On Unintended Consequences of guillotining bills


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (09:33): Just speaking to the motion, I am unclear. I have not seen this before, and I suspect other senators are in this situation. I wonder if the minister could

Honourable senators interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald, you have the call.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You mentioned something about time limitation, Minister, which I am unclear about. I and many of us, in spite of the way the Greens have rolled over on guillotines

Senator Milne interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I have not, so this has been your standard position.

Government senators interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry, I have 20 minutes to speak, and I will

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, would you address the chair with your remarks, please.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I remember the days when the Greens would spend hours in here berating the Howard government for time-managing just 36 bills in three years.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: We are now up to, I am toldI accept Senator Cormann's interjection125 bills that the Greens have so far guillotined36 in this current two-week period. You talk about hypocrisy. I just cannot believe how any Australian would ever believe anything the Greens say, because of their hypocrisy on issues like this. Mind you, while I am at it I might say that I and nearly every Australian cannot believe anything the Labor Party says after 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'although, in Ms Gillard's favour, I might just say that perhaps she was being honest; perhaps she will not be the leader of the government on 2 July, when the carbon tax comes in. I await with bated breath the end of this week, as the hawks circle around the Prime Minister's office. It is a fascinating week.

But, getting back to this more serious issue, I am just uncertain of what we are being asked to do. I agreeand it is not my position to speak for everyone here, but I know we all agreethat this is an important bill to get through, but I am reluctant to be part of any guillotining of any bill. If it is importantand it is importantI think we should debate all weekend if necessary to have this bill through. I am not sure

Senator Fifield: I am going to stand up.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are going to mention things. I want to indicate to those who are listening to this debate and wondering what it is about that this is a dramatic issue for the governance of Australia. The High Court has made a ruling which means some legislation and some grants programs are put in jeopardy and in doubt. What we are trying to do is fix that in a short period of time so that the procedures of government can continue. But there are many of us who are concerned about bringing in this urgent legislation within such a short time after the High Court's decision, perhaps without it being fully investigated; there is a bit of concern in people's minds. That is why, as I understand it, the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate has indicated that there should be a sunset clause on any broadscale agreement today to cover what the High Court has dealt with. I think that is a very sensible arrangement. We can do what needs to be done to make sure the normal process of government continues but we put a sunset clause on it to say, 'Just in case we have been a bit too hasty; perhaps there are unintended consequences'and, heaven knows, nearly every piece of legislation this government has brought in has had an unintended consequence. I and a lot of others are just a little bit reluctant, so I urge on all parties the thought that perhaps we should fix this up today but make sure that we revisit it in a short period of time so we are not doing things that have unintended consequences.

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