Jun 25, 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) (15:32):  I am always very sympathetic with the position that Australian jobs are the first responsibility of this Parliament to advance. The Government is always concerned at the loss of any Australian job. Australian companies should certainly be encouraged to employ local workers and to undertake their work here in Australia; therefore, maximising the economic benefit to the nation of economic activity.

As the Member for Melbourne knows though, the Senate committee that looked into the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Bill considered the particular issue that has been raised. The committee did not receive evidence about the potential impact of the proposed amendment. Therefore, this issue needs to be further examined and appropriate review and scrutiny processes should be followed. I contacted the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy prior to Question Time to ask what his response was to the issues that the Member for Melbourne raises because I was not completely across the detail. He informed me that he will refer the issues which are canvassed in the Bill to the Senate for further evaluation.

I certainly respect the motivation here from the Member for Melbourne and certainly the Member for Kennedy, who consistently stands up for his views about Australian jobs. However, to support this suspension to allow, essentially, a Private Member’s Bill to be moved in this place without notice being given is something that I cannot support. I point out to the Member for Melbourne that he has had five bills and 10 motions voted on during Private Members’ Business in this place.

I point out to him that time spent on Private Members’ Business each week has nearly quadrupled if you compare what we are doing now with what was done in 2006. We have eight hours 30 minutes; the previous was two hours 15 minutes. Time available for Private Members’ Business to move bills and motions has been nearly quadrupled. In this Parliament, we have spent 666 hours—and I do not draw any reference to the meaning of that number—of Parliamentary time, or 23 per cent. One in every four hours that we have been in this chamber has been about Private Members’ Business.

There has to be, though, a proper process. I said this in response to another suspension last week regarding our opposition to that. I think it is legitimate to argue that Private Members’ Business needs space to be created by the Parliament for determination. What is not legitimate is to say that it should gain precedence over all other business that is before the House, and that is really what is being proposed here with this suspension.

During this Parliament five Private Members’ Business have passed the House. That is the first time for a long while that that has occurred. They include a bill that was strongly supported by myself, moved by the Member for Melbourne, on fair protection for fire fighters. In 2005 there was not a single Private Members’ motion or anything else voted upon—not a thing. So we have given time up for Private Members’ motions and bills but, as the Government, we cannot support the situation whereby you have precedence given to bills in a way in which Members are not able to put forward proper debate, when Members are not able to consider what the legislation is. With respect to the Member for Melbourne, I have not seen a copy of this Bill. It is, one would assume, a Bill in which I, as the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, would have to represent the Government’s view on. But to ask that the Parliament suspend standing orders in order to do that is something that I am not in a position to support.

I would certainly be prepared, as always, as a Member of the House of Representatives—this is not my portfolio—to at any time discuss with any Member or any trade union or any community organisation how to maximise Australian jobs. That is something that I am always prepared to engage in, but I say, with respect to the members who have moved this suspension of standing orders today, this is not an appropriate way in which to change the order of business that is before the Parliament. We do have important business to get through for which proper notice has been given and proper consideration has been given to.

I know that last Thursday the Opposition chose to be opportunistic and vote for a suspension of standing orders. We could do the same thing today and deny the Member for Wide Bay what I believe will be, in his own thoughts, a very eloquent and important speech that he will put forward as a Matter of Public Importance.

Mr Tehan interjecting—

The SPEAKER:  The member for Wannon is warned.

Mr ALBANESE:  But I do not wish to do that, so the government will not be supporting this suspension of standing orders.