Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 August 2022


Consideration of Legislation

10:36 am

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (8) of standing order 111 not apply to the Public Sector Superannuation Salary Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, allowing it to be considered.

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to make it clear that the Greens do not support this exemption. We are concerned about the rushed nature of this. We're concerned that we're now halfway through the second week of the first sitting fortnight and we haven't been able to get an adequate briefing on or understanding of the true implications of this bill. We don't believe that this is a bill that should be exempt from the cut-off order. We believe the Senate should consider this properly, that the process should not be rushed. It's not a good enough excuse from the government of the day to want to circumvent a court, particularly when the legislation has a retrospective nature. We're concerned about the principle that this sets and also about how this chamber works. Already this morning we've heard the Manager of Government Business in the Senate pleading with this place to run in an orderly way and to be collaborative, and we think that rushing bills like this through is not an appropriate way to do that.

We are genuinely concerned about the real impacts of this legislation on both the people it includes and the people it does not include. We are worried about what it means for the liabilities of the government's budget, of course, but we need the real information about that, and at this point we have not been given it. The Public Service deserve our support, and rushing a piece of legislation like this through really is thumbing your nose at hardworking public servants, particularly those here in the very territory in which this wonderful parliament exists.

We plead with the government and the opposition to allow more time for consideration of this bill to consider its real implications and to make sure everybody is aware of the precedent that it sets. It's a retrospective bill that changes the circumstances of everyday people and makes a precedent in relation to rushing bills like this through the new parliament. We are genuinely concerned that every time the government has the support of the opposition we are going to be confronted in this chamber with a 'bang, bang, bang, bang it through'. That is not the type of parliament that the Prime Minister promised. It is not the 'collaborative nature' that we continue to hear from all sides in talking about how we are going to operate in this chamber.

There's been a deal stitched up between the government and the opposition to effectively cut the wages of public servants. Well, you can wear that but we are not going to be part of it, and we are not going to be part of a bill being smashed through this place when we haven't even got answers to some basic questions. We are concerned that we won't be able to go into a proper committee stage in relation to this bill to get to the bottom of these issues. We are concerned that those who are being asked to speak on this bill have not been given thorough enough briefings. We are concerned that even if we had a committee stage and were able to ask the government questions they wouldn't even know the answers because this hasn't been considered properly and thoroughly enough. I hope this is not going to be business as usual for this new parliament—that, every time the Labor Party can get the support of the Liberals to gang up, whether on wage thefts, cuts to superannuation, an attack on the Public Service, handing out money to their fossil fuel mates or whatever it might be that they can find agreement on, this chamber gets upturned and we can't do our role, being the chamber of scrutiny and accountability.

We feel very strongly about this. We plead with the opposition: this chamber has a job to do. Our job is to hold government to account, to look at the details of legislation, to consider in detail legislation and to make sure that when something passes this place we know exactly what it is doing and who it will affect. No-one on either side here today can tell us what the real-life implications, or even the financial implications and the precedent implications, of rushing this piece of legislation through this place today will be. Until you can answer that, you don't have the Greens' support.

10:42 am

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge the contribution of Senator Hanson-Young and say that, as a principle, we support the full processes of the Senate being applied to legislation and any other business of this place because we are the house of review. Today we have made a decision to support the bringing on of debate on this bill at the request of the government, but that is all we will be agreeing to. We believe that the appropriate process for debate on this bill should not be truncated. So, whilst we will accept the exemption, that is all we are accepting.

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

Just to respond to the concerns that have been raised by Senator Hanson—

Honourable Senator:

An honourable senator interjecting

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson-Young—sorry, my mind is moving quickly because I'm unclear about what Senator Ruston just said. This is not, and will not be, the normal practice of how we deal with bills. This is an exceptional set of circumstances and an issue that has been compounded by the election and the commencement of the new parliament. In an ideal set of circumstances we would have much preferred to have more time for people to consider the legislation, albeit that it is fairly straightforward. This has been an issue under the attention of the former government for a period of time, and it came to me relatively early in taking on the role of Minister for Finance. The assurance we give you is that this is not the way we will be conducting legislation in this place. It is a very unique set of circumstances.

In relation to the comments—and we can probably deal with this better in debate on the bill: this is not about ripping things away from the Public Service or being disrespectful to the Public Service. The bill is about clarifying the administrative practice that has existed for a period of time since 1986 and ensuring that the legislation basically follows the administrative practice. We are happy to have that debate during the bill itself. But I can guarantee this is not the way we will be proceeding with legislation in this place. It is the exception rather than the rule.

10:49 am


DEPUTY PRESIDENT (): The question is that the motion moved by the Manager of Government Business be agreed to.