendment to the motion—which is 'consideration of a motion, to be moved by the Leader of the Australian Greens, relating to the conduct of a senator'—be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

I now call Senator Griff to move his amendment. Senator Griff, if it's convenient, the Clerk advised I can now treat your amendment as inserting part (ac) after part (aa) and (ab) just inserted by Senator Wong. This would be become part (ac) to Senator Fifield's motion.

10:08 am

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

After paragraph (1)(a), insert:

(ac) the following motions being put sequentially, and determined without amendment or debate:

  (i) business of the Senate motion no. 3, relating to a disallowance of the Civil Aviation (Community Service Lights – Conditions on Flight Crew Licences) Instrument 2019

  (ii) general business notice of motion no. 1428 standing in the name of Senator Griff relating to an order for production of documents;

  (iii) general business notice of motion no. 1429 standing in the name of Senator Griff relating to the introduction of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Amendment (Assisted Reproductive Treatment Statistics) bill 2019;

  (iv) general business notice of motion no. 1443 standing in the name of Senator Patrick relating to AFL Women's competition

  (v) general business notice of motion no. 1444 standing in the name of Senator Patrick relating to the Murray Darling Royal Commission

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

The question is that that amendment be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

I will now move to Senator Fifield's hours motion amended by Senator Wong's, Senator Storer's and Senator Griff's amendments. The question is that Senator Fifield's motion, as amended, be agreed to.