President, I appreciate you giving me the call straight up. I seek leave to move a motion relating to the consideration of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the consideration of the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 and related bills may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.
We know what's been happening in this chamber this week. We know that what has been happening in this chamber this week is that the partnership between the Greens and the Liberal Party of Australia has ensured that the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill is not debated. It has been, frankly, undignified to see the so-called progressive party teaming up with the National Party and the Liberal Party to filibuster and deny or delay debate because they don't want to debate legislation that is the most significant investment in housing by the Commonwealth government in a decade. And why do they not want to debate it? They don't want to debate it because they don't want to have to vote.
Let's be clear about what this bill represents. This bill represents an election commitment that was clear, unambiguous and transparent to the Australian people. The Labor Party have a mandate for this legislation. We absolutely do. We went to the Australian people with this policy and we said, 'This is what we will deliver.' The legislation went through the House some months ago. It's been in the Senate, but have the Greens and the coalition wanted it debated? No, they don't want it debated. They want to filibuster and delay and ensure that they don't get to a vote, I suspect because—you hear some whispers—the Greens don't actually want to be seen to be on the wrong side of it; they just want to keep playing this out. How cynical! At least have some courage. Either vote for or vote against. But do you know what you're doing? You're filibustering with the coalition on legislation that will deliver 30,000 new social and affordable homes in the first five years and 4,000 homes for women and children fleeing domestic violence—perhaps listen to that: 4,000 homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence—and for older women at risk of homelessness.
The joint crossbench, including the Greens, came to the government with concerns, and Minister Collins negotiated in good faith to address every single concern. But you know what? The Greens' spokesperson on housing—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Let me talk to you about the Greens spokesperson on housing. He's had a taste of the media spotlight. Your spokesperson on housing is now prioritising media attention, from stunts and obstruction, over housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. How shameful. This man's ego matters more than women fleeing domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness. This man's ego matters more than women fleeing domestic violence. What sort of party are you?
Senator McKim. Senator Wong, I have a point of order.
This rant from the Leader of the Government in the Senate is well out of order. She is reflecting personally on the motives and impugning the motives of a member of the other place. She is not only wrong; she is very clearly showing that Mr Chandler-Mather is right under the skin of the government. I ask you to require her to withdraw.
Senator Wong, for the benefit of the chamber, I'd ask you to withdraw.
I withdraw for the benefit of the chamber. What I would say to you is this. The question for the Greens is whether a person's ego matters more than the security of having a roof over your head, because that is what we are seeing. You've got an opportunity today, in the next few hours—
Honourable senators interjectin g—
Let's see what you do.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Lambie has given notice that she wishes—
Yes, Senator Wong?
I'm just waiting for them to stop.
Senator Wong, it's a matter for you how you use your time. I'd ask you to proceed.
I'd invite you to—
I'd ask for a little decorum at the back end of the chamber.
Thank you. Senator Lambie is deferring her private senator's motion, so you've got a couple of hours to do the right thing. And we'll give you the opportunity to do that because I know—I suspect, I should say—that there are those in your party and in your party room who are concerned about the way in which your spokesperson is handling this, because he is prioritising a bit of media attention and his personal ego over the interests of women and children fleeing violence and of people in this country who are in need of government investment in the housing sector. You may sit there, saying: 'We want more. We want more.' This is the election commitment. You are standing in the way of the biggest investment in housing in a decade—
Honourable senators interjecting—
And you may yell as much as you like, but you are blocking funding for social and affordable housing in this country.
It's always unfortunate to see lovers having a fight, isn't it, particularly when it plays out publicly—a lovers' tiff between the parties of the current government, between the Labor Party and the Greens; this little stoush that's turning into quite a personal stoush.
Oh, who's going to get the kids!
Senator Wong, is this a point of order?
I would ask him to withdraw. I would point out who the lovers are this week: you and them.
Senator Wong, that's not a point of order and you know it.
The parties of the current government, the Labor Party and the Greens—here they are now having this stoush playing out publicly, a lovers' tiff that's turned into quite a public brawl. You know the government is feeling the pressure on these things, you know government ministers are feeling the pressure, when they start to personalise the debate too. We saw there in Senator Wong's contribution a personalisation of the debate, targeting the Greens' housing spokesman and turning it into a personal debate against a member of the Greens, trying of course to play into whatever divisions might exist within the Australian Greens.
It is just a policy debate.
Well, it didn't sound like a policy debate; it sounded like a personal attack. It sounded like a big sledge against the Greens. It sounded like the two of you falling out of love with one another. But, of course, we know it will only be temporary and that, no doubt, at some stage there will be some sort of secret deal, bargain et cetera.
The government is seeking to come in here and say this bill should be expedited. The chamber has apparently had enough time to debate something that it's barely debated at all. It has barely had the chance to debate this at all. What is this government doing with the management of its legislative program? Mishandling it terribly would be the answer to that because, before trying to mount the argument that it's time to push this through—that it's time to guillotine this—there should have been some debate of it before you actually got to that point.
This is a new $10 billion fund that the government has struggled to define or defend when it has come under scrutiny. It's meant to be an off-budget fund. That's the way they took it to the election campaign so they could, of course, go through that campaign and say: 'This isn't really money that we're spending. We don't have to account for this money; we're running it off budget.' But when challenged about investment mandates for the fund, in terms of how it will actually be accounted for, do the government make any of that public before this Senate is asked to vote on it? Of course they don't—none of that sort of detail or information is provided in advance. Then, in their desperation to try to negotiate this fund with the Greens or the rest of the crossbench, we learn they start to offer deals that say, 'Regardless of how much this fund earns, we might build this many houses,' or, 'Regardless of how much this fund earns, we might start to spend this much money as a guarantee year on year.' Well, guess what happens if you give those guarantees? It takes the measure on budget. It blows out of the water the entire premise of the policy that the government took to the last election. In their desperation, with an ill-conceived policy, they are now starting to unpick it and demonstrate just how bad Labor is when it comes to managing money. That's what all of this comes back to.
This off-budget fund, about which the government has said, 'We don't have to account for it as spending; we can claim a budget bottom line position without having to account for this,' will end up costing Australians. It will end up hitting the budget bottom line. It will end up deteriorating the government's budget position. It will end up operating completely contrary to what was promised at the election and the approach that they've taken. This is a bill that deserves scrutiny. This is a bill that deserves fair debate.
You've been filibustering all week. Get on to debating it—
Senator Wong, you knew coming in here today that Senator Lambie is going to withdraw her private senator's time, providing an extra hour of debate time—but guess what? By pursuing this tactic, you're eating up that time. Rather than having an hour of debating Senator Lambie's bill, we'll instead spend about 45 or 50 minutes debating the motion that you've insisted on moving. Senator Wong, you've created this—
On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, if Senator Birmingham wishes to give me leave to close the debate so he can get on to the housing debate, I'd be happy to move that motion.
It's not a point of order, Senator Wong.
Go on, give me leave. I'll move it.
That's a matter of private discussion between the leaders.
This is a mess of the government's own making. This policy is a mess of its own making; this poor chamber management is a mess of its own making. This lack of time to debate this bill is a mess of its own making, and this lovers' tiff between the Labor Party and the Greens is a mess of their own making which is only going to get worse thanks to the personal tactics Senator Wong has now deployed against the Greens.
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 9:36 AM on 2023-05-11
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 23
Total number of "no" votes: 41
Total number of abstentions: 11
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au