Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Days and Hours of Meeting
by leave—I move:
(a) the hours of meeting be midday till adjournment;
(b) the routine of business following consideration of the urgency motion be:
(i) business of the Senate notices of motion nos 1 and 2 (proposed disallowance of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Amendment (2020-21 Budget Programs) Regulations 2021)—motions to be called on together and debated for not more than 30 minutes, after which the question be put, and
(ii) consideration of the following bills:
Fuel Security Bill 2021
Fuel Security (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021-2022
Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022
Treasury Laws Amendment (2021 Measures No. 3) Bill 2021
Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment (Age of Dependants) Bill 2021
Online Safety Bill 2021
Online Safety (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021
Financial Regulator Assessment Authority Bill 2021
Financial Regulator Assessment Authority (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2021
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No.1) Bill 2021;
(c) if by 9.15 pm, consideration of the bills has not concluded, the questions on all remaining stages be put without debate;
(d) paragraph (c) operate as a limitation of debate under standing order 142;
(e) the question for the adjournment be proposed without debate after consideration of the bills has concluded, or on the motion of a minister.
This is the 10th time motion that has been moved by Senator Birmingham in his time as Leader of the Government in the Senate. He has been in that position for 35 days, so every 3.5 days the minister has moved a time motion to try and get business through the Senate because he is not able to manage properly the time of the Senate.
I will point out that this is not a time motion. The government did me the courtesy of talking to me about this motion. I agreed to the idea of a time extension tonight so we could accommodate the government's requirements. But this is not a motion just to extend time; it's a gag motion. It has the requirement at the end of it that, once we've reached 9.15, the questions on all remaining stages be put without debate. That is not how this chamber is supposed to work. A number of bills have been laid out today for this time motion. Some of them are complex. Whenever we move bills and amendments without debate people don't have the opportunity to stand up and put their perspective. Often I listen to the perspectives, whether it be in my suite or sitting here in the chamber. This motion is disrespectful to democracy, particularly noting how many times this has been done. I point out that Senator Cormann over the period of a year moved only nine time motions, so you've now capped him in a much shorter time frame, Senator Birmingham. It's poor management. We should not be supporting this with a gag at the end of it.
Here we go again. Here is a government that is trying to ram through—I just counted them—12 bills tonight. We all know that there will be another hours motion tomorrow and possibly one on Thursday as this government desperately tries to clear the decks, leaving their options open for an election. This is not the way to manage the chamber. You are treating the Senate like a rubber stamp, like a tick-and-flick exercise. I'm sorry to say that it's generally One Nation that gives you the numbers to treat the Senate thus. I hope Queenslanders realise that and remove Senator Hanson at the coming election and replace her with someone who will actually fight for them, rather than tick off everything the government proposes, screw over the battlers and deliver for the big corporations and the billionaires, as you and One Nation love to do.
We have 12 bills here tonight. There will not be proper time for debate. We won't get to justify and explain the amendments we are seeking to make, but you don't care; you're just ramming it through, treating the Senate like a rubber stamp because you have the numbers with One Nation in your back pocket. How lovely for you to have democracy sewn up so nicely, and I wonder what breadcrumbs you had to offer One Nation to get their support for this. It seems you don't actually need to proffer much for them; they are very happy to do the bidding of the government. It may well be that the opposition is content to pass this through as well. Nothing surprises me anymore. I will wait to see if we have any opposition from the opposition benches. We would welcome that in this and many other contexts, as the rest of the country would too. This is a desperate flurry to clear the decks from a government that paradoxically actually doesn't have much of an agenda. So I don't quite understand why you have had to move so many hours motions, because much of this legislation is flimsy at best.
But there is some sting in the tail tonight. I personally can't wait for the broadcasting bill, because your government has had to backtrack on delivering for Murdoch by actually trying to gut your own bill to say that Fox does in fact have to contain Australian content in its broadcast services, so that is one pleasing thing that will happen in that series of bills tonight. Other than that, it is a blancmange of either bland or damaging legislation, and we will see some of the even nastier bills, no doubt, gagged and rammed through tomorrow, and we will object at that stage as well. Either with the complacency and complicity of the opposition or with the pandering of One Nation, once again, the Senate will be treated like dirt, and executive power will be used and abused as per usual. I cannot wait for the election and I cannot wait to be seeing you guys sitting on that side.
I will just make a few comments on this. The opposition will be supporting this motion and we do so for a number of reasons. We agree with the comments that have been made about the government's inability to manage their program but we also agree there are a number of bills, not just these listed but probably another 13 or so that the government have on the draft program, that are on some level time critical. Even if we don't agree with them, there are a number of bills that have to be dealt with by the end of this financial year.
Labor have tried to bring a reasonable approach to this. We don't think it's reasonable to sit all night on Thursday, as has happened in the past; we don't think that is fair. We have had a long sitting fortnight. We already had extended hours last week to ram through the super bills. We did have a view that we should try and manage some of those time-critical bills in a more reasonable way. There are a number of hours tonight. We've already started well into fuel security. It can be managed so that people's representations, contributions and amendments can be put within the time frame allowed, if we all accept that. We on this side certainly do. We're not wanting to lengthen debate on any bills any so that anyone can't speak on any other bill. The debates can be managed tonight. My understanding is there are 13 or so bills the government would like passed this week in addition to these. Our request to the government was that there is not another late-night sitting of the Senate, that the program is managed in a reasonable way. But part of doing that requires us to pass some legislation at some point this sitting fortnight. These bills, we agree with the government, can be dealt with tonight in the time allowed.
But we would also request the government get in place a better way of managing their program so that we are not constantly put in the position of having to consider hours motions for senators in this place and that we can have debates as long as they need to be on pieces of important legislation.
I'd just like to say that I don't mind if you want to do late sittings; we get paid more than enough. But if you gag something and say, 'Get it done by 9.15,' you're starting to become like a dictator, to be honest. If this needs us to take until two or three o'clock in the morning before we get up, well, welcome to real life out in the real world. As I said, we get paid more than enough. Just saying, 'If we don't get these through by 9.15, we are going to ram them through,' is going way too far. I'm not very happy about that at all. This is not the way to run a country at all. If everyone has to stay up all night to get these bills through—there's very little resilience here—trust me, you'll get them done eventually. But putting a finish line so early, at 9.15—I didn't realise that people went to bed so early up here—is absolutely crossing the line. I'm not real keen on it. If this is going to continue, it'll just make us look like we have a really bad standard here—that we cannot manage a chamber. So I have to ask, and I'm sure millions of other people are asking: how are you actually managing the country? Seriously. Anyway, the next election is on you guys, I guess, so good luck with that.