Sep 22, 2011

Question without notice – Parliament

Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter—Chief Government Whip) (14:30): My question is to the Leader of the House. Will he outline for all members why it is so important that all members of parliament work together in a consistent way to ensure that legislation is dealt with in a timely manner?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:31): I thank the Chief Government Whip for that very good question. Indeed, he would be aware that this government has had some 195 pieces of legislation passed—195 passed, none defeated. The government is able to function effectively in a parliament that is functioning effectively in spite of some of the bizarre strategies we have seen to circumvent the parliament being able to determine the direction of legislation. This week alone we saw, firstly, more than 12 hours of debate on the Parliamentary Service Amendment (Parliamentary Budget Officer) Bill. It went until after midnight. It took until 10:30 for the opposition to realise that the filibustering was not going to get them anywhere because the legislation, based upon the unanimous agreement of the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office, was going to be passed by this House. We know that they had 70 billion reasons why they wanted to oppose that legislation but their filibustering did not work.

Last night there was a procedural debate to facilitate five extra sitting hours on the clean energy bills—something that the opposition said they wanted. What was their response? Not to support it but to talk it out for 90 minutes.

Mr Pyne: We are supporting it.

Mr ALBANESE: The member opposite says, ‘We’re supporting it.’ But they talked it out and filibustered so that there would not be a vote on it, preventing not only the 20 additional speakers on Tuesday, 11 October, but also six additional speakers last night. But it gets more bizarre.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. Under the strictures that you have placed on answers by ministers I would not have thought that the response of the Leader of the House was in order. It is simply an uncontrolled attack on the opposition.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House is talking about matters. He has not entered into a debate about individuals or collectives.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! I think that if you have listened carefully you will have found that is the case. This might be leading to a contest of ideas, but sometimes ideas are not agreed.

Mr ALBANESE: Looking at the public comments that have been made, one area where I would have thought there was broad agreement from the majority of this parliament is offshore processing. There is legislation before the parliament right now in order to ensure that can occur. Yesterday when that legislation was introduced by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the shadow minister for immigration stood at the dispatch box in this House and said—

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister must be careful now where he goes.

Mr ALBANESE: He said that they would be pleased to accommodate the debate on that legislation. What is more, it has been said that the opposition would be happy to accommodate it immediately. We then had a media offensive throughout yesterday, with them saying it should be brought on and determined. What we did was bring it on, and when we did those opposite claimed credit for us bringing it on. First they said they wanted to bring it on, then they said the government was responsible for it being brought on and then, when it was brought on, they tried to talk it out. That is what has been going on.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! Those interjecting will cease interjecting.

Mr ALBANESE: They asked for the debate, claimed credit for it and then talked it out. That is not leadership; that is weakness.

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will conclude.

Mr ALBANESE: We will ensure that these issues can be determined. They cannot argue on the one hand that this is urgent, as they did all day yesterday, and then walk away from a determination of that legislation. It is vital that this parliament be able to determine that legislation. The government is determined to ensure that is the case. Those opposite are, by their own words, hoist with their own petard.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am seeking leave to table the speakers list, which shows there are still 10 Labor speakers on the migration amendments debate.

The SPEAKER: Is leave granted?

Mr Albanese: I am surprised he is still here, Mr Speaker, but no.

Leave not granted.

The SPEAKER: I am happy to allow reflections from the chair to glide, but they will be remembered.