Tuesday, 2 July 2019
Parliamentary Office Holders
I remind the Senate that it should now choose one of its members to become President. I move:
That Senator Ryan take the chair of the Senate as President.
The Clerk: Are there any further nominations?
Thank you, very much. As Senator Ryan has done, I submit myself to the will of the Senate. But, in doing so, I want to make a couple of points. Firstly, I've accepted this nomination to draw attention to the stitch-up between the major parties that underpins so much of how this place operates. Make no mistake.
Honourable senators interjecting—
In fact, the level of interjection here is exactly why we need a Greens senator sitting in the President's chair. It is because this place is not a cosy club, and it should not operate as a cosy club where the major parties get together and stitch up so much of how this place operates, just as they do in the other place and just as they've done historically in the Senate.
Let me make a blindingly obvious observation: the government does not have a majority in the Senate. This Senate has not been given a mandate by the Australian people to pass the government's agenda unaltered. If that's what the people wanted they would have put the government in a majority in this place. But they didn't. They've elected a balance-of-power Senate, and for too long the major parties have used their collective majority in this place to determine how the Senate operates. You only have to have a look at the other closed shops in this parliament—for example, the joint standing committee on intelligence and security, how that's worked in this place, stitched up by the major parties, and now we've got the ABC being raided by the AFP. This cosy stitch-up between the major parties is not serving our country and it is not serving the people of Australia.
I've accepted the nomination for this role on behalf of the well over a million people who voted for the Australian Greens at this election, who voted to shake up politics, who voted for strong action on climate, who voted for strong action to address the extinction crisis facing this planet. I say to the major parties: if you can't feel the ice cracking under you, if you can't feel the fragility of our institutions starting to crumble in this country, you are not paying close enough attention. The Australian Greens are here to shake up politics. We are here to shake up 'business as usual' and we are here to shake up the way this Senate operates. I ask all senators, particularly my crossbench colleagues, for their support.
The Clerk: As there are two nominees, a ballot will now be held. Before proceeding to ballot, the bells will be rung for four minutes.
The bells having been rung—
The Clerk: The Senate will now proceed to ballot. Ballot papers will be distributed. Please write on the ballot paper the name of the candidate you wish to vote for. The candidates are Senator Ryan and Senator McKim.
A ballot having been taken—
The Clerk: I announce the result of the ballot as follows: Senator Gavin Marshall, one vote; Senator Nick McKim, 10 votes; Senator the Hon. Scott Ryan 62 votes. Senator the Hon. Scott Ryan is therefore elected as President of the Senate in accordance with the standing orders.
Senator Ryan having been conducted to the dais—
I thank Senator Cormann for the nomination and I thank the Senate for the faith that it has expressed in me to continue to serve. I will continue to serve the interests of the entire Senate and all senators, as I have endeavoured to over the last 19 months. I make one final promise, which is that I will see those doors get finished eventually. Thank you, all.
Congratulations, Mr President. In congratulating you I would like to thank the opposition for acting consistent with convention, as we do, in supporting the government's nominee for President. You are in many ways a perfect fit for the position of President. You are trusted, you are fair, you are impartial and you have a deep understanding of parliamentary democracy, Westminster traditions, the Constitution and Australian political history. Indeed, you have a deep love of the Senate as a central institution of parliamentary democracy. You have presided over our proceedings so far as our President with good humour and the appropriate levels of independence. We wish you well in reassuming your office.
I rise on behalf of the opposition to congratulate you, Mr President, on your re-election as President of the Senate. Fairness and impartiality are obviously key attributes for any person holding this position, especially in this chamber, which is the only chamber in the parliament in which executive government can actually be held to account, given the numbers in the House of Representatives. We know you recognise that you hold this position on the trust of the Senate, not as a partisan. We also know that you have a deep respect for the principles and conventions of our democracy, such as the separation of powers and the principle of ministerial accountability—principles which more in this parliament might recognise. We recognise you also hold a deep respect for the role the Senate has in Australia's democracy and we look forward to continuing to work with you.
Mr President, I rise on behalf of the Australian Greens to congratulate you on your appointment. It was a close-run thing! Clearly, we are disappointed that our candidate, Senator McKim, wasn't elected. Clearly, the election of President is a gift of the Senate; it doesn't belong to either of the major parties. We think this is one of many conventions that don't serve the parliament well. We do think that having someone from the crossbench would make this a much more lively and interesting chamber. Having said that, we are assured that you will continue your role assiduously and independently. As one of the few people who have been booted out of this place by you, I hope that that tradition will not continue through this parliament.