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Richard's speech on the recall of parliament

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 20 Apr 2016

Senator DI NATALE

It is remarkable that the Prime Minister felt that it was so important to bring back the parliament just so that we could engage in a filibuster to prevent the debate of importance legislation and important motions. What a waste of precious public funds.

Part of the intent was to prevent debate on the implementation of a national anticorruption watchdog. Let me say a few words about that. It is said that the likelihood of someone entering into a corrupt or conflicted action is a measurement of two things. People engage in corruption if the level of financial or personal benefit that can be obtained is measured against the likelihood of getting caught. If you can make a lot of money and there is little chance of getting caught that is a recipe for corruption. Here in the federal parliament, when you include the federal public service, we bring in $300 billion more in revenue than all of the states combined. Every year, there are thousands of contracts signed, grants awarded, money transacted and benefits received. Despite all this money, we have very little institutional protection to deter misconduct in the federal parliament. Our system is vulnerable to corruption and the government and the opposition have no plans to change it.

Consider our lax political donation laws, where disclosure is set absurdly high and the public cannot know who bought influence from whom before an election. Consider what happened when Brickworks gave $263,000 to the federal Liberals during the last election, including one single donation of $150,000 one month before the election. The CEO of Brickworks, Lindsay Partridge, had a long history of financial support for the Liberal Party, and when there was implemented a policy that touched on his business, a policy that the Liberal Party opposed, there was an aligning of the stars. He offered all of the financial, campaign and media support that he could muster.

Within weeks of being elected, the Abbott government closed down the Clean Technology Innovation Program. For those who are not aware, this was a program funded by the carbon price to offer grants to companies to improve their energy performance. According to Brickworks' annual report, they had already received $3 million in federal grants before the scheme was closed, but they had in the pipeline another $14 million of grants that had not been contracted. A few weeks after the scheme was closed, a number of grants were contracted, according to the public register. Brickworks subsidiaries received a total of $17 million from a carbon price program that improve the company's energy bills by $11 million a year, benefits they are still enjoying. So here we have $263,000 of private money flowing one way before the election from the CEO of Brickworks, Lindsay Partridge, to the federal Liberal Party, and then a few months later we have public money—an estimated $14 million of taxpayer money—flowing the other way, from a scheme closed down by the Abbott government into the Brickworks site. So for every dollar that Mr Partridge donated in that election year his business got $53 in public money for his capital equipment. A few months later he got another commercial benefit when the carbon price was repealed, with the support of the member for Fairfax, it must be said, who also enjoyed financial benefits for Queensland Nickel once the carbon price was removed.

We cannot be sure whether this is corruption, but the whole thing stinks. The decision to award millions and millions of dollars in grants from a carbon price program that Tony Abbott and his cabinet ideologically loathed, in the midst of a budget emergency, may have been a legitimate exercise of executive power but it may not.

Without a national anticorruption watchdog to pour over the details, to examine the transactions, we will never know what went into the cabinet's decision when cabinet members looked down the list of possible grant recipients and saw Brickworks, their political allies. We need donations reform—we need it now—and we need the establishment of a national anticorruption watchdog to improve Australia's governance, to restore faith in our political system and to wrestle power from those wealthy vested interests and put it back into the hands of the Australian people.

Senator RYAN

I have long desired the confected outrage of Senator Wong in this place. She walked into the chamber before because one of her shadow ministers had moved a procedural motion in the Senate that facilitated a debate; and the Senate partook in that debate, as is allowed under the standing orders. The contempt of the Labor Party for the Senate is shown in the utter hypocrisy of what we have heard so far this afternoon. Only a few weeks ago we sat here all night to deal with a piece of legislation on which the Labor Party had decided to filibuster. We have all sat here when the Labor Party, sometimes joined by their colleagues in the Greens, have prevented the Senate from dealing with important legislation—through the techniques of deferral, referral to committee, repeatedly referring similar bills to committees and at no point allowing or facilitating the Senate to debate them.

We sat here when the Labor-Greens government had a majority in the Senate. At one point, more than 30 bills were subject to a guillotine. Bills that had never had a word uttered on them, and amendments that had never been debated or even presented in this chamber, were guillotined on a Thursday afternoon in order to meet the secret deals that had been done by Labor and the Greens—and, with all those internal trade-offs, who knows who was to benefit from that?

As we have seen this week, the interests of the Labor Party cannot be in any way separated from the interests of the trade union movement. Not only did they legislate to put a union at the centre of a tribunal that is dedicated to nothing less than explicitly putting small business out of operation and explicitly putting the homes and livelihoods of struggling Australian small businesses at risk; they then used the taxpayer to write a $200,000 cheque to support the operation and the publicity of that particular tribunal. That same body—a body that the Labor government handed money over to—then wrote cheques to the Labor Party to support their election campaign.

In the corporate world, those related party transactions are subject to some sort of disclosure; they are subject to protections in the interests of shareholders. But, in the view of the Labor Party, the public till is something to be raided for your members, who then write cheques for you with fungible money to support your re-election.

Yesterday we had the deputy leader of the Labor Party insulting the Governor-General—a decent man by anyone's measure—in this place and thereby degrading this chamber. I have not seen many of those opposite stand up and say that that was simply inappropriate for someone who holds an important office.

Senator Wong

I would not have used those words.

Senator RYAN

Senator Wong, I will take that interjection. I am not sure if it means you would still insult him! But I do not think what he did yesterday—with a basic knowledge of constitutional history in this country, which Senator Conroy clearly lacks—

Senator Wong

Why are you talking about yesterday?

Senator RYAN

Senator Wong, I am going to the point that you raised in your address only a few minutes ago—that the parliament was prorogued and summoned to deal with pieces of legislation the government said were a priority. After years of refusing to allow the parliament to consider the legislation, earlier this year you sent it off to a committee with the specific intention of preventing it being dealt with before the budget—and then you cry wolf because you do not like the process the Constitution allows to summon the parliament. And then you admitted in your speech earlier that that was all a delay—because you rolled over and had a vote on it last night. We then dealt with the second piece of legislation, the bill to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, because we had hundreds of truckies and their families driving to this building and saying that this legislation, put in place by Labor and the Greens for their TWU mates—your funders, the people who write you cheques—would cost them their jobs.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator RYAN

At least the Labor Party is being honest now—it actually wants to shut down small business. The confected outrage of Senator Wong and the Labor Party has no place in this chamber, and the Australian public do not take it seriously. I just wish I could act half as well!

Senator BERNARDI

I am motivated to make a contribution to this debate because I do think it is wholly improper to be contemplating the suspension of standing orders on the spurious grounds that Senator Wong has put forward. I do so because, like many in this chamber, I have a very long memory. What goes around tends to come around, on occasion, and we should be mindful of that in considering things. I recall that significant debates on substantive issues have been truncated or stopped in this place. Something like 23 or 24 bills wereguillotined immediately—or 'time managed', which is the euphemism in this place—where there was no ability for anyone to really make a contribution to a debate.

I thought it was wrong then, but now we are contemplating the fact that the government wants to persist and continue with the address-in-reply—it is entirely appropriate that senators have their say on the reopening of the parliament by His Excellency the Governor-General—to explore substantive matters. Some people have had the opportunity to raise issues that they believe are important. Many on the Labor side have done that, and we have had some contributions from the Greens and the coalition.

I think it is entirely appropriate to give everyone the same opportunity. Maybe that is just the innate fairness that I have within me! Perhaps there is less selfishness on this side of the chamber than on the other side, who demand that their immediate needs be met and satisfied rather than consider the health and wellbeing of the whole. If fairness is a crime, then those on this side of the chamber stand guilty of fairness—guilty as charged. We will stand against injustice on all occasions, I have no doubt about that. Senator Wong brings such strong and powerful emotions to her argument. She does it very effectively, I have to say. Senator Wong's prime motive is anything other than stifling the government's agenda. It is a political ploy; it is a political stunt. I think the Australian people will see through that very clearly. We have a circumstance where the government, quite rightly, has recalled the parliament to deal with some substantive issues that are necessary for the Australian people to determine.

Senator Cameron

Where are these issues?

Senator BERNARDI

Senator Cameron clearly is not aware that we have discussed the ABCC. The government wanted to re-establish the ABCC because of the systemic corruption within sections of the union movement.

Senator O'Sullivan

It was never condemned.

Senator BERNARDI

Those on the other side have never really condemned it, that I can recall. However, because of the intransigence of the Labor Party and their coalition allies in the Greens, we have a circumstance where the ABCC has not been able to—

Senator Cameron

Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: I have been misrepresented in terms of what has been argued there. I have condemned behaviour on a number of—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Senator Cameron, there is no point of order. That is a debating point.

Senator BERNARDI

We did try to resolve that by implementing the ABCC. Due to the intransigence of those on the other side, that was not possible and the government had to recall parliament. The parliament is now scheduled to go to a double dissolution election, subject to the Prime Minister's discretion. So we have dealt with that substantive issue; and we have dealt with another substantive issue in which tens of thousands of jobs within the trucking industry—independent contractors—were under threat by a power grab from the union movement initiated by the Labor Party. So, when challenged about what substantive issues this session of parliament was dealing with, those are two significant ones. They may not be important to some on the other side, but they are desperately important to many people in two vital industries—the construction industry, which is worth billions of dollars to this country, and the trucking industry, which is also worth billions of dollars to this country and at least 50,000 potential jobs. These are the sorts of things senators on the other side conveniently ignore when they ask us what important initiatives we are discussing. That is why we should not be suspending standing orders just to indulge their hubris. We are dealing with substantive—

Senator SMITH

I would also like to add my comments to the debate this afternoon. Labor—dare I say 'in collusion with the Australian Greens'—is showing some crocodile tears: 'Oh dear, parliament has been recalled to discuss issues that are important to Australian small businesses!' Indeed, parliament has been recalled to discuss ideas of importance to the Australian trucking industry. Oh dear, shock horror! That is not reason enough to bring back the parliament.' But if we reflect briefly on the events of the last afternoon, what have we seen? We have seen a monumental mess-up. Senator Carr, either operating on his own or operating under instructions from Labor's Senate leadership—who knows—moved a motion to take note of answers. That tripped him into chaos, and there was chaos and drama on the Labor side.

Labor is now trying to restore the order of the Senate because of an error that they made, a miscalculation that they made—or, more specifically, that Senator Carr made. Senator Wong's motion this afternoon tries to cast doubt over the motivation of the government in calling back the Senate and the House of Representatives. Put simply: what we saw, as commented on by Senator Fifield, is that when the spotlight is put on the Senate chamber it acts responsibly. That is why we could get passage of the RSRT legislation. That is why 35,000 owner-businesses in the trucking industry feel safer today than they did yesterday. That is the first point. The second point is that Labor held firm to their lack of commitment, their lack of resolve, to end corruption in Australia's construction industry. Those two important issues were exposed for the whole country to see yesterday. And we come to the Senate chamber this afternoon and Senator Wong has tried to paint that as some sort of tricky motivation on the part of the government. That is not true.

Senator Cameron

You have misled the Governor-General.

Senator SMITH

That is not true. I feel embarrassed for Labor. I feel embarrassed for Senator Cameron. Bill Shorten's motivation—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Order! Senator Bilyk! Senator Brandis, you have a point of order?

Senator Brandis

Mr Deputy President, Senator Cameron has just reflected upon Senator Smith. His interjection was plainly audible to those of us on this side of the chamber. He said, 'You'vemislead the Governor-General.' There could be no more serious allegation against any member of parliament than that they misled the Governor-General. With respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, you should insist that Senator Cameron withdraw without any qualification.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Senator Cameron, I would ask you to withdraw that. I did hear that, and Senator Brandis has brought it to my attention, so I would ask you to withdraw.

Senator Cameron

I just want to indicate that I did not reflect individually on the member; I was talking collectively about the government. I withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Thank you, Senator Cameron.

Senator SMITH

Senator Wong's attempt this afternoon to cast doubt over the motivation of the government in recalling parliament is clearly without substance. The second accusation was that somehow the government has been filibustering this afternoon. I will not bore the Senate with Senator O'Neill's contribution to filibustering that we all had to endure during the last debate on Senate electoral reform—though I could. What was important about Senator O'Neill's contribution—which she did not even reflect on—was that it was a filibustering exercise undertaken by an earlier senator in this place that led to the creation of a standing order putting time restrictions on speeches. So the most fundamental aspect of the filibustering contribution that Senator O'Neill could have reflected on was missed by her.

But back to the substance. We had a discussion this afternoon, initiated by Senator Carr, as he is entitled to do, but it went wrong on a couple of accounts. The accusation that Senator Carr was trying to make against the cabinet secretary, Senator Sinodinos, and, by extension, the minister for industry, Mr Pyne, was an accusation that Labor was guilty of—it was revealed by Senator Cormann that 58 per cent of questions had been left unanswered by Labor in the last stages of the Labor government. It was a catastrophic failure on the part of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate.

As if yesterday was not bad enough for the people who own and control the Labor movement in this place—the trade unions—today is turning out to be a catastrophic disaster of monumental scale. It was right to recall the parliament. There has been no filibustering. Labor has the whole spotlight—

The PRESIDENT

The question is that Senator Wong's motion be agreed to.

Senator MOORE

I move:

That a motion relating to hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business until determined.

Mr President, it is very important, and I have taken on board—

Senator Brandis

Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The suspension of standing orders was to enable Senator Wong to move a motion. The motion that was foreshadowed and circulated was not the motion that Senator Moore has now moved. The standing orders having been suspended to enable Senator Wong to move her foreshadowed motion, she may now do that, but Senator Moore cannot now move a different motion unless, of course, the opposition wants to waive the benefit of the suspension of standing orders.

The PRESIDENT

There are two elements to what you are asking. Firstly, I will get clarification of the substance of the motion. Secondly, I understand that any senator can move a motion on behalf of another senator, but I am going to clarify that on this occasion.

Senator Brandis

Mr President, the motion that has just been decided by the chamber is a motion to suspend standing orders, as we know. It was not a motion to suspend standing orders in general. It was a motion to suspend standing orders to enable Senator Wong to move a motion that was circulated in the chamber and standing in her name. I acknowledge and accept that one senator may move a motion in the name of another, but that is not the question at issue here. Standing orders were suspended in order to deal with the motion circulated in Senator Wong's name. I understand Senator Cormann just provided you with a copy. That was what was circulated in the chamber. It was what senators understood they were voting on when they voted on the suspension motion. If there is any doubt about what the motion was that the opposition was seeking suspension of standing orders for leave to proceed with, then the matter should be recommitted.

The PRESIDENT

We are at the second stage in the motion that was originally moved. That second stage does not prohibit Senator Moore moving that motion on behalf of Senator Wong. According to what I am reading here, unless there are different sheets running around the chamber, the sheet I have here clearly indicates—leave was denied for Senator Wong to move the first portion of the sheet that I am reading from. Therefore, the contingent notice was used by Senator Wong. Without me reviewing the wording that I have in front of me does not restrict the motion being the second stage, which is someone now moving that a motion relating to hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business until determined. That does not preclude another senator moving that on behalf—

 

The PRESIDENT

Order! I am only reading what has been handed to me. Without reviewing the I do not know whether additional words were placed in that. Whether Senator Wong wants to give me any indication as to how she presented that motion—if the motion was presented indicating that it was for Senator Wong only, I think then we do have an issue. But I do not think it was. I do not want to delay the Senate much further. I will take one more submission on this, and then we will move on.

Senator Wong

On the point of order, Mr President. This is clearly time wasting by the senator who is leading the government and who really ought to have something else to do than play games in the chamber. I thought that I made it clear that I was seeking to suspend an order to enable a motion to be moved. It is not unusual to have Senator Moore move the motion thereafter. My recollection is that I used the words 'the opposition' because, on my feet, I was made aware of the fact that, obviously, we wanted to make sure that I could speak later in the debate. So I had turned my mind to it.

With respect to the government's submission, no-one in this chamber suggests that we do not know what is happening. We are trying to get motions voted on, they are trying to filibuster. So we can have a little lawyers' argument from the Attorney-General—

The PRESIDENT

Senator Wong, you are now starting to debate the issue. I am happy to take points of order on the technicality, but no further debate. Senator Brandis—and I will make this the last one.

Senator Brandis

On the point of order, Mr President, it really is the last refuge of a scoundrel to say that debate about what the standing orders mean is just a bit of lawyers' pedantry. The basis upon which this chamber voted to suspend standing orders was to enable a particular motion to be put, and that is not the motion that Senator Moore has just moved.

The PRESIDENT

I am prepared to rule that Senator Moore can move the motion on behalf of Senator Wong.

Senator MOORE

I am moving this motion, which refers to the hours of business, as Senator Wong had previously put forward. In terms of the advice that we have received, we originally had the suspension to allow the particular issues around hours and the motions which we wished to deal in preference. That was put forward. Now, I am moving the second part which says that we want that motion to be heard without amendment or debate, and immediately.

It is important, Mr President, that we actually know that the Senate is clearly aware about the process. We have heard some commentary from the government—and I understand that we have to be clear—that seeks to say that we are trying to, somehow, confuse or mislead the Senate. That is absolutely not true. The reason that we brought forward the motion this afternoon, and the need we had to go into suspension, was that the government denied the ability for us to move forward a motion to change the order of business. We were clearly concerned that, and we believed that it was intensely important that, important issues on the red that we had come here to consider this afternoon—important issues around the formation of committees and around a range of notices of motion, some of which had been carried over from the last sitting of the parliament—were considered by the Senate this afternoon before the time ran out for the debate, and that we would have every senator able to participate in this debate without losing senators.

One of the core issues has been that the hours of business that were given to the Senate when they brought the Senate back for the extended period that could have been—

The PRESIDENT

Order, Senator Moore. On a point of order, Senator Macdonald.

Senator Ian Macdonald

I am trying to follow the debate, but I am confused as to what motion Senator Moore has moved and as to what motion she is talking to. Is there a written motion that the clerks or the attendants can give to me so that I can follow exactly what Senator Moore is saying?

The PRESIDENT

Thank you, Senator Macdonald. Senator Moore has moved a motion to seek precedence to have a further motion moved which rearranges the order of business in effect. Senator Moore has made that quite clear.

Senator Ian Macdonald

You don't know what the motion—

The PRESIDENT

Yes—this is a motion seeking precedence to move a motion to rearrange the order of business. I think that is quite clear.

Senator Ian Macdonald

But have we got a copy of the motion that she is going to—

The PRESIDENT

We will get attendants to circulate copies of the document that I was referring to earlier. Senator Moore, you have the call.

Senator MOORE

Senator Macdonald, the process is in place to get the circulation through and to get the attendants to have that circulated throughout the Senate. What we brought to the Senate earlier this afternoon was a motion around hours of business which was looking at ensuring that the business of the Senate was actually concluded in a certain series of importance and ensuring that issues on the red were able to concluded and debated in this day of the Senate. As all senators would remember, the original hours of business motion that we were given, bringing us back to this place, was very clear. It was we were to sit depending on the passing of a series of legislation that was written in the motion. We were going to sit until that finished. We were going to have day 1, day 2 and day 3 and 4 if required. That was all there in the motion that brought us back to Canberra this week. We went through the full process of having the Governor-General come and recall the parliament. This, of course, is a Senate that did rise two weeks ago with a proposal that we come back at a period of time into the future. In that fortnight, apparently things became so urgent around this series of legislation put in the notice of business that was given to us to bring us back that we had bring back the Senate for extra sitting days. We came back and we got here, and the only business that we were to conclude through that sitting period was what was in that notice—which was a set series of pieces of legislation.

Today, on the red, the process on which we base our business in the Senate, are a number of notices of motion and a number of references that, in the opinion of the opposition, need to be concluded. We have brought forward a proposal this afternoon to ensure that that business would be concluded and that, before we left this place this week, we would have that concluded. In terms of the process, the reason the opposition has brought forward a process to reorder the business this afternoon is to ensure that debate could be had by the Senate so it could conclude the various items of the business. We have done that just to ensure process.

Yesterday, Mr President, as you would be aware, we went through the debate around the ABCC, which was the first item of business on the notice that brought us back to this place. There was no extended debate. We understood that there was an opportunity for senators to have their say, but there was no attempt to make that go longer; there was no attempt to filibuster in any way. To ensure that we got through it, a limited number of senators spoke in that debate, and we concluded that debate.

Then we moved on to the legislation around the trucking industry. Again the process started, and we felt the same kind of process would occur in this place, where any senator who wished to take part in the debate would have the chance to do so. We moved forward with the intent that that would happen. We had a speaking list that was going to be followed. Then there was a gag put into the debate of the Senate on that piece of legislation by the very first speaker—in fact, by the minister bringing forward the legislation into this place.

That is actually legal under the rules of the Senate. That occurred, but it certainly did not allow free and open debate in the Senate for that period. We needed to ensure that we came back. In fact, there was some discussion we would even come back today. There was certainly some consideration. As those pieces of legislation were both concluded yesterday, there was some question about whether we would return today. We did. We came back and we had a number of core issues raised by government members, by opposition members and by crossbench members—by all parties—that we thought should occur and be concluded in today's sitting.

Unfortunately, because of the way this was occurring, there was some concern that perhaps the priority issues may not be reached and that we would be in the same circumstances we were in at the end of the last sitting of the Senate, where a whole range of notices of motion were not able to be brought before the Senate and where a number of references were not able to be brought forward either. We are bringing forward this motion and going through the agreed sequence of how, in the Senate, you have to pursue such an issue—bringing it forward, asking for leave and, when that is denied, actually going to a suspension process, which we have done. We are now at the second part of the process, which is about the hours that we want to sit. When we get through this part and the votes that ensue, we would then move to the substantive motion for debate, which would then put in place that sequence.

The fact is, as I have said in the motion—a motion which puts forward the hours of the debate—the routine of business may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate. It is a straightforward process—actually, I will take that back; it is not such a straightforward process, but it is one which is guided by the standing orders of this place. We learn by working our way through it. We learn by surviving the process. Every time we have these debates we get into across-the-chamber allegations of whose practice is worse or better than whose. We will never win that, because we can go back to history on all our sides—I am not looking at you directly, Senator Macdonald—and we can find both poor and very strong practice on every side of this chamber. It is not particularly valuable to say, 'You did this, so now we are doing that.' It is not the way to proceed. It always degenerates into an unprofessional and unsatisfying debate.

It is always important that people are as clear as they can be. The opposition's intent in bringing forward this motion is to ensure that the items on the red that are put before us today will actually get through debate in the Senate and that, when we leave this place, we will have looked at what we, as senators, when we came into the chamber this morning expected to consider in today's business, and that we would have certainty that that would occur. In terms of the process, I am not sure whether it is valuable for me to continue speaking any longer. I am looking to see whether I should continue. I am more than capable of going on for the other 10 minutes. I will keep going.

Senator Ian Macdonald

This is just a filibuster!

Senator MOORE

I very rarely take comments across the chamber, Senator Macdonald, but you actually calling out someone from this side for filibustering is indeed a brave statement, because, having been here for a number of years—not as long as you, Senator Macdonald, through you, Mr President—I have learnt the art by watching people like yourself being able to speak at length over any form of process.

I think it is absolutely important that there is no allegation about anyone trying to mislead this place. The important element—and I cannot stress it too much—is that we want to see what is on the red. As Senator Wong brought forward, we actually want to see the items of business that are currently listed on the red for debate today given the opportunity to be concluded today, before we rise again and before we again have the situation where issues that the Senate needed to consider and issues that the Senate expressed a desire to consider would not occur, and where we would walk away having spent a large amount of time speaking in this place on issues that perhaps we did not particularly want to speak on or that were not particularly that important.

There are issues about the referral of committees and there are a large range of issues that are there under the notices of motion—including a couple under my name; I do not think they are any more important than any others. In terms of the process, we want to ensure that those are concluded. Opportunity in this place is very often limited by the set rules of the Senate so that we would have a period of time in which we are able to have these debates and then after a set period of time the Senate rules move on and we close that section of the process. That is not what we want to occur this afternoon.

Senators who have their Reds in front of them—and I am sure you live by them every day that you are here—can see that under business of the Senate we have a number of committee references. Then we go down to two pages of notices of motion—in fact, I do not think I have seen two pages of notices of motion before—which relate to a range of issues that senators have brought forward and put through the process to ensure that they are before the Senate. They do not wish to be disappointed or frustrated because they will not be able to have that debate effectively here rather than elsewhere. Too often, I think, we have debates outside the chamber, in many groups talking about what should happen, when in fact these debates, wherever possible, should be had here so that every senator who chooses to be involved in the discussion has the opportunity to take part in that.

The issues that are before the Senate are not confusing. The issues that are before the Senate are there for everyone to see. When you look at the Red, you can see exactly which committees are being asked to be formed and have references made to them. You can also see exactly which items of business are being put forward into the Red. As I have said, it should be a simple enough process that senators are able to understand which business they will be looking at during the time that they are here, as indeed are the people who take an interest in the operation of the Senate. We all know that the Dynamic Red is available on the parliamentary website, and there are some people, bless them, who actually check that website and see what will be on the agenda. So they would expect, if there is something on that Red in which they are interested and on which they have a view, that that would be concluded by the Senate and not moved forward.

As a point of interest, there is a notice of motion on Down syndrome which we put forward in the last sitting of parliament. We were not able to have that concluded in the last sitting of parliament, which actually linked with World Down Syndrome Day. We were not able to have that considered, because the rules of the Senate moved forward and we were not able to get that particular issue to the attention of the Senate and have it voted on. There were a range of organisations that were expecting that that particular motion would be considered by the Senate and we would be able to share in celebrating or noting World Down Syndrome Day. A few of us—and I am sure there are many in here that share that—then had to explain to the organisations to whom we had given a commitment that it could not be considered that day because the process of the Senate did not allow that to happen.

That is but one example, and yet again that particular motion is back on the Red today. It is back among the notices of motion to be considered in this place. Should the motion that the opposition have put forward ever get concluded, we would expect that we would then, as Senator Wong's motion indicated, look at the referrals to committees first and then go through and look at all the items of business as noted on the Red. That seems to me a quite straightforward proposition, and I would expect that there should be agreement around this place that that should be a process that we would be able to conclude.

Of course, for particular reasons, senators have views that they do not want to pursue a certain debate process, and that is why we have the process we saw earlier this afternoon, where leave was denied when Senator Wong put up her original motion. Then we went through the 30-minute process, as allowed by the rules of the Senate, to look at the suspension. Then we had the vote. Then we moved into this segment of the debate, which—as I am sure people across the board, particularly the learned senators on the government benches, would understand—under the processes we have in the Senate is open-ended and allows every senator who wishes to take part a 20-minute option to speak. I have listened to many 20-minute options to speak in this place, and all of them have some value—some more than others. But, in the way we move forward, we allow the process to continue. This afternoon, yet again—in the process that we heard was so important—on the issue Senator Kim Carr brought forward, we heard two very strong contributions by government members in response to that process, each of 20 minutes. Each spoke about how the rules would operate, and no-one stopped that contribution. We allowed the rules to continue so that we would see exactly how the process should operate.

So we move forward. We look at how the process should operate. My motion is before the Senate so that we have the opportunity to look at the sequence of how the issues onthe today will be considered. If the government had not been unable to support that motion—a significant time previously to this—we would not be having this debate. We would have been moving through the process quite clearly, looking at each item: the referral motions for the Senate committees and the notices of motion as they were printed. We would be concluding those issues and moving forward. But we are not. We are still in stage 2 of the series of debates when formality is denied and someone seeks leave. That is what occurred, and we need to move now.

We have had that process. We are moving forward, and I think that we need to ensure that we have the option for the Senate to consider the items of business looking at referrals to committees and then—most clearly, and in some cases probably even importantly—at the extensive list of notices of motion, which actually belong to this Senate and to no-one else. Those notices of motion belong to the Senate, and we should, if we are doing our job, get to that business. I think that there should be an opportunity for all of us to have our different views, if necessary, on some of them. Now, having seen where the procedure debate goes and understanding the process allowing for the procedure to be agreed, we know that we are moving on exactly how we look at the process and ensuring that the Senate is aware of what we are doing, that the Senate takes its position and that the notices are considered.

Senator WONG

I move:

That the question be now put.

The PRESIDENT

The question is the motion moved by Senator Moore that her motion will take precedence to rearrange the business of the Senate be agreed to.

Senator WONG

I move that:

(1) Business of the Senate Notices of Motion Nos 2 and 3, referring matters to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee and General Business notice of motion No. 1134 relating to Estimates hearings, and all remaining items of business listed under item 12 on today's Order of Business be called on immediately and in seriatim, moved and determined without debate or amendment; and

(2) the hours of meeting for the Senate today be 12.30 pm till adjournment and the question on the adjournment shall be proposed when all questions relating to all items of business listed under item 12 on today's Order of Business have been determined.

The PRESIDENT

The question is that that motion be agreed to.

Senator Brandis

Mr President—

The PRESIDENT

Senator Brandis, I cannot entertain any debate or discussion, because the motion moved by Senator Moore was clearly resolved saying that it shall be 'determined without amendment or debate'. So I now have to put this motion.

Senator Brandis

Mr President, if I may be heard—

The PRESIDENT

Senator Brandis, I will hear you, but only very briefly.

Senator Brandis

The motion moved by Senator Wong, to be determined without amendment or debate, is limited to Senate notices of motion Nos 2 and 3 and general business notice of motion No. 1134.

Senator Wong

And item 12.

The PRESIDENT

If I can clarify: it is also items under No. 12 on today's , which covers basically all the other notices of motion, all the formal business that we would normally determine. Just so everyone is very clear about this: Senator Moore's motion, which was just agreed to, clearly indicated that the next step, which Senator Wong has now moved, proceeds without further debate or amendment. So I have entertained a clarification, but I propose to put the motion.

Senator Ian Macdonald

Can we get a copy of the motion?

The PRESIDENT

Senator Macdonald, rather than getting a copy of the motion—it has been circulated to some people—I am happy to read it out. It is very brief. Senator Moore moved:

That a motion relating to hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.

It is quite clear.

Senator Ian Macdonald

Yes, but I—

The PRESIDENT

We have just voted on that, and I do not propose to entertain any further debate.

Senator Ian Macdonald

But I want the motion that she just moved.

The PRESIDENT

Senator Wong just read that out, and it is quite clear.

Senator Ian Macdonald

Aren't we entitled to get a written copy?

The PRESIDENT

No, I do not believe we are. I think it is quite clear. If it were a far more complex motion, I would entertain that. I think the motion is quite clear.

Senator Ian Macdonald

I do not know which motion she is talking about.

The PRESIDENT

I am quite confident that the motion is very clear. I intend to now put the motion. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Wong be agreed to.

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