May 8, 2012

Motion to suspend standing orders

ANTHONY ALBANESE – ‘He’s a backbench member of parliament and I think he’s entitled to stay in the parliament until these bodies have come to their conclusions.’ Those are not my words but the words of the Leader of the Opposition. They are the words of the Leader of the Opposition about the member for Bowman and his colleague the member for Bonner when they were before the police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission in Queensland. That is what the then Leader of the House had to say at that time.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  If I were the member for Indi I would just keep quiet. We have not gone after you but, if you want to go down this road, we can.

Mrs Mirabella interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order! The member for Indi is warned!

Mr ALBANESE:  He also said this:

The matter is really now before the police … and perhaps a Criminal and Misconduct Commission in Queensland. And let’s let those authorities make their investigations and come to any conclusion.

That is what the now Leader of the Opposition had to stay. And I am not surprised that he would have some respect for judicial processes. Has been in the dock—I have not—at North Sydney court. He respected those judicial processes and they were gone through. Indeed, while the Leader of the Opposition was in parliament there were two court appearances for the Leader of the Opposition. One offence was proven but no conviction was recorded. I have never been in the dock and I have never been charged by the police for anything.

In terms of proper processes, this is one of the most dangerous resolutions that could possibly come before this parliament. Every three years we put ourselves before the people in our electorates to face their judgment about whether we should represent them or not. What this motion attempts to do is suspend standing orders so that we can suspend a member from parliament for 14 days. Think about the implications if this is carried.

Mr Hartsuyker interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  The interjection is ‘the parliament would be better’. Well, were there circumstances where there was majority government and whatever allegations were made against a member of either side—but particularly against a member of the opposition—if this resolution is carried a future government could come in here at any time and just decide it is the jury and suspend members on the basis of a majority vote of this parliament. That is an extraordinary proposition.

There are allegations against the member for Dobell. If they are true, he deserves to face the full force of the law, but he is also entitled to the presumption of innocence and entitled to defend himself through proper processes. That is the system of government we have.

Mr Fletcher interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, the member for Bradfield!

Mr ALBANESE:  People stand in front of tanks to get that system of government. It is called democracy. It is called a separation of the state from the judicial system. It is called a separation of politics and number crunching from proper judicial processes. I make no judgment. It is up to someone else to make judgment and it is not for this parliament. This is an extraordinary proposition that has been put forward.

There is hypocrisy from those opposite who relied upon the votes of the member for Bowman and the member for Bonner for the passage of 12 health bills while the Leader of the Opposition was health minister and the Manager of Opposition Business was ageing minister. They voted in 14 legislative divisions and 19 non-legislative divisions while they were being investigated for entitlement misuse in 2007. The Howard government did not disown the votes of Mr Laming and Mr Vasta. They continued to vote and participate in the parliament. I tell you what, we did not ask them not to vote either. We did not ask them not to vote because we understood that this opportunism is very dangerous indeed in what it means for the functioning of our democracy, for the functioning of our judicial system and for proper processes.

The opposition did not require Senator Mary Jo Fisher to stand aside or refuse to accept her vote while she was under a cloud of criminality. The Leader of the Opposition accepted Senator Fisher’s vote 95 times including on the clean energy bills. And she was found guilty. According to the coalition that, of course, is very different. Well, there is one difference: Senator Fisher was charged, whereas the member for Dobell has not been charged with anything, let alone findings found. So let processes take their course, but let’s not go down the road—

Mr Fletcher interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order! The member for Bradfield will remove himself from the chamber under 94(a); he has been warned previously.

Mr ALBANESE:  Let’s not go down the road of setting up this chamber as a replacement for judicial processes. We should also not support this suspension of standing orders because, on the day of the budget, we should be debating the economy. The member for Fraser’s MPI—

Mr Abbott interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  The Leader of the Opposition said, ‘Let question time go on.’ This is the bloke who authorised not one but two suspensions of question time on the same day. It is a new record for the Leader of the Opposition. The MPI is for:

The urgent need to return the budget to surplus, to invest in boosting productivity, and to provide open and transparent costings to the Australian people.

There you have a fundamental issue which should be debated before this parliament on the day in which the budget comes down. Yet those opposite say: ‘No, we shouldn’t do that. We should debate us becoming judge and jury and replacing proper processes, like a star chamber.’ These are circumstances where there is not a shred of credibility because there is not a shred of consistency.

We have the member for Bowman and the member for Bonner, and we have Senator Fisher. We have statements from the Leader of the Opposition, and we do not have to go back very far for them. On 22 April 2012 the Leader of the Opposition said:

Well, as I said, she was a backbench Member of Parliament. My recollection is that she did not take part in the committees of the Parliament, she didn’t attend the Parliament while these matters were being dealt with and I’m saying that the Speaker should stand aside from the chair while these matters are being dealt with.

That quote shows two things. One is that he did not check any of his facts, because the facts do not matter—like in the ridiculous economic question he tried to ask earlier. The facts do not matter and there is no research done. Ninety-five times Senator Fisher voted while her charges were being dealt with, including on the clean energy legislation on 8 November 2011. It shows hypocrisy, again, with the previous motion because he said on that day:

“… the Speaker should stand aside from the chair while these matters are being dealt with.”

Well, the Speaker did that, and they still came in here and moved the motion, showing what cheapjack opportunism this is.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The Leader of the House will return to the motion before the chair.

Mr ALBANESE:  This is a pathetic stunt, but it is worse than that. This is a very dangerous proposition that has been moved before this House by those opposite.