Thursday, 8 October 2020
Days and Hours of Meeting
by leave—I move:
(1) On Thursday, 8 October 2020:
(a) the routine of business from 11.45am shall be:
(i) placing of business;
(ii) notices of motion;
(iii) consideration of a report of the Selection of Bills Committee,
(iv) formal motions; and
(v) consideration of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020;
(b) if by 12.45pm the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020 has not been finally considered, the questions on all remaining stages shall be put without debate;
(c) paragraph (b) of this order shall operate as a limitation of debate under standing order 142;
(d) following the conclusion of consideration of the bill, the Senate shall return to the routine of business;
(e) divisions may take place after 4.30 pm until 7.30 pm;
(f) at 5.30 pm, consideration of a message relating to the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020;
(g) the sitting of the Senate shall be suspended after consideration of the message listed in paragraph (f) till 8pm;
(h) at 8pm, Budget statements and documents – party leaders and independent senators to make a response to the statement and documents of no more than 30 minutes each; and
(i) immediately after the conclusion of the responses referred to in paragraph (h):
(i) if the Treasury Laws Amendment (A Tax Plan for the COVID-19 Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 has not yet been passed—the sitting of the Senate shall be suspended till 9 am on Friday, 9 October 2020, and the routine of business shall be as provided in paragraph (2); or
(ii) otherwise, the question for the adjournment shall be proposed. (2) The routine of business on Friday, 9 October 2020 shall be as follows:
(a) from 9 am, consideration of the Treasury Laws Amendment (A Tax Plan for the COVID-19 Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 only;
(b) if by noon the Treasury Laws Amendment (A Tax Plan for the COV1D19 Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 has not been finally considered, the questions on all remaining stages shall be put without debate;
(c) paragraph (b) of this order shall operate as a limitation of debate under
standing order 142;
(d) the Senate shall adjourn without debate after it has finally considered the
bills listed above, or a motion for the adjournment is moved by a minister, whichever is the earlier.
I think Senator Gallagher will respond that the opposition wishes to vote against the guillotining of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020, but thank you for your confidence. I propose that items (1)(a)(v) and paragraphs (b) and (c) be put separately, noting that if the opposition succeed in defeating those, it would require an amendment to paragraph (d). Sorry, do you wish me to say that again, Mr President?
In order to enable the opposition to express its opposition to the guillotining of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-Ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020, I propose that the Senate put separately paragraphs 1(a)(v), (b) and (c), noting that if the Senate rejects those paragraphs there would be a consequential amendment required subsequently.
I'll just speak briefly following Senator Wong's contribution. Subject to what Senator Wong has outlined, the opposition's position on the Treasury Laws Amendment (A Tax Plan for the COVID-19 Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, which is part of this motion, and sitting on Friday to deal with those bills, is that the opposition will be supporting that.
Our view is that the government has decided to wrap up a range of tax measures in one omnibus bill and required that it all be put together. That does not allow us to separately deal with the rather significant tax measures that are included in this bill, which we would prefer to have the time to work through. However, we will not stand in the way of the income tax cuts, which we have been calling for since August last year, to be brought forward and for that money to flow as quickly as possible into the pockets of working Australians around this country. As I said, our preference would be that the government didn't choose to play politics and we are able to deal with these bills separately and allow for longer consideration of the large tax measures, including those that cost $27 billion, but that isn't possible. We're not in a perfect world; we're not in a world where we can choose some of these elements. As such, we will support the passage of those bills as outlined in the motion through debate on Friday.
I rise on behalf of the Greens to say that we will be vehemently opposing this disgraceful government's motion to guillotine a bill that hikes fees for universities and cuts funding for universities. We will not even have time to go to the committee stage and debate the ream of amendments that this government sent through just an hour ago. Shame on Centre Alliance and shame on One Nation for some petty deals that they've done, which Minister Birmingham defined as 'minor technical amendments to this legislation'. You've been taken for a massive ride, you know? You've fallen hook, line and sinker for government spin. You've been totally duped. There's nothing else to say about this. Some of the things that you want are not even in the legislation, so you've said, 'Fingers crossed, and hope for the best.'
An honourable senator interjecting—
I do know what I'm talking about. There might be some secret deal that this government is not letting us in on, but it doesn't even have the decency to let us talk about something which is going to affect all future generations of Australians, which is going to take away the right of education from generations of Australians.
This is how bad you are. If you think this bill is so great, then let's talk about it. Let's talk about the amendments that you're putting up. Let's talk about our amendments that we want to put up to this bill. Yes, it's a terrible bill. There are some absolutely horrific aspects of the bill that we want to move amendments to. Why won't you let us talk about this? Because you know that this is a bad bill. You know that this bill is going to disadvantage Indigenous people. It's going to disadvantage women. It's going to disadvantage first in family. It's going to disadvantage regional Australians. It's going to disadvantage people living in the cities. It's going to disadvantage every single person in Australia.
The amendments that you're moving to this bill are in the same vein as the budget that you have delivered—putting more money into the pockets of rich people. One of the amendments that I quickly had a look at—I haven't even had a chance to look at the others—gives a discount to people who pay fees upfront. Who are those people who are going to pay fees upfront? I think Senator Lambie said it exactly like it is: it is the rich who can afford to pay $14,000 a year. You're giving a tax break to them yet again. That's what it is.
An honourable senator interjecting—
Absolutely right; you don't care. You don't care about anyone else in this country but the super-wealthy and the rich. That's all you care about. You've told us that again and again this week during your budget speeches. You stand up here and say, 'People shouldn't go to university' or, 'The Greens say that everyone should go to university.' That's not true. We want education available to all, so that people can have a choice to do what they want to.
An honourable senator: Freedom!
Absolutely! That's what democracy is about. You are sitting here crushing the democratic rights, the democratic freedoms, of people in this country. But you're also crushing democracy overall when you try and guillotine us from speaking on things, from debating things, that will actually put up a very bleak future for Australians. That's what this bill is going to do. You don't even understand that. It's cutting research funding. You know that the money that you announced in the budget goes nowhere near the billions of dollars of research funding that this bill actually cuts out. These are the people who have already lost their jobs in droves. They're not coming back. Our researchers are not coming back, and we need those people to come out of this recession, to come out of this pandemic—
Senator Rennick interjecting—
Senator Waters interjecting—
Thanks, Larissa. I think, Mr President, you should probably call order. Senator Rennick has been ranting at me for the last 10 minutes.
Order! I'm dealing with the procedural matters. Can I honestly say that down that end of the chamber there are very few people with a halo, but everyone should remain quiet. Now a senator has asked for the respect of the chamber. I'm going to demand it.
An honourable senator: Point of order.
Can I finish ruling on this? Senators need to remain quiet while I am issuing a ruling.
Senator Rennick interjecting—
Senator Rennick! I was actually just asking senators to remain quiet while I'm issuing a ruling! Senator Hanson-Young?
I couldn't hear anything. I'm going to do what is normally done, which is that, where something is not in the Hansard, I invite a senator, if something was said that was unparliamentary, to withdraw. I had no chance of hearing anything then. If anything unparliamentary was said, I encourage it to be withdrawn.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Rennick interjecting—
Thank you. Senator Rennick has withdrawn. Senator Faruqi to continue, and I remind senators of the need to remain silent in the chamber.
Thank you, Mr President. Thousands upon thousands of students and uni staff have contacted all of us sitting on this side, and all of you sitting on that side, telling us how horrible, how bad and how horrific the consequences of this bill are going to be. Yet obviously, on that side, it's fallen on deaf ears. Well, it hasn't fallen on deaf ears on this side. So we still want to continue on and talk about these things and try and change some of the things that are in this bill. We want to debate your amendments. We want to see what you are amending. We want to have a chance to look at what they are and give you the chance to defend them. But you can't defend them—that's what the issue is here. You cannot defend a single thing in this terrible bill. It is indefensible what's going on in this bill. Shame on all of you! We will absolutely be opposing your guillotine motion. Shame!
Here we go: the fix is in—a dirty, secret deal between the government and the Labor Party to jam the tax cuts through this Senate with no inquiry whatsoever. What we can tell from this dirty deal is that $18 billion of government expenditure, based on a flawed, trickle-down, neoliberal model that we know is not going to work, is now going to be jammed through this Senate with no opportunity to scrutinise the details whatsoever. Labor isn't even bothered to go through the motions of being an opposition party in this place. What is actually the point of the Labor Party anymore?
Bringing forward the stage 2 tax cuts will mean that the millionaires get $2,500 a year, the working poor get 250 bucks a year and, if you haven't got a job, you just line up for your regular kick in the teeth from the neoliberals in this place. The Labor and Liberal parties are trying to con this country and con Australian people into thinking these tax cuts are going to trickle down. Well, I'll tell you something: it's been 40 years since Hawke and Keating, while we've been waiting for trickle-down to work, and the people at the bottom are dying of thirst.
This is a sad day for democracy. It's a sad day for this Senate, but do you know who this is the saddest day for? It's the Australian Labor Party, who are capitulating again to the neoliberals, capitulating again to the government. They don't even want an inquiry into $18 billion worth of government expenditure.
Senator Watt interjecting—
Seriously, why don't you just go and join the Liberal-National Party, Senator Watt? You can interject all you like, but you might as well just join the LNP, sit over there and form the neoliberal trickle-down economics party. You're a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourselves.
My contribution to the discussion on this motion will be very brief. This is quite a lengthy motion. It's clearly been prepared in advance, but not much notice was given. I just point that that is a little bit disrespectful. In relation to the gag motion, I'll quote a tweet from Rebekha Sharkie from the other place on 3 September 2020. She said:
Earlier this week Govt gagged debate on the Higher Ed Bill which meant few of us got to speak. … This is not democracy.
I ask Centre Alliance to reflect on that when they vote in relation to this gag motion on the Higher Education Support Amendment (Job-ready Graduates and Supporting Regional and Remote Students) Bill 2020.
I point out that, having formerly been a member of the Centre Alliance party, the rules in relation to gagging of debates were basically that they would never gag a second reading and they would only gag the committee stage in circumstances where there was obvious filibustering. What this gag will mean is that genuine questions that were to be asked will not be asked. We will not be able to get clarification on elements of the bill where there is uncertainty, and that may also affect later interpretations in any proceedings. It's an awful thing to do. We should not be gagging debate on the higher education bill.