Senator MOORE (Queensland) (17:24): I move:
That a motion relating to hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business until determined.
Mr President, it is very important, and I have taken on board-
Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The suspension of standing orders was to enable Senator Wong to move a motion. The motion that was foreshadowed and circulated was not the motion that Senator Moore has now moved. The standing orders having been suspended to enable Senator Wong to move her foreshadowed motion, she may now do that, but Senator Moore cannot now move a different motion unless, of course, the opposition wants to waive the benefit of the suspension of standing orders.
The PRESIDENT: There are two elements to what you are asking. Firstly, I will get clarification of the substance of the motion. Secondly, I understand that any senator can move a motion on behalf of another senator, but I am going to clarify that on this occasion.
Senator Brandis: Mr President, the motion that has just been decided by the chamber is a motion to suspend standing orders, as we know. It was not a motion to suspend standing orders in general. It was a motion to suspend standing orders to enable Senator Wong to move a motion that was circulated in the chamber and standing in her name. I acknowledge and accept that one senator may move a motion in the name of another, but that is not the question at issue here. Standing orders were suspended in order to deal with the motion circulated in Senator Wong's name. I understand Senator Cormann just provided you with a copy. That was what was circulated in the chamber. It was what senators understood they were voting on when they voted on the suspension motion. If there is any doubt about what the motion was that the opposition was seeking suspension of standing orders for leave to proceed with, then the matter should be recommitted.
The PRESIDENT: We are at the second stage in the motion that was originally moved. That second stage does not prohibit Senator Moore moving that motion on behalf of Senator Wong. According to what I am reading here, unless there are different sheets running around the chamber, the sheet I have here clearly indicates-leave was denied for Senator Wong to move the first portion of the sheet that I am reading from. Therefore, the contingent notice was used by Senator Wong. Without me reviewing Hansard, the wording that I have in front of me does not restrict the motion being the second stage, which is someone now moving that a motion relating to hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business until determined. That does not preclude another senator moving that on behalf-
Senator Cormann and Senator Conroy interjecting-
The PRESIDENT: Order! I am only reading what has been handed to me. Without reviewing the Hansard, I do not know whether additional words were placed in that. Whether Senator Wong wants to give me any indication as to how she presented that motion-if the motion was presented indicating that it was for Senator Wong only, I think then we do have an issue. But I do not think it was. I do not want to delay the Senate much further. I will take one more submission on this, and then we will move on.
Senator Wong: On the point of order, Mr President. This is clearly time wasting by the senator who is leading the government and who really ought to have something else to do than play games in the chamber. I thought that I made it clear that I was seeking to suspend an order to enable a motion to be moved. It is not unusual to have Senator Moore move the motion thereafter. My recollection is that I used the words 'the opposition' because, on my feet, I was made aware of the fact that, obviously, we wanted to make sure that I could speak later in the debate. So I had turned my mind to it.
With respect to the government's submission, no-one in this chamber suggests that we do not know what is happening. We are trying to get motions voted on, they are trying to filibuster. So we can have a little lawyers' argument from the Attorney-General-
The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, you are now starting to debate the issue. I am happy to take points of order on the technicality, but no further debate. Senator Brandis-and I will make this the last one.
Senator Brandis: On the point of order, Mr President, it really is the last refuge of a scoundrel to say that debate about what the standing orders mean is just a bit of lawyers' pedantry. The basis upon which this chamber voted to suspend standing orders was to enable a particular motion to be put, and that is not the motion that Senator Moore has just moved.
The PRESIDENT: I am prepared to rule that Senator Moore can move the motion on behalf of Senator Wong.
Senator MOORE: I am moving this motion, which refers to the hours of business, as Senator Wong had previously put forward. In terms of the advice that we have received, we originally had the suspension to allow the particular issues around hours and the motions which we wished to deal in preference. That was put forward. Now, I am moving the second part which says that we want that motion to be heard without amendment or debate, and immediately.
It is important, Mr President, that we actually know that the Senate is clearly aware about the process. We have heard some commentary from the government-and I understand that we have to be clear-that seeks to say that we are trying to, somehow, confuse or mislead the Senate. That is absolutely not true. The reason that we brought forward the motion this afternoon, and the need we had to go into suspension, was that the government denied the ability for us to move forward a motion to change the order of business. We were clearly concerned that, and we believed that it was intensely important that, important issues on the red that we had come here to consider this afternoon-important issues around the formation of committees and around a range of notices of motion, some of which had been carried over from the last sitting of the parliament-were considered by the Senate this afternoon before the time ran out for the debate, and that we would have every senator able to participate in this debate without losing senators.
One of the core issues has been that the hours of business that were given to the Senate when they brought the Senate back for the extended period that could have been-
The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Moore. On a point of order, Senator Macdonald.
Senator Ian Macdonald: I am trying to follow the debate, but I am confused as to what motion Senator Moore has moved and as to what motion she is talking to. Is there a written motion that the clerks or the attendants can give to me so that I can follow exactly what Senator Moore is saying?
The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Macdonald. Senator Moore has moved a motion to seek precedence to have a further motion moved which rearranges the order of business in effect. Senator Moore has made that quite clear.
Senator Ian Macdonald: You don't know what the motion-
The PRESIDENT: Yes-this is a motion seeking precedence to move a motion to rearrange the order of business. I think that is quite clear.
Senator Ian Macdonald: But have we got a copy of the motion that she is going to-
The PRESIDENT: We will get attendants to circulate copies of the document that I was referring to earlier. Senator Moore, you have the call.
Senator MOORE: Senator Macdonald, the process is in place to get the circulation through and to get the attendants to have that circulated throughout the Senate. What we brought to the Senate earlier this afternoon was a motion around hours of business which was looking at ensuring that the business of the Senate was actually concluded in a certain series of importance and ensuring that issues on the red were able to concluded and debated in this day of the Senate. As all senators would remember, the original hours of business motion that we were given, bringing us back to this place, was very clear. It was we were to sit depending on the passing of a series of legislation that was written in the motion. We were going to sit until that finished. We were going to have day 1, day 2 and day 3 and 4 if required. That was all there in the motion that brought us back to Canberra this week. We went through the full process of having the Governor-General come and recall the parliament. This, of course, is a Senate that did rise two weeks ago with a proposal that we come back at a period of time into the future. In that fortnight, apparently things became so urgent around this series of legislation put in the notice of business that was given to us to bring us back that we had bring back the Senate for extra sitting days. We came back and we got here, and the only business that we were to conclude through that sitting period was what was in that notice-which was a set series of pieces of legislation.
Today, on the red, the process on which we base our business in the Senate, are a number of notices of motion and a number of references that, in the opinion of the opposition, need to be concluded. We have brought forward a proposal this afternoon to ensure that that business would be concluded and that, before we left this place this week, we would have that concluded. In terms of the process, the reason the opposition has brought forward a process to reorder the business this afternoon is to ensure that debate could be had by the Senate so it could conclude the various items of the business. We have done that just to ensure process.
Yesterday, Mr President, as you would be aware, we went through the debate around the ABCC, which was the first item of business on the notice that brought us back to this place. There was no extended debate. We understood that there was an opportunity for senators to have their say, but there was no attempt to make that go longer; there was no attempt to filibuster in any way. To ensure that we got through it, a limited number of senators spoke in that debate, and we concluded that debate.
Then we moved on to the legislation around the trucking industry. Again the process started, and we felt the same kind of process would occur in this place, where any senator who wished to take part in the debate would have the chance to do so. We moved forward with the intent that that would happen. We had a speaking list that was going to be followed. Then there was a gag put into the debate of the Senate on that piece of legislation by the very first speaker-in fact, by the minister bringing forward the legislation into this place.
That is actually legal under the rules of the Senate. That occurred, but it certainly did not allow free and open debate in the Senate for that period. We needed to ensure that we came back. In fact, there was some discussion we would even come back today. There was certainly some consideration. As those pieces of legislation were both concluded yesterday, there was some question about whether we would return today. We did. We came back and we had a number of core issues raised by government members, by opposition members and by crossbench members-by all parties-that we thought should occur and be concluded in today's sitting.
Unfortunately, because of the way this was occurring, there was some concern that perhaps the priority issues may not be reached and that we would be in the same circumstances we were in at the end of the last sitting of the Senate, where a whole range of notices of motion were not able to be brought before the Senate and where a number of references were not able to be brought forward either. We are bringing forward this motion and going through the agreed sequence of how, in the Senate, you have to pursue such an issue-bringing it forward, asking for leave and, when that is denied, actually going to a suspension process, which we have done. We are now at the second part of the process, which is about the hours that we want to sit. When we get through this part and the votes that ensue, we would then move to the substantive motion for debate, which would then put in place that sequence.
The fact is, as I have said in the motion-a motion which puts forward the hours of the debate-the routine of business may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate. It is a straightforward process-actually, I will take that back; it is not such a straightforward process, but it is one which is guided by the standing orders of this place. We learn by working our way through it. We learn by surviving the process. Every time we have these debates we get into across-the-chamber allegations of whose practice is worse or better than whose. We will never win that, because we can go back to history on all our sides-I am not looking at you directly, Senator Macdonald-and we can find both poor and very strong practice on every side of this chamber. It is not particularly valuable to say, 'You did this, so now we are doing that.' It is not the way to proceed. It always degenerates into an unprofessional and unsatisfying debate.
It is always important that people are as clear as they can be. The opposition's intent in bringing forward this motion is to ensure that the items on the red that are put before us today will actually get through debate in the Senate and that, when we leave this place, we will have looked at what we, as senators, when we came into the chamber this morning expected to consider in today's business, and that we would have certainty that that would occur. In terms of the process, I am not sure whether it is valuable for me to continue speaking any longer. I am looking to see whether I should continue. I am more than capable of going on for the other 10 minutes. I will keep going.
Senator Ian Macdonald: This is just a filibuster!
Senator MOORE: I very rarely take comments across the chamber, Senator Macdonald, but you actually calling out someone from this side for filibustering is indeed a brave statement, because, having been here for a number of years-not as long as you, Senator Macdonald, through you, Mr President-I have learnt the art by watching people like yourself being able to speak at length over any form of process.
I think it is absolutely important that there is no allegation about anyone trying to mislead this place. The important element-and I cannot stress it too much-is that we want to see what is on the red. As Senator Wong brought forward, we actually want to see the items of business that are currently listed on the red for debate today given the opportunity to be concluded today, before we rise again and before we again have the situation where issues that the Senate needed to consider and issues that the Senate expressed a desire to consider would not occur, and where we would walk away having spent a large amount of time speaking in this place on issues that perhaps we did not particularly want to speak on or that were not particularly that important.
There are issues about the referral of committees and there are a large range of issues that are there under the notices of motion-including a couple under my name; I do not think they are any more important than any others. In terms of the process, we want to ensure that those are concluded. Opportunity in this place is very often limited by the set rules of the Senate so that we would have a period of time in which we are able to have these debates and then after a set period of time the Senate rules move on and we close that section of the process. That is not what we want to occur this afternoon.
Senators who have their Reds in front of them-and I am sure you live by them every day that you are here-can see that under business of the Senate we have a number of committee references. Then we go down to two pages of notices of motion-in fact, I do not think I have seen two pages of notices of motion before-which relate to a range of issues that senators have brought forward and put through the process to ensure that they are before the Senate. They do not wish to be disappointed or frustrated because they will not be able to have that debate effectively here rather than elsewhere. Too often, I think, we have debates outside the chamber, in many groups talking about what should happen, when in fact these debates, wherever possible, should be had here so that every senator who chooses to be involved in the discussion has the opportunity to take part in that.
The issues that are before the Senate are not confusing. The issues that are before the Senate are there for everyone to see. When you look at the Red, you can see exactly which committees are being asked to be formed and have references made to them. You can also see exactly which items of business are being put forward into the Red. As I have said, it should be a simple enough process that senators are able to understand which business they will be looking at during the time that they are here, as indeed are the people who take an interest in the operation of the Senate. We all know that the Dynamic Red is available on the parliamentary website, and there are some people, bless them, who actually check that website and see what will be on the agenda. So they would expect, if there is something on that Red in which they are interested and on which they have a view, that that would be concluded by the Senate and not moved forward.
As a point of interest, there is a notice of motion on Down syndrome which we put forward in the last sitting of parliament. We were not able to have that concluded in the last sitting of parliament, which actually linked with World Down Syndrome Day. We were not able to have that considered, because the rules of the Senate moved forward and we were not able to get that particular issue to the attention of the Senate and have it voted on. There were a range of organisations that were expecting that that particular motion would be considered by the Senate and we would be able to share in celebrating or noting World Down Syndrome Day. A few of us-and I am sure there are many in here that share that-then had to explain to the organisations to whom we had given a commitment that it could not be considered that day because the process of the Senate did not allow that to happen.
That is but one example, and yet again that particular motion is back on the Red today. It is back among the notices of motion to be considered in this place. Should the motion that the opposition have put forward ever get concluded, we would expect that we would then, as Senator Wong's motion indicated, look at the referrals to committees first and then go through and look at all the items of business as noted on the Red. That seems to me a quite straightforward proposition, and I would expect that there should be agreement around this place that that should be a process that we would be able to conclude.
Of course, for particular reasons, senators have views that they do not want to pursue a certain debate process, and that is why we have the process we saw earlier this afternoon, where leave was denied when Senator Wong put up her original motion. Then we went through the 30-minute process, as allowed by the rules of the Senate, to look at the suspension. Then we had the vote. Then we moved into this segment of the debate, which-as I am sure people across the board, particularly the learned senators on the government benches, would understand-under the processes we have in the Senate is open-ended and allows every senator who wishes to take part a 20-minute option to speak. I have listened to many 20-minute options to speak in this place, and all of them have some value-some more than others. But, in the way we move forward, we allow the process to continue. This afternoon, yet again-in the process that we heard was so important-on the issue Senator Kim Carr brought forward, we heard two very strong contributions by government members in response to that process, each of 20 minutes. Each spoke about how the rules would operate, and no-one stopped that contribution. We allowed the rules to continue so that we would see exactly how the process should operate.
So we move forward. We look at how the process should operate. My motion is before the Senate so that we have the opportunity to look at the sequence of how the issues on the Notice Paper today will be considered. If the government had not been unable to support that motion-a significant time previously to this-we would not be having this debate. We would have been moving through the process quite clearly, looking at each item: the referral motions for the Senate committees and the notices of motion as they were printed. We would be concluding those issues and moving forward. But we are not. We are still in stage 2 of the series of debates when formality is denied and someone seeks leave. That is what occurred, and we need to move now.
We have had that process. We are moving forward, and I think that we need to ensure that we have the option for the Senate to consider the items of business looking at referrals to committees and then-most clearly, and in some cases probably even importantly-at the extensive list of notices of motion, which actually belong to this Senate and to no-one else. Those notices of motion belong to the Senate, and we should, if we are doing our job, get to that business. I think that there should be an opportunity for all of us to have our different views, if necessary, on some of them. Now, having seen where the procedure debate goes and understanding the process allowing for the procedure to be agreed, we know that we are moving on exactly how we look at the process and ensuring that the Senate is aware of what we are doing, that the Senate takes its position and that the notices are considered.