Subject: Resumption of Parliament for 2011; Gillard Labor Government’s legislative agenda
Anthony Albanese: Thanks everyone, welcome back. Parliament will have its first sitting day next Tuesday and that will be a day in which there will be one item of business and one item only. That is a condolence motion moved by the Prime Minister, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, of condolence for the victims of the floods.
There will then be an opportunity for members particularly in affected communities, not just in Queensland but of course in other states, to make a contribution to that condolence motion. It’s anticipated that Parliament will sit from 2pm to approximately 5pm when we will adjourn for the day.
That is consistent with what occurred after the bushfire tragedy just one year ago. Indeed one year ago we had no Question Time for the entire week.
It’s envisaged that Parliament will resume on Wednesday at 9am, in accordance with the commitments that have been made, with the Prime Minister making a statement about closing the gap between Indigenous Australians and their fellow Australians.
That will be responded to by the Leader of the Opposition. There will be the introduction of legislation on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s anticipated we’ll be introducing nine bills next week.
After the introduction of bills there’ll be an opportunity for any members who missed out on Tuesday to contribute to the condolence motion, with priority being given to those members from affected areas.
The Government will certainly, as indicated to the Opposition, be flexible about order of speakers.
So we’ll make sure that people have the opportunity to contribute. If need be, we’ll continue the debate on Thursday morning if it hasn’t concluded.
The first item of legislation for further consideration in the Parliament next week will be the package of bills related to the National Broadband Network.
And also on Wednesday afternoon after Question Time and the NPI, Jenny Macklin, the responsible Minister, will be giving a ministerial statement on the anniversary of the Victorian bushfires, and the Opposition will be responding to that.
The Government will be introducing the legislation regarding the temporary flood levy bills and associated legislation as part of our package of legislation next week. It’s anticipated that that is certainly the Government’s objective.
Obviously those bills have to be drafted and have to go through those processes. So I think it is an appropriate way to begin the parliamentary year. I’ve had discussions with my counterpart, the Manager of Opposition Business, yesterday afternoon and again this morning. It’s my understanding that he has had discussions with the Leader of the Opposition. But certainly there is an agreement about the condolence motion for the floods being the sole business being conducted by the House of Representatives when we resume next Tuesday.
Question: When would you expect the flood assistance bill to be introduced? Wednesday or Thursday?
Anthony Albanese: We would anticipate that it is likely to be introduced on Thursday. Of course it will be introduced in the normal way. Most of our legislation will be introduced on Thursday, but some bills on Wednesday morning as well.
That is all yet to be finalised, but certainly we anticipate that those bills would be introduced next week. As I said, the drafting of them hasn’t been finalised.
There are processes for the preparation of legislation that need to be gone through. As I said though, that is the objective, we’ll be confirming that once the bills have been finalised and once the Parliamentary Business Committee and the Office of Parliamentary Council, etcetera, once they notify me that it is ready to go.
Question: What are the other seven bills?
Anthony Albanese: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Question: What are the other bills?
Anthony Albanese: Oh look, we’ll be distributing that well, before, well before in anticipation. But we’ll distribute the parliamentary program this afternoon. You’ll all have it. This is consistent with the Government’s approach.
I can assure you that as Manager of Opposition Business I didn’t get phone calls a week before Parliament sat to tell me what was going to happen in terms of that consultation. And I assure you that you didn’t get told either as a member of the press gallery.
So this is consistent with the Government’s approach, which is to be open and transparent and to encourage that accountability and to engage with the Parliament.
Question: Do you have a time line by which you want the flood package bills through the Reps?
Anthony Albanese: No. Look, that’s a matter for those who are responsible for the legislation – the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer.
Question: But why have you made the NBN your first legislative priority again?
Anthony Albanese: Well it’s appropriate that debate begin on that legislation. We introduced it on the last sitting day, or the last couple of days. It was introduced in the normal way. It is ready to be debated and will be beginning the legislative process. I should imagine that will be a long debate.
But, clearly, the National Broadband Network is a priority for the Government and a priority for the nation. We are going to make sure that members are able to participate in that debate. It certainly won’t be concluded next week but it will allow, certainly, the beginning of that debate to occur.
Question: Did you consider extending sitting into Friday to try and get through a bit more of the legislation?
Anthony Albanese: Oh look, we have an adequate sitting schedule. People have their timetables. The last time we had a Friday sitting on the first week of a parliamentary session the Opposition didn’t take too kindly to that. So, you know, we’re conducting business in the appropriate way. We’re giving people a lot of notice; more notice than has ever been given – or, consistent with what we did last year actually, which is to give people appropriate notice of what was going on in terms of the Parliament.
Question: Just on election donations, the report shows the mining industry spent more than $20 million in a two-month period on 27 mining tax ads. What’s your take on that?
Anthony Albanese: Oh look, I’m not going to comment on those issues. I haven’t seen those reports, but, you know and we know, that in the lead-up to the last election there was a considerable amount of advertising done against the Government, much of it very misleading.
Question: Got rid of a Prime Minister though, didn’t it?
Anthony Albanese: Well, much of it was very misleading in terms of the approaches that were taken.
Question: Will there be any private members time this week?
Anthony Albanese: Yes, we have a very clear process for private members’ business. Those items which will be voted upon on the Thursday were determined during the last sitting week. One of those, I know, is if the Shadow Minister chooses to continue to pursue it, the curriculum. There was a motion on that. I think there are four items left over.
But what happens is the select committee makes a decision and there will be a vote on it. I then schedule a vote for the week after – not the week that that’s determined, but the week after – so that everyone knows what’s happening with lots of notice.
So the normal process that’s been conducted every time, even though, from time to time, the Manager of Opposition Business attempts to bring things forward or back because they forget to move at the select committee that there be votes on particular items.
Then, again, when we do have votes, often the Opposition doesn’t turn up for them. So we’ll wait and see how they go this year. Maybe they’ll be a bit more tidy in their approach to these issues.
Question: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions about how you’d like notice to be dealt with in the House this year?
Anthony Albanese: Look, I think that the Government and I, as Leader of the House, will continue to conduct ourselves in an appropriate way. We’re open, we’re fair, we’re consistent, which is one of the reasons why the cross-benchers have rejected the suspensions of standing orders and the attempts to bring on other items.
You know, we’ve got to be clear about how we do it. So, regardless of the outcome of the votes, there hasn’t been any attempt to stop votes on private members’ motions, of course.
I think people are getting used to the fact that with private members’ motions – there will be times where the Government wins them; there will be times when the Opposition wins them. At the end of the day it’s just an expression of views of the House of Representatives.
And, of course, we know that private members’ motions or bills can’t actually direct any government spending. So I think everyone understands that in terms of their potential impact.
Question: How can you make this the year for delivery for the Government when you have such a legislative backlog? Much is what you plan to introduce, but there are a fair number of bills that you haven’t concluded from last year.
Anthony Albanese: Well, that’s actually not true. We actually don’t have a legislative backlog at all. There are a small number of bills that were introduced in the last week of Parliament. They’ll be debated in the first week back.
We carried 54 pieces of legislation. There is not a single bill – and I’d, you know, encourage you to name a bill that’s been hanging round in the House of Representatives and not voted on. Not one.
Anthony Albanese: Well, I’m the leader of the House of Representatives. The Senate is the master of its own destiny. The Senate, from time to time, likes having inquiries. As far as the House of Representatives is concerned I challenge anyone to name a bill that’s been hanging around, because there arent any.
The House of Representatives has worked effectively, has worked co-operatively, and that’s why we saw 54 pieces of legislation carried. And I remind you that not a single government bill was defeated in the House of Representatives, nor were any amendments carried without government support to any of those 54 pieces of legislation during the sittings at the end of last year.
Question: The flood legislation, if it goes into…
Question: [Inaudible]…vote on the flood levy…
Anthony Albanese: Hang on. One, two.
Question: The flood legislation, if it goes into [inaudible] and drags on, there must be a time at which the legislation needs to be passed so that it can be imposed. What is that timeframe?
Anthony Albanese: That’s a matter for the ministers who are responsible for it. In terms of the process that will be introduced into the Parliament, the normal process will occur; which is it gets introduced, it has a first reading, and a second reading is moved by the minister who is responsible.
It then is considered by the next sitting of caucus meetings of the respective parties and able to be considered also by the cross-benchers and that’s appropriate.
Question: I was going to ask the same Question as Gemma, thanks.
Anthony Albanese: Okay, thank you.