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AGAINST – Business — Consideration of Legislation

Simon Birmingham

I seek leave to move a motion relating to the consideration of government bills.

Leave not granted.

Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of this Senate, namely a motion relating to the consideration of government bills.

I am surprised and quite disappointed the government did not grant leave for this motion. This motion, which has been circulated in the chamber, would give precedence to consideration of the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2023, the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Data Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2023, and the Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill 2022.

The first two of these had previously been mooted to be listed in the normal non-contro business for the Senate. The government chose to not proceed with the non-contro listing, which would have ensured that these bills passed today quickly and seamlessly. The last of these has been subject to extensive debate in the Senate chamber already and, I understand, is close to being able to reach closure and pass the Senate. I don't intend to detain the Senate with a long debate about the merits of this. My intention is to enable us to get these bills done. This is simply what the government should have done as good housekeeping regarding the management of its legislative program. I'm pleased to co-operate with the support of the Greens in terms of bringing these on.

Yes, I know the government wishes it could get a vote on its housing bill today. It hasn't provided sufficient time for that to be debated. The Senate has determined that matter multiple times already, so you should have heard the message of the Senate by now. This is an invitation and an opportunity for the government to get done and get passed what can be passed today in an effective and timely manner.

Honourable senators interjecting—

Deborah O'Neill

Order! I don't need to repeat what I said. Everybody who was in the chamber then should be remembering what I said less than nine minutes ago.

Katy Gallagher

Well, well, well! I think the Academy Award for best actor in a drama this week goes to Senator Birmingham for that performance of apparently trying to help the government, to assist the government with its program, and to do that with a straight face—although I notice there's a bit of a smile on your face now. The government did not grant leave for this because we had organised our program, our program has listed the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill as the priority bill, and this is government legislation time. There is a lot of time through the rest of the week when other senators get to list priorities for them. This is not part of that time.

The government's priority is the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. I understand that the antihousing alliance in the Senate will be working together to try to get this motion up, because that's the priority for them. The priority for the Greens political party and the opposition is to not support the investments that we want to make in increasing the supply of housing in this country, so they can only be referred to as the antihousing alliance. It is an unusual alliance. It's an alliance that's been created from different points of view. So we have the opposition saying that they don't want investment in housing because we are spending too much and we have criticism from the Greens, saying that it's not enough. But the end result of the antics that have been carried out in this place over the past week will be that this legislation fails to pass. It will delay the establishment of that fund. It will delay disbursements from that fund to allow the building of 30,000 social and affordable housing properties in this country over five years. That is the game they are playing. They are playing a game on housing supply. They might think it's funny and it might work in the Greens sub-branches in the inner-city where people are already comfortable in their homes, but this is about other people in this country, people who are struggling to find accommodation after a decade of dysfunction, delay and neglect from those opposite, who didn't care about social and affordable housing and who didn't care about housing supply in this country.

The failure of that policy has brought us to the point we are at today, where we have a significant shortfall in supply, and this Senate is saying, 'We don't want to increase the supply of housing in this country.' That is the direct result of the decision that they are taking in ganging up together, the antihousing alliance parties, to stop this bill from progressing. We have tried a number of times this week to extend hours to allow for debate, and the antihousing alliance have taken decisions to filibuster in a whole range of areas in the program to not allow that to happen. So don't come in here and say the government didn't allow enough time. We have tried to provide time so that people had the opportunity to debate the bill.

There are amendments to the bill. There have been discussions about the bill. We have been working on this for months. We have been in deep negotiations, not with the 'noalition' because they have disengaged and won't even come to the table. If you don't come to the table, you write yourself out. That's fine. That's a decision that Mr Dutton and his leadership team have made. We get that. They're just not going to be any part of the future of this country. Fine. But for the Greens political party to take this position and to gang up on us and to frustrate any attempt to have a long-term sustainable funding stream into social and affordable housing is something that they will have to live with. We will let everybody know that this is what they are up to. We will have to work out how to ensure that the Commonwealth is able to increase the supply of housing in this country, and we will, because we are focused on it and it is our priority. We have made that clear with other investments we are making in housing through NHFIC and through some of the tax changes the Treasurer announced on Tuesday.

Let's just speak very bluntly about what is happening here today. What is happening is that we have the Greens political party, the Liberal Party and the Nationals joining together to tell Australians who rely on social and affordable housing that political games are more important than them. That is what is happening here. No dressing it up with some apparently helpful motion to reorganise the program is going to give them cover on that. (Time expired)

Nick McKim

The Greens stand ready to work collectively and collaboratively across the chamber to assist the government in actually getting something through the Senate this week. The three bills that are the subject of the motion that was attempted to be moved by Senator Birmingham are two non-controversial bills that would pass the Senate and, of course, the Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill, which we stand ready to facilitate passing the Senate in very short order. Our assessment is that that would take 10 or 15 minutes maximum and the government could have those bills through the Senate.

So, when the government is opposing attempts to have these bills put through the Senate, folks need to understand exactly why they are doing that. This is all about the government wanting to ram its housing agenda through the Senate. And I use the word 'agenda' in the loosest possible way, because the Labor Housing Affordability Future Fund is a steaming pile of neoliberal rubbish that does not guarantee the building of one single extra house in this country. Labor's bill, even under the best-case scenario put forward by Labor, that it will deliver 30,000 houses—and there is no guarantee that it will and no reasonable likelihood that it will; it is a fantasy best-case scenario—the demand for affordable housing in Australia will be bigger in five years time than it is today. That's right, folks: Labor's so-called solution will see the affordable housing crisis in this country worse in five years time than it is today. And how's Labor proposing to respond to this massive social crisis? How does this so-called party of the Left—which of course is a masquerade, because they are a centre-right political party and heading further to the right every day—propose to respond to it? By gambling $10 billion of public funds on the stock market.

The Future Fund, the vehicle that Labor wants to give $10 billion worth of public funds to to gamble on the stock market, lost 1.2 per cent of its value last year. Would Labor attempt to respond to a health crisis by gambling public funds on the stock market? Of course they wouldn't. So why are they proposing to take that approach to a housing crisis? And of course this so-called package put forward by Labor does nothing for renters—absolutely zero for renters. We are in a rental crisis in this country. Rents are skyrocketing, particularly in the major cities, but also in regional Australia. We have a Labor Party that in this budget has offered a pittance of $2.85 a day to people who are on income support—using, I might add, people who are in poverty as a tool to fight inflation while they are delivering the massively inflationary quarter of a trillion dollars in stage 3 tax cuts for the top end. That's what's happening here, and there is nothing for renters. There is nothing for renters in this housing affordability proposal from Labor.

In my home state of Tasmania, Tasmanians are being conned by the Jacqui Lambie Network, who are claiming that it is in the legislation that a minimum of 1,200 new homes will be built in Tasmania over the next five years, when it is not in the legislation; it's not in any of the amendments that have been circulated by the government. Yet Senator Lambie and Senator Tyrrell are colluding with the government to try to smash through a bill that doesn't guarantee that a single extra house will be built in Tasmania. Isn't it astonishing that the Labor Party would prefer to see its bill fail in this chamber today than to sit down and have a genuine negotiation with the Australian Greens?

The Labor Party needs to understand that it doesn't control this Senate, and I urge them to sit down and negotiate a decent outcome for people who are struggling with rental crisis, struggling with the housing crisis, so we can move forward and address those issues.

Michaelia Cash

I move:

That the question be now put.

Sue Lines

The question is that the question be put.


Date and time: 12:58 PM on 2023-05-11
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 36
Total number of "no" votes: 21
Total number of abstentions: 18

Adapted from information made available by