I move the motion standing in my name, as circulated:
That the following bills take precedence over all other government business today:
(a) Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2023
(b) National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Data Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2023
(c) Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill 2022
Before paragraph (a), insert:
(aa) Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills
President, on a point of order, I would invite you to rule that amendment out of order and encourage you to do so. The motion before the chamber seeks to rearrange business, and, under current orders of the Senate, the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill is the next item of business that is coming on in the Senate. So the amendment being proposed, I would argue, has fundamental change—
It's the Greens putting Peter Dutton in charge of government business.
Those interjections are disorderly. I ask for silence.
The amendment being proposed is a fundamental change that essentially is seeking to amend the motion, the result of which could be achieved by simply defeating the motion if the government wished to. The Senate has already twice expressed its will, in terms of government attempts to reorder business in relation to this bill, and the Senate has twice rejected the government's attempts. There is precedence in relation to a ruling that, where the Senate has clearly expressed its will on more than one occasion, a motion will not be taken again. This is a rather unique attempt at trying to do the same thing yet again, but it is nonetheless another attempt at doing so. I believe the amendment should be ruled out of order, such that the motion as put be considered, rather than us dealing with what appears to be an endless time-wasting exercise by the government to prevent consideration of its own bills.
I am advised that the government's proposed amendment is in order and relevant to the motion. Senator McKim.
On a point of order, I ask you to reflect, please, on page 241 in Odgers__', which says:
An amendment may not be moved if it is a direct negative to the question. An amendment is not regarded as a direct negative unless it would have exactly the same effect as negativing the motion.
I think Senator Birmingham is right in his argument here—that the effect of the amendment that Senator Gallagher is putting actually has the same effect as voting against the motion. If that's not your ruling, President, could I ask you to explain why, in fact, you do not believe that that relevant passage of Odgers__' is pertinent in this case.
I'm happy to do so. I am advised that, if we did nothing, we would go to the housing bill then the PID amendment bill. The motion moved by Senator Birmingham is seeking to rearrange that. The amendment by the government puts the housing bill next. So I am advised that, in this case, the piece of Odgers__' that you used is not relevant. I call Minister Gallagher.
Thank you, President, for that advice to the chamber. I think we are reaching a pretty embarrassing point of the week, with the efforts being taken and procedural trickery and skulduggery going on. Over what? It's over the Senate supporting the investment of $10 billion into the Housing Australia Future Fund. That is what is happening here. There are efforts being put in place to not debate and not pass investment in social and affordable housing, and, even if you don't think it's perfect, it's a start to having a long-term funding stream going into social and affordable housing. Here we are with motions going this way and that way and the anti-housing alliance ganging up together to make sure that this bill cannot pass.
The government has listed the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill as its priority bill. We've got these three parties—the Liberal Party, the National Party and the Greens political party—working together to deny passage of the bill. Out of all the bills that go through this chamber I have to say I would have thought this would be the last bill that would face this kind of barrier. Honestly! The House of Representatives has dealt with it. Every housing minister in every state and territory has asked the Senate to deal with this bill. The housing organisations, the community organisations that will be beneficiaries—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Minister Gallagher, please resume your seat.
Senator Ayres! Order! Most of the senators on my left, who are calling out, are out of order. They're not even in their seats so they are all being incredibly disorderly. I'm asking the back of the chamber to stop being disorderly; there is plenty of opportunity for debate on this bill. I should not have had to sit the minister down. I'm asking for her contribution to be heard in silence, and I would do so for any senator in this chamber. Please continue, Minister.
The housing organisations, which have pleaded with us and have pleaded with all of you—
Honourable senators interjecting—
They have. We know they've been to see you to say, 'Pass this bill.' And the Greens slammed the door in their face. It's not good enough. It's not going to happen.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Minister Gallagher, please resume your seat. Once again, within a few seconds, I've had to call for order. If you wish to make a contribution, seek the call. Otherwise, I ask you to either leave the chamber, if you can't remain in here and be silent, or respect that the minister has the right and has the call. She has an absolute right to be heard in silence. Minister.
I shouldn't actually be in the position where we've had to move this amendment, because we would have naturally, some time ago, gone to this bill. The time-wasting and the procedural trickery that's going on to try and ensure we don't get to the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill is, frankly, a joke. I think the people of Australia expect better of us in the Senate. They expect we will deal with bills as they come. We wanted to provide extra time for people to have that debate. We wanted to sit last night—no, that wasn't good enough for the Senate. We wanted to bring it on first thing this morning—no, that wasn't good enough for the Senate. The filibuster started and now, at the time that we would normally and naturally get to this bill, this happens. So, yes, we are moving an amendment because we do want the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill dealt with. We do want to find that time. But it is absolute rubbish that what you're trying to do is arrange it so that we have time to deal with bills. It's just fraudulent; it's not true.
What you are doing—and what you should stand up and say you're doing, and what the Greens should stand up and say they're doing; it's everything you've done this week—is to make sure we don't deal with the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. Let's just say it as it is. I think people can hide behind motions and amendments and gags and all the rest of it. The agreement that's been struck between the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens has been to do whatever it takes—absolutely whatever it takes—to make sure that the Senate cannot pass a bill that would establish a $10 billion housing fund that would allow $500 million a year for more social and affordable housing for women escaping domestic violence, and their children, and for low-paid workers so that they can live close to where they work. That's what the Senate's doing now. And it's time for some honesty about that. Don't sit here and pretend that you're just trying to make things better or that you don't want to see the government spend so much. You three have ganged up to deliver this result and we won't let you forget it. We will not let you forget it. Until we get an outcome on housing we will be letting everybody know that it's the Liberals, the Nationals and the Greens working together to make sure that we can't build more housing supply in this country. That's what the Senate's doing today. So we don't take a step back, our amendment seeks to reorder the priority and allow for the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill to come on first, because that is the priority.
Any member who has spoken to anyone in their electorate, in their community, realises that housing affordability and access to housing is a major issue, and here is one measure that we are taking. We have all these other things going on. We're working with the states and territories. We're pushing it through National Cabinet. We're increasing the liability cap for NHFIC so that it can ensure access to low-interest finance for community and social housing providers. We had a project here in Canberra just last week supporting the building of accommodation for women under the age of 45 who are on lower incomes who want to work towards owning their own house. That is what we are doing—practical steps to increase the supply of housing to take the pressure off people who want to buy and people who need to rent. That's what we're doing, and this Senate is standing in the way of it.
It is mind-bendingly crazy that that is where we're at today—that this Senate would choose that path as opposed to the path of 'okay, let's deal with this bill, let's set it up, let's make sure that we get the investment flowing'. Keep talking to us about more things you would like to see and keep talking to us about the way you want the fund to operate, but don't stand in the way of its being established in the first place. The irony of it is there are people calling for more investment when we can't get the investment that's before the Senate through the Senate—$10 billion, a $500 million funding stream. Anyone who has watched housing over the last 10 years realises that the Commonwealth hasn't been at the table. It completely vacated the field under the former government.
That's not true.
You vacated the field. There was no housing policy. There was no housing minister—
Minister Gallagher, please resume your seat.
Senator Henderson, I called you to order. You ignored me. Not only are you not in your seat; you are also continuing to be disorderly when asked not to be. Minister, please resume.
Here we are with a range of interventions that we are putting in place, including funding the extra support for workers in the sector; negotiating the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with the states and territories; increasing NHFIC's liability cap; and, with some of the tax measures that the Treasurer has brought in, trying to incentivise the National Housing Accord, working with investors around how putting that investment into housing in this country will work. And there's the Housing Australia Future Fund. It's part of a bigger suite of investments in housing, and this Senate won't even allow it to be dealt with. We have support from the Community Housing Industry Association, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia, the MBA, the Property Council, the Housing Industry Association, PowerHousing and the Urban Development Institute, who are all saying, 'Deal with this bill, please. Let us get started.' And this Senate wants to play games with procedure and to delay even debating it. Honestly!
We could leave this place today not having been able to even get through the second reading stage of this bill, because of the agreement reached between the opposition and the Greens political party. That is the result. What a week. You can leave here and give yourselves a big pat on the back because what you've done together is make sure that this bill doesn't get passed, that the fund doesn't get set up, that the money doesn't flow and that the houses don't get built. What a terrific outcome from the Senate! I say that with a very strong lacing of sarcasm. That is the result.
So I would urge senators to consider and support the amendment that we have moved and then, if that amendment is successful, to find time this afternoon to actually deal with the bill, as we have been trying to do. We will move whatever motion it takes to ensure that we can deal with this bill today, and, if people need to stay longer this afternoon, so be it. We want to deal with it. We have been trying all week to deal with it.
I urge those who are in the Senate to listen to the voices of the advocates; to listen to the voices of the state and territory housing ministers, who know a little bit about housing; to listen to the first ministers of the country, who at national cabinet signed up to work with us on Labor's housing plan. Everybody is in the cart except this antihousing alliance that's been formed in the dark of night in the corridors of the Senate to gang up and make sure that this bill cannot be dealt with.
That the question be now put.
The question is that the motion that the question be put, as moved by Senator Gallagher, be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
The question now is that the motion to amend, as moved by Senator Gallagher, be agreed to.
Date and time: 1:25 PM on 2023-05-11
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 21
Total number of "no" votes: 35
Total number of abstentions: 19
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au