Oct 28, 2010

Question without notice – Parliamentary practice

Mr FITZGIBBON (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Leader of the House. How have the new parliamentary procedures been put into practice? How, Minister, have these reforms been received and what is the government’s response?

Mr ALBANESE (Leader of the House) —I thank the Chief Government Whip for his question and acknowledge the fact that his predecessor, the former member for Chifley, was here in the House today. When we took our places in the 43rd Parliament, there was some concern about how well the new parliament would function. It has certainly exceeded expectations in terms of its effectiveness and in terms of appropriate debates on legislation before this House. Indeed, in just this fortnight 29 pieces of legislation have passed this House and today we saw a historic event. Today we saw the first morning of votes on private members’ business before this parliament.

The first item of private members’ business that was voted upon was the private member’s bill by the member for Denison, the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2010. I congratulate the member for Denison for putting forward that piece of legislation and for securing the support of everyone in the House. The bill passed this parliament at 9.15 and 41 seconds this morning. As a new member, the member for Denison might not be aware that his bill was the first piece of private members’ legislation to pass the House this century. For that I think he should be congratulated.

Then we went to the second bill before the House, the Commission of Inquiry into the Building the Education Revolution Program Bill 2010. We have heard a lot of squawking from the member for Sturt about the BER bill and the need for a royal commission into the BER, but when it came to the crunch he could not even come into this parliament and call for a division on it.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the House should not overly argue or debate this question.

Mr ALBANESE —We provide opportunities for private members to move bills before this House. We do that in the expectation they will actually follow them through, but the member for Sturt could not get through to have a vote. But we will offer recommittal. We support recommittal of votes, as we did in the debate on the standing orders, but the member for Sturt moved a change making it more difficult. But I indicate on behalf of the government that we would be prepared to support a suspension of standing orders in order for him to vote on that legislation, because he has pretended after the event that he never actually wanted a vote on the legislation. You would not compare him with Rocky Balboa, but it is a bit like a heavyweight championship fight where you challenge your opponent; you go on about it day after day, week after week, month after month; and then you do not turn up when the fight is on.

It was an unbelievable performance, backed up by the member for Sturt’s attempt to move that the Prime Minister be no longer heard. That was never done to former Prime Minister Howard—never. We would not even think of treating the parliament like that. But the member for Sturt has not even got the ticker to own up, to fess up to it. He should fess up. He should take Mr Costello’s advice. Mr Costello has been out there again saying that his parents always told him, ‘If you have done nothing wrong; you have nothing to fear by telling the truth.’ The member for Sturt should tell the truth, say he stuffed up this morning, say he was not fair dinkum about the BER and say that it was all a stunt. (Time expired)