Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
I seek leave to make a statement relating to the vote on general business notice of motion 1270 relating to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee's inquiry into the ABC's and SBS's complaints handling.
I'm sorry; I've only just got to the chamber. I didn't realise quite the context of all of this. But can I just be clear: is Senator Rennick simply seeking to make a statement at this point?
Well, you have to explain why.
Well, no—sorry. The convention is that you first need to seek leave to make a statement.
With the indulgence of the chamber, I would just seek for the person who denied leave to perhaps reflect on that decision, on the basis that it is convention—and has been afforded to the Greens and many other parties in this chamber—that, when somebody has made a mistake in their vote and they seek to have that vote recommitted, it's allowed. So I would just ask that maybe we could ask Senator Rennick to seek leave again and for those at the end of the chamber to reconsider their position, on the basis that this has been a convention that has been afforded to them in the past.
If I could have order, please. In line with how this chamber does operate, it is customary for a senator in Senator Rennick's position to be given leave to make such a statement in relation to a vote that had happened previously, especially as it may lead to a recommittal that may be sought. So I'm in the hands of the chamber. Just so that everybody is aware—Senator McKim, I'll come to you in a moment—once Senator Rennick has given his explanation, it will then be up to the Senate to decide whether there will be a recommittal. This is in line with the custom of the Senate over many years. Senator McKim, you were seeking the call.
If I could, on indulgence: if Senator Rennick is seeking leave to make a statement about a particular matter, I think it would be of assistance to the Senate if he could make clear, in just a short number of words, what the matter is, rather than just simply rising and saying he is seeking leave to make a statement, because, at the moment, I understand that's what he has said.
Thank you, Senator McKim. Senator Rennick actually did do that when he rose to speak. I'm reading the mood of the chamber and I'm going to give the call to Senator Rennick.
Okay. He sought leave and Senator Hanson-Young said no.
Senator Wong has the call.
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I appreciate it. There is a process here, and I suggest we go back to the beginning. I think Senator Rennick should seek leave to make a statement about X; the Senate, including Senator Hanson-Young, who denied leave previously, as is her right, can make a decision about whether the Senate grants leave; Senator Rennick makes the substantive statement at that point; and then the Senate determines whether we accept that.
I seek leave to make a statement relating to the vote on general business notice of motion No. 1270 relating to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry into the ABC and SBS complaint handling.
I seek leave to have the question put again on general business notice of motion No. 1270 due to a confusion around pairing arrangements this afternoon.
I seek leave to speak in relation to this matter.
We have to take our jobs very seriously in this place. If Senator Rennick has voted in the wrong way, that's one thing. If he missed the vote, that's another. But simply wanting to change the way votes were paired is really showing what a shambles this chamber is right now, and this is on the watch and under the management of the government. They've got renegades in their own team and they have no idea how to control them. I feel for Senator Birmingham. He's no Senator Cormann when it comes to being able to whip and control the team over there. He's a very decent guy. The government has lost control of its own team. That's what's happening here. It has lost control, and now we are seeing total, mass confusion.
The Australian people have every right to know how members in this place vote. I, for one, have been very concerned over the last number of weeks, and increasingly over the last couple of days this week, about pairing arrangements that are not disclosed to the public or to the chamber. It is just not acceptable. This is a democracy. We all have a responsibility to make decisions in this place, and we have to be accountable for them. What this has shown is what a shambles the pairing arrangements and the lack of disclosure is. It suits the government from time to time to keep this stuff secret. Why? Because, as we know, Mr Morrison changes his mind every day. Why would he want a record of how his own members vote? He doesn't. So here we go again. It has been talked about in this chamber, particularly over the last two days, that this is not being managed properly. What we are going to see happen one day is that a piece of legislation that passes in this place under these murky secret deals will be challenged in the High Court because it's not legitimate. We can't actually count properly the number of votes in this place and hold people accountable.
I'm very, very reluctant to agree to something like this, which is a stitch-up because the government can't control their own team. It's not Mr Morrison who votes in this place; it's individual senators, and their names should be recorded. The reason Mr Morrison doesn't want this is that he doesn't want to be held accountable for what his team is doing. He says one thing one day and does another the next and hopes the Australian people forget. We don't forget. We're watching and we're holding to account the people in this place.
Senator Rennick has every right to have a barney with his Prime Minister, every right to have concerns about how his Prime Minister is running the show, but to not take seriously your job in this place and to not stand up and be clear about how you are being paired—are you being paired because you want to or because the whips have done it on your behalf? I'd be pretty annoyed, Senator Rennick, if they're pairing you without telling you how your pairing arrangements have gone. If that's your frustration, you should be able to stand up and put that. I'd be questioning whether you can really trust what's going on on your front bench and with your Prime Minister.