Thursday, 8 September 2022
Consideration of Legislation
BIRMINGHAM (—) (): I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the routine of business for today.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice of motion standing in my name I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would allow me to move a motion related to the routine of business for today.
Government senators interjecting—
I note that the government has a proposal on the Notice Paper for another variation of hours—this time, though, to apply the guillotine in relation to their climate bills, and in applying that guillotine their intention is to ensure that debate concludes by 1.30 pm today. Let's understand that we haven't even started the committee stage on this bill yet. There are eight pages of legislative amendments proposed from the crossbench and elsewhere around the chamber. From seven different senators there are some 16 different amendments, some of them detailed amendments with nine different clauses attached, and the government's proposal is to truncate this debate into this morning only in relation to the passage of these bills and the conclusion of the committee stage.
The coalition are making an offer to the government in this regard: don't have the guillotine; we're happy to stay here for as long as it takes until the bill is done. That is the motion that we're circulating. We're not preventing you from concluding this bill; we are, though, suggesting that you should live up to the higher standards you said that you would bring to government. You as an opposition continually criticised the use of the guillotine. Senator Wong herself at one stage said:
I would remind those opposite that, whatever criticisms you might have of us, you are guillotining when you have been offered more time.
The motion I seek leave to move offers more time for those opposite to have their bill considered. Indeed, Senator Wong then ascribed motive as to why the then government was guillotining. She said:
You are not guillotining and gagging because it is the end of the session—
well, it's not the end of the session right now—
You are not guillotining and gagging because … you have to get bills through.
They certainly don't have time pressures to get this bill through. She said, 'You are guillotining now so that you can hold a prime ministerial press conference in time for prime-time television.' Guess what they're doing? They're guillotining by 1.30 today so that they can hold a prime ministerial press conference in time for prime-time television. The exact criticism that Senator Wong levelled at the former government is what they are now doing in the first week, essentially, in which the Senate has got down to the consideration of legislation and business—this first time.
Senator, as I've said, the motion being circulated in the chamber gives the opportunity. We will stay as long as it takes for you to be able to have the bill considered, to get the bill done. But, for those on the crossbench to equally have the chance for all of their amendments—be they Greens amendments, be they other crossbench amendments—to get the airing that they deserve through that process.
This is an invitation to the crossbench: if you don't like our proposal, that doesn't mean you have to go with the government's proposal for such a short, sharp guillotine either. You don't have to work to the Labor Party's media cycle. You don't have to work to the Prime Minister's press conference schedule. You can dictate your terms, because what is being proposed in the motion that Senator Gallagher has brought to the chamber is far too short. What is being proposed demonstrates an arrogance from those opposite already, clearly working in collusion with the Greens—that they think they can just ram things through, that they can use this Senate as a rubber stamp, that they will do whatever deals outside this chamber but then not care about what happens in the chamber.
This is an opportunity for the crossbench and for the Greens to demonstrate that they're bigger and better than that. Of course, the Greens themselves were even more strident critics of the use of guillotines previously. And yet last night we saw the Greens, amazingly, guillotining their own disallowance motion. They moved to guillotine themselves in that process. So this, Greens, is an invitation to you, too. Live up to the standards, Senator Waters, that you called for previously. We've said we're happy to sit longer. We're not seeking to prevent debate. Indeed, we've indicated we will give primacy to the Climate Change Bill, as we will then to dealing with other important bills such as the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022, as is scheduled. All we're proposing is extra sitting hours, time for debate, rather than the use of the guillotine.
It's 2022, and some things in this world don't change, do they? And one thing that will never change, no matter what—no matter what facts are put on the table; no matter how many of their safe, moderate Liberal seats they lose—is that the coalition will never support action on climate. They will never support action on climate. Senator Birmingham comes in here and says, 'We want a debate. We'll stay here.' You've had nine years. You've had nine years and an election campaign where you lost seats on this issue—that's a matter for you. The Australian people have spoken: enough delay. No amount of talking will change your mind. No amount of talking will give you some principle on this issue, because on this you have no principle. On this you have had no principle in a decade, and you all know that.
Senator Canavan, and before him, Mr Abbott, and all those—including Senator Abetz—who don't believe that climate change is real have been perverting your policy position on this for years, and the Australian people are the ones who have suffered. Those so-called moderates over there who know this is the right thing to do just roll over while the right wing of the Liberal Party and the National Party continue to control the agenda. And no matter—
I'll take the interjection 'it's not true' from Senator Michaelia Cash. I'll take that interjection, because I've really noticed her—
Government senators interjecting—
I'm sorry. I apologise. Was it you? Senator McKenzie. I'll take that interjection from Senator Bridget—
'It's not true.' She says it's not true. Well, it is, and history demonstrates that, as does the election result. If there were ever a parliament that had been elected—regardless of what differences of views we have—to take action on climate, it is this one, in this place and the other. So don't come in here and pretend that you are somehow safeguarding democratic principles. You're not. You're safeguarding your outdated, conservative position which the Australian people have left behind. That's what you're safeguarding. You're safeguarding your internal unity because you don't have the spine to take on the people in your party room. No matter how long we are here, you will not change your votes. I have been in this chamber for debate after debate on climate, and you will never change your position, no matter how much—
Senator Rennick—case in point. It doesn't matter how much debate we have; he will not change his position on climate. He will always stand in the way of progress. I commented in the chamber some time ago that it's like the last days of the Soviet Union—against progress. The world has changed, but you're still holding on to opposing action on climate. I do respect that there are those who have different views. Senator Roberts has different views on this, and I understand that. But the government has been elected with a very clear policy position which is reflected in the legislation before you. Everybody knows that, no matter how long we stayed—we could debate this all week—those opposite would not change. I would remind them that they have chosen also to filibuster on a range of other matters, so that it would defer debate on this. Delay, delay, delay—obstruction. I think the Australian people have had enough. On that basis, I move:
That the motion be now put.