Jun 21, 2011

Question without notice – Parliamentary procedures and Abbott’s plebiscite stunt

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I thank the member for Banks for his very good question to me as Leader of the House.

He is aware that we have passed some 137 pieces of legislation through this House since the Prime Minister formed government after the August election last year. At the same time as we have done that, we have put in place, via parliamentary reform, opportunities for private members to move motions and move bills before the House and have them considered in an orderly way and have them voted upon in an orderly way by this parliament. Everyone is aware of what the processes are before this parliament – everyone except, it would appear, the Leader of the Opposition.

I was indeed surprised to read in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that a bill would be introduced at 10 am yesterday here in the House of Representatives and in the Senate for a plebiscite – that we would move away from the parliament determining what legislation should be carried and we would move towards a plebiscite.

We know that the Leader of the Opposition did not consult his frontbench on the stunt that he suggested yesterday. Indeed, he would have been the only person in the parliament if he had been here at 10 am yesterday. The fact is that this bill is just another stunt. It still has not been introduced into the Senate and there has been no debate about it in the House of Representatives, because so lacking in detail are the opposition that they could not even get their act together to put the bill on notice last Thursday.

We know that true conservatives have rejected this approach. True conservatives, who have respect for parliamentary institutions, have rejected it. Indeed, John Howard – and the Leader of the Opposition has described himself as the ‘political love child’ of John Howard and the raiser of the point of order, Bronwyn Bishop – had this to say:

“… in any one year you could have 40 or 50 contentious issues and the only way that democracy can work in an orderly fashion is to have the sort of electoral process we have. … I don’t think you can run it any other way.”

The idea is rejected by some of those opposite and it is rejected by the member for New England, who said that it was just another political stunt. It is rejected by Senator Fielding, who said today, “It is a political stunt.” But that is all we see day after day after day in this parliament – no respect for parliamentary institutions. The Leader of the Opposition has robbed parliament of some 124 questions by his suspensions of standing orders, and in about half an hour we will probably have yet another suspension of standing orders.

But, as the Leader of the Opposition put it himself on 21 June 2006:

“Disrupting the House is not a sign of a disciplined opposition; disrupting the House is a sign of a desperate opposition.”

Well, he got that right, because what we are living through is the longest dummy spit in Australian political history.