President, I seek leave to move a motion, as circulated in the chamber, relating to the consideration of a private senator's bill.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice of motion standing in my name, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as to prevent Senator Birmingham moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion relating to the consideration of the Productivity Commission Amendment (Electricity Reporting) Bill 2023.
It is the case that as soon as this debate concludes we will move on to the Australian Greens' private senators' time, as scheduled in the normal routine of business. That private senators' time has been respected, notwithstanding the variation of hours motion that was pushed through by the government yesterday. Remarkably though there was another version of the variation of hours motion pushed through by the government yesterday. The initially circulated version also would have reserved private senators' time for opposition business tomorrow morning, during which time the Productivity Commission Amendment (Electricity Reporting) Bill 2023 was to be considered. Before it came to be voted on, a second version of the government's hours variation motion came through. Lo and behold, in the second version the opposition's private senators' time got knocked out. So the Greens' private senators' time was preserved for today but the opposition's private senators' time was eliminated for tomorrow.
This is not the way in which this Senate chamber should be treated. An important principle of this Senate chamber is that across the chamber there is respect for non-government business having an opportunity to be considered and debated. That respect should be extended to all non-government parties, not just to those whom the government chooses to do deals with. It is one thing for the government to have done its deal on the safeguard legislation with the Greens. Of course, we're waiting to see the full extent of the amendments. The substantial amendments weren't available as we debated the bill through until after 4 am. We still did not get to see the amendments that actually deliver that deal.
They also dealt away the usual proceedings and courtesies of private senators' time in this place. Remarkably, despite reasonable approaches from Senator Ruston and the opposition, they have not agreed to reinstate that. It wouldn't have changed the deadline, the hard marker, that actually sees the conclusion of the safeguard legislation. That's already established. The motion before the Senate would not change that deadline. It would simply reinstate the opportunity for Senator Duniam's bill, the Productivity Commission Amendment (Electricity Reporting) Bill 2023, to be called on in the normal, ordinary routine of business, at 9 am tomorrow morning, to be considered for the normal, ordinary routine one hour and 10 minutes tomorrow morning as private senators' time ordinarily would be. There is nothing but routine in what the opposition is proposing here. It should not take a suspension of standing orders motion for us to ask for the routine, for us to ask for normal courtesies to be extended.
Senator Duniam's bill is a straightforward one. It deserves to be debated. It deserves even more to be debated in the context of the safeguard mechanism that this chamber is considering. Because Senator Duniam's bill will bring greater transparency to electricity price reporting. It will bring greater scrutiny to the way in which energy markets and electricity prices are considered. It's a very important proposal, given the other matters that are before this Senate.
So I would urge the Greens, who are about to have their one hour and 10 minutes of private senators' time this morning, to reflect and provide the same—
You're taking their time.
We're not taking their time. They are still going to get one hour and 10 minutes, Senator Gallagher. That is the one hour and ten minutes guaranteed in the way in which it is established. It's not a hard marker that changes this. The Greens will still get their one hour and ten minutes. We were considerate and actually thought of that before moving this suspension motion. I urge the Greens to show similar courtesy to other non-government parties. The Labor party may not be willing to show those courtesies, but to show similar courtesies to other non-government parties, so we can receive the same opportunity for private senators' time as you are receiving.
I would certainly urge those across the crossbench to think about the fact that they ought to provide for this, because at some stage it could happen to them. So indeed, to Senators Lambie and Tyrrell, to Senator David Pocock, to the One Nation senators Hanson and Roberts, I urge all of them to support this motion, because it does nothing but ensure the normal proceedings proceed.
The government won't be supporting this suspension. I will work through some reasons why. As we have seen this morning, and we saw it last night, this is the big fight for those opposite. They will do whatever they can to delay getting to safeguards and dealing with that bill. Let's just be very up-front and open about that. We know what you're doing. It's been clear—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Yes, we'll all sit all night. That's why we set up the hours motion the way we did. That's why we sat until 4.15 this morning. This is a tactic to delay getting to safeguards, firstly. You worked out you can eat in half an hour of time, and then we will go to private senators' business and then we'll get to safeguards and then you'll delay through committee stage. I have no doubt that that is how the day—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Yes, there will be questions and there will be delay. Let's be clear on that. My second point is, we put a motion on the table yesterday. We didn't debate it for three hours; we gave plenty of time. No-one from the opposition came and engaged on that motion with us. That's a decision you obviously took.
You changed the motion.
Well, you had no approach to the government about any part of that motion. Now you don't like what's passed, when you didn't engage at all. On the third point—
Senator Henderson, on a point of order?
The standing orders provide that the comments of all senators must be made through the chair. In raising a point of order I would ask you to ask Senator Gallagher not to reflect on me. Thank you.
I didn't hear any reflection there, Senator Henderson. Senator Henderson, I'm dealing with your point of order, so please resume your seat. The minister is making general comments. All senators need to listen—
respectfully and quietly, thank you, Senator McKenzie. I will note that when your leader was on his feet there was silence on this side of the chamber. The minute the minister got up the noise began. I already had to call the left of the chamber to order several times. I think the minister is directing her comments to the chair. I will listen carefully, and I thank you for your point of order. Minister, please continue.
Thank you, President. I deal with a fair level of interjections from those opposite, so thank you for your protection on that. I had noticed that they had been quite disorderly in my original remarks, but thank you very much for drawing that to their attention.
My third point is that if there is good progress today in the committee stage, by the time we get to the end of that today—
Who judges that?
That is, if we've dealt with some amendments, we are very open to having private senators' time tomorrow.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Most disorderly. I know we've all been here and we're going to be scratchy today, but I've only got a couple of minutes. If we make good progress—that is, if we are dealing with the amendments and we're not just having a long filibuster from all of those opposite—then we are very open to facilitating private senators' time tomorrow morning. But we are not in a position to make that decision now, because, if we see what we've been advised we will see, you will just take that time tomorrow to delay dealing with safeguards again. So I think it's very reasonable, now that the Senate has expressed a view on the hours motion—which we did when we passed it yesterday—that, if we are able to provide that hour tomorrow and still allow people to put their amendments and have a debate over those amendments, we give you our commitment that we will facilitate that, as a sign of good faith. But we're not at that position yet, because we don't know how today is going to roll.
If last night was any kind of measure of how we're going to do that, it's not looking that crash-hot, to be honest. So I would say to those opposite: work with us, even though we accept that you oppose the bill and think the sky is going to fall in and all of what we heard last night. Work with us to facilitate the committee stage, and then there will be no concern at all about private senators' time being facilitated by the government tomorrow. The Senate has taken a view on the motion yesterday that we want to prioritise this bill. We want it put through. We had to put some management around it because we knew that this was not going to be smoothly facilitated through the parliament. No matter how many hours we put on it, we would have been seeing delaying tactics from those opposite. We saw that in the strength of the second reading remarks last night.
As I said: engaging with us on the hours motion didn't happen; delaying getting to safeguards today is not a good sign of where we're going to end up; and, if we get to where we need to get to at a reasonable time tonight, then there is no issue. We will absolutely, totally and very happily facilitate private senators' time for the opposition tomorrow. But we also need to make sure that we deal with this bill, that everyone has the opportunity to put their amendments and to have their say, and that we are able to deal with that by 1 pm tomorrow. I think changing the motion in advance of that will put at risk an orderly passage of that bill.
On the matter of the suspension, the Greens will not be supporting the suspension. However—
Opposition senators interjecting—
If you want support, you should be quiet and listen.
You said you will not support us.
Well, if you want to work with people, you should show some respect.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator Cash, I just called order, and you continued to interject. Please continue, Senator Hanson-Young.
Thank you. The Greens will not be able to support the suspension, but I do accept that in this place we do need to be able to provide space for non-government senators to have a debate on issues that are important to them. I would urge the Leader of the Opposition and his frontbench team to consider the offer from the government to help facilitate in an orderly manner the safeguard bill's committee stage over the next 12 hours, and then hopefully we can get to a position where, tomorrow, private senators' time can be reinstated.
I think it's absolutely essential to ensure that the Senate does have time for private senators' space and debate. It's a fundamental part of this chamber. But what I've seen over the last 24 hours is delay after delay after delay—tactics to put off the safeguard legislation. This is just like what we saw for the last decade when the coalition was in government—delay after delay after delay on taking action on the climate crisis. We can't continue to put that at risk. That is why we put in place a routine of business in this chamber, and we should stick to that. If there is opportunity to amend it for tomorrow morning, I'm very open to it, and I'm happy to keep talking with the opposition about that. It's why I won't support the suspension now but I am happy to consider the motion later in the day.
But I would also point this out to anyone who is listening: if you want to know what the opposition's view is on the world, go back and listen to some of the speeches that were in here at 3 am this morning, because there's not an awful lot of thought or intellect coming from some people on the benches on this side. All they are doing is saying, 'The sky is falling in.' The tinfoil hat brigade is out, and the mouthpiece for the coal and gas industry was in full swing. The lunacy of some of the claims that were being made in the early hours of this morning in some regards would be laughable, but we're talking about the survival of the planet. We're talking about the climate and environment crisis that we are in. We have members from the other side who, rather than taking action, for years—for decades—have held back climate action in this country and are still dragging their knuckles along the ground, hoping that someone is listening.
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 9:36 AM on 2023-03-29
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 26
Total number of "no" votes: 29
Total number of abstentions: 21
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au