Jun 5, 2013

Motion to suspend Standing Orders

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (16:03):  What an extraordinarily short memory the Member for Sturt has got. During the last sitting week of this parliament there was a genuine misadventure where people put their hand up and stated why they had missed the division, put it on the record—as was provided for when we negotiated out the changes to Standing Orders at the beginning of the 43rd Parliament—and the Manager of Opposition Business opposed it. He opposed it and made this side of the House get an absolute majority in order to allow the re-committal of that vote. You cannot have it both ways. The Member for Flinders has finally made it into the chamber.

Mr Hockey:  Let the sun shine in, Albo.

The SPEAKER:  The Member for Kooyong wouldn’t want the statute majority to fall over, I should suspect.

Mr ALBANESE:  The fact is this: the opposition was two votes short of a majority. If it is the case that two members come in here and give an explanation and say they wish to vote, and there was a change, therefore, in the outcome as a result of misadventure, I will support the Manager of Opposition Business’s motion. That is what we determined collectively—government, opposition and crossbenchers—after the last Parliament.

I will not play the games that the Member for Sturt played just during the last sitting week. But if you want an example of playing absurd politics with national security, it is this. The Manager of Opposition Business should also know—he mightn’t, but he should know—that the suspension of Standing Orders, if it were carried, and if the motion was moved by the Member for Denison, it would be out of order. Because you cannot have an inquiry into specific national security matters concerning individuals by this committee. It is expressly outlawed by the Standing Orders—by House of Representatives Practice. I say to the crossbenchers: have a bit of common sense and think about the implications of why the Standing Orders are addressed that way, why House of Representatives Practice is addressed that way. If we are going to have national security matters dealing with individuals dealt with by parliamentary committees based upon votes we endanger our national security.

I say to this Parliament and I say to the Member for Denison—and the Member for Lyne, who I have every respect for: withdraw your motion. It should not be proceeded with. If it is the case that the suspension had been carried—and it won’t be carried, because there isn’t an absolute majority—it is very clear that it is not—

Ms Julie Bishop:  You already know?

Mr ALBANESE:  Yes, funnily enough, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I have got a fair idea of how people are going to vote. That is why you haven’t won one yet. I have got a fair idea—and I do talk to people and treat them with respect. I am treating the crossbenchers with respect now, because I say to you that the motion moved by the Member for Denison would clearly be out of order had the suspension been carried.

The Speaker would have had to rule that way and, if it then came to a point of the Speaker’s ruling on advice from the clerks being dissented from, we would have had an issue that goes beyond the issues of substance before us on national security today.

Common sense tells you that whilst an issue about an individual is being dealt with it is not appropriate for this resolution to have been moved. Had there been some consultation with the clerks or with appropriate parliamentary practice, I am absolutely certain that common sense would have prevailed. But I do expect the Manager of Opposition Business to act with some responsibility on this matter and to not seek at each and every opportunity to gain opportunistic political advantage over an issue that should be above opportunistic politics.

National security cannot be a plaything. That is why I objected to questions being raised about what happened at the national security committee of the cabinet. That is why we objected to the track of a number of the questions that went down before the parliament today.

The Prime Minister has acted absolutely responsibly and appropriately in asking the appropriate authority, the Inspector-General, to undertake the action as requested by the Prime Minister. So I say to the crossbenchers, but to everyone else, don’t play politics with national security, act responsibly, think about the consequences and the implications behind this motion that was attempted before the chair, which is why the suspension should certainly not have been granted.

With regard to the Member for Sturt’s motion, I say to him that if it is the case that the Member for Flinders missed a vote through misadventure then, of course, in terms of it making a difference to an outcome, if the Member for Flinders—

Mr Pyne interjecting—

The SPEAKER:  Order. The member for Sturt might want to stay in the chamber for the vote. I thought he might. The Leader of the House has the call.

Mr ALBANESE:  The Member for Flinders and the Member for Fisher both did not vote in that last division. It is the case that were that occur through this misadventure, I would support a recommittal of the vote. But it is not the case and what we have here is a suspension of Standing Orders in order to put this motion by the Member for Sturt in spite of his own actions in trying to block this last time. I do not engage as Leader of the House under the same standards or lack of standards that he exhibits as Manager of Opposition Business. So I will do the appropriate thing as Leader of the House. People have missed divisions before. What you do is you have a recommittal. That was the agreement where an outcome was altered. If it is the case that the outcome is altered, then I will agree to a recommittal under the suspension of Standing Orders. If it is the case that the suspension is carried, I give notice that if the Member for Denison chooses to proceed with his motion and if the Member for Lyne chooses to proceed with his seconding of that motion, then I will be pointing to the standing orders and House of Representatives practice that clearly indicate—notwithstanding the good intentions and motivations of the Member for Denison and the Member for Lyne—that it is highly inappropriate for a very good reason.