Monday, 23 March 2020
Leave of Absence
(a) the orders of the Senate of 14 November 2019 relating to the days of meeting for 2020 and estimates hearings be suspended until 11 August 2020;
(b) the President shall alter the day and time of the next meeting of the Senate at the request of, or the agreement of, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and the time of meeting shall be notified to each senator;
(c) the Senate may meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided in the standing orders with the agreement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and that the rules and orders necessary to constitute such a meeting may be determined by the Procedure Committee; and
(d) leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the end of the sitting today, to the day on which the Senate next meets.
I thought that a Labor member might request the call, but, regardless, I would just make a couple of observations about this and flag with you, President, that I will be asking that part (a) be put separately from parts (b), (c) and (d). That will be a request that I will be making of you. We don't believe it is appropriate to suspend effective until 11 August. There are other ways around this and we think that a suspension of effectively six months of the parliament is simply not warranted and justified under the current circumstances. Labor were very strong on this in the House of Representatives and in fact opposed this policy of the government, and Labor can speak for itself in this place, but the Greens, as we did in the other place, will be voting against this provision. We believe that the Senate timetable as previously agreed should be maintained and there are mechanisms available if sittings need to be postponed. That deals with clause (a).
I also flag with you, President, that we will be moving amendments to parts (b) and (c) which insert in each part, after the words 'Leader of the Opposition in the Senate', 'and the Leader of the Greens in the Senate'. We are the third party in this place. We are recognised as a party—that is, we have party status, recognised by the parliament—and we believe that our leader in the Senate, Senator Waters, ought to be involved in any discussions or mechanisms covered in part (b) and part (c) of this motion.
The Journals and the Hansard will record that the Greens opposed the vote on clause (a). Your amendment—which I'm happy to take verbally, Senator McKim—is after the words 'Leader of the Opposition in the Senate' in clause (b) and (c) insert 'Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate.' Is that it?
Senator Roberts so recorded as well supporting that particular provision. Now what I will do is put clauses (b), (c) and (d) in their original form, collectively, to the Senate.
Question agreed to.
I will make a very brief statement before I call you for the last motion, Senator Cormann. As we depart and focus on our families, communities, fellow citizens and I'd say also our staff over the coming months, can I also ask us to consider one another because this is a particularly collegial place where many senators spend a great deal of time with one another working through some very contentious and difficult issues that don't often get public attention but do serve the public interest. That won't be happening for the foreseeable future. I would just ask that we all consider each other and particularly those who are subject to testing, self-isolation or, indeed, recovery from this particular illness over the coming months. I would particularly like to thank all senators, and particularly the staff of the Senate, for their cooperation in achieving the results we have today.