Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Why did the Morrison-Joyce government this morning refuse to pass a motion in the Senate which noted with concern 'increasing reports of threats of violence from an extreme element of society towards health workers, health officials, premiers and other parliamentarians'?
tor BIRMINGHAM (—) (): Let me deal firstly with the specific facts in relation to the motion. Senator Wong carefully worded her question and asked why the government refused to pass the motion, not why the government opposed the motion. That is of course because the motion itself was never actually put to the chamber. The motion itself was not put to the chamber because the government, as we have consistently done since the temporary orders in relation to motions were put through this chamber, opposed an attempt to vary the order of business at the commencement of proceedings. I believe we have consistently done that each and every time there has been a move to do so since the change of those temporary orders. That is simply the government's position in relation to the way in which Senate business is managed.
Had the opposition sought by other means to raise those issues then no doubt the government would have been in a position to consider the motion on its merits. In terms of the content of the motion, I say that the government does condemn all acts of extremism and violence and the government does condemn acts that seek to incite violence in any way towards any of those engaged in our public debate, towards any of those engaged in public service and towards any Australians going about their ordinary lives in a peaceful way. Can I say on such a topic that in this place the content, the tone and the manner in which we all engage are important. Much of the debate this week seems to have centred around issues of extremism but also personal attacks around this chamber or across the parliamentary body. They do not help to elevate the debate. They do not help us to stay on the issues. (Time expired)
I also say to the minister the motion that he and his party refused to pass included this:
… condemns those in public office who have, for their own political gain, sought to diminish the collective achievements of Australians by dividing the nation, stoking anger and fear, inciting violence or lending sympathy to the actions of ideologically motivated extremists.
Why did you refuse to pass that? And I invite you to indicate what will be required to enable you to support such a motion.
I do, as I did in the previous answer, condemn those who engage in violence or who incite violence, whatever walk of life they come from, be they public officials, members of parliament or, indeed, others who do so.
In relation to the motion itself, I was very clear in the primary answer that the government was simply operating with the same convention we have for any motions that have come forward at that time. The opposition has taken a different approach, sometimes supporting suspensions, sometimes not, sometimes proposing it. That's the opposition's perspective. The government's view is, when we took the motions policy reforms in this place, we ought to then also ensure we are held to a consistent approach, in that regard, and we have done so. Of course, motions put through the normal processes, the government will consider, in terms of when they come up in this chamber.
I'm always happy to engage in discussions with those around the chamber in relation to matters that are progressed in good faith. I'm always happy to ensure that we can, where necessary, come together to make unifying statements on behalf of the parliament and the nation. It's important that we do that. I don't much like process that engages in stunts.
I do think it is also important, in doing so, that we work cooperatively in relation to the text of such matters. That has been the case on many, many occasions in relation to statements that are sought to be pursued in a bipartisan context. Of course, I would respond constructively if we wanted to work through that process. I think that whilst celebrating Australia's enormous achievements in relation to COVID, we need to acknowledge there have been debates around policy responses to COVID. It's legitimate to debate policy responses but never to do so in a violent way. (Time expired)