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representatives vote 2020-03-23#5

Edited by mackay

on 2020-03-25 09:29:59

Title

  • Business - Days and Hours of Meeting - Agree to new sitting calendar
  • Business - Days and Hours of Meeting - No sitting days until 11 August 2020

Description

  • The majority voted in favour of the new program of sittings for 2020 that was developed in response to the [coronavirus pandemic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019-20_coronavirus_pandemic).
  • The majority voted in favour of the new program of sittings for 2020 that was developed in response to the [coronavirus pandemic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019-20_coronavirus_pandemic). Under the new calendar, the federal parliament will not be sitting again until 11 August 2020.
representatives vote 2020-03-23#5

Edited by mackay

on 2020-03-25 09:15:44

Title

  • Business Days and Hours of Meeting
  • Business - Days and Hours of Meeting - Agree to new sitting calendar

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Christian Porter</p>
  • <p>I present the revised program of sittings for 2020. Copies of the program have been placed on the table. I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That the program of sittings for 2020 be agreed to.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of the new program of sittings for 2020 that was developed in response to the [coronavirus pandemic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019-20_coronavirus_pandemic).
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Burke</p>
  • <p>Leave is granted, in accordance with the resolution, for this to be additional business that we deal with. I'll want to speak on it.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Christian Porter</p>
  • <p>I thank the Manager of Opposition Business. The alterations to the sitting calendar that have been proposed this evening relate, in large part, to the fact that last week the Prime Minister noted that putting budgets together at this time, with the enormous uncertainty that exists in predicting, anticipating and estimating economic parameters, is not something that any Commonwealth or state government should be doing. Indeed, those governments have, in effect, decided not to put together budgets at what is the usual time in or about May. The Treasurer has noted that forecasting for budgets is very difficult at the best of times, let alone when we're in the midst of the economic uncertainty that we are experiencing at the moment. As a result, as members would be aware, the government have decided that we will not be handing down a budget until the first Tuesday in October, being 6 October. Earlier today, the House agreed to necessary measures on supply and other continuances to ensure the proper functioning of government services and the continuation of vital programs to ensure the government does not need to pass the budget in May.</p>
  • <p>I note that I understand there's likely to be a division with respect to the sitting calendar. Something else that has played in the government's mind is that, whilst we've run today's session very efficiently and with great cooperation, some risk attaches to the operation of parliament, particularly during what is anticipated to be the peak point in the transmission of the coronavirus. Obviously, we come from all points in Australia. We've done our level best today, I think, to conduct this session and today's sittings with all of the appropriate social distancing that has been recommended for Australia at large. Nevertheless, some risk attaches to flying in multiple members from every corner in Australia, and some attention to that fact has been had in redesigning the sitting calendar that is now before the House.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Burke</p>
  • <p>The opposition will be opposing the changes to the sitting calendar, while we acknowledge that there are some changes that do need to be made.</p>
  • <p>Clearly, when the government announces that the budget will be held at a different time then that needs to be reflected in a revised calendar, and the government has done that here. What the government has also done, though, is eliminate any sittings during May and June. It may well be that by the time we get to May and June we find that we can't sit. If that's the case then it is entirely the prerogative of the government to give advice to the Speaker that they believe the sitting needs to be cancelled. We have, previously, cancelled a week of sittings based on the fact that the member for New England at the time was before the High Court. There were two by-elections on, it was going to change the numbers on the floor, and a week of sittings was suddenly cancelled. If we can do it in those circumstances when it needs to happen then we can do it with respect to a pandemic, if we get there, and it needs to happen.</p>
  • <p>The reason the opposition believes that we shouldn't make that decision today is that, as everyone is acknowledging, we don't know where we will be in May or June, and the presumption should be that the parliament will sit. The presumption should be that we will meet if it is possible for us to sit, because, during this period, during a time of crisis, is when the Australian public needs us to sit. I will be more than surprised if we can go from now until August and find that the legislation we put through the parliament today is all the nation needs for Australia to handle this pandemic, all the nation needs to deal with the crisis of unemployment and recession that we'll be facing. That means we will need to sit, so we shouldn't pretend that we won't. It also means during this period the government will be compelled in the interests of the nation to make some decisions of great magnitude. That will happen. We know that will happen; that's part of the story behind the supply bills that have just passed. To have decisions of that magnitude being made without the parliament convening and without there being a question time and an opportunity for people representing the different corners of Australia to hold the government to account is an unwise course for us to take.</p>
  • <p>I won't detain the House longer than that, but I will simply remind us: if we find that in some way, for health reasons, there is a difficulty in the parliament meeting, there are resolutions that we will deal with later today to make sure that we are still able to meet as a parliament. And that's all being done with a full level of cooperation and good common sense between me and the Leader of the House. Of all the decisions that have been made procedurally, this is the only one where we have disagreement. Let's not forget, in terms of legislation, some of what we dealt with in legislation today was only announced and determined by the Australian government yesterday. It is unthinkable that we will make it through to 11 August without the nation needing us to convene. It may well be that in addition to May and June we find we're back here in July. It may be that before we even get to when we are meant to sit in May, in April or even later this month we may find there is an emergency reason that we need to sit. I have to say I have no confidence that the plans that have been made in the government's narrative of keeping people in work are going to keep people in work. The apprentices one, for those numbers, as a direct wage subsidy, may well be able to do it, but, for the others&#8212;and I said in an earlier speech&#8212;I'm just not confident that that's how it's going to unfold. I'm simply not confident.</p>
  • <p>I hope, we all hope, that what's been announced today and what's gone through the parliament today is enough, but I would be deeply surprised if it is. Therefore, in us opposing the sitting calendar, we're simply saying to the government: keep the presumptions of the dates that we are here in May and June. If we need to meet earlier than that, we will cooperate with that. If the sittings, when we get to those dates, mean that we find the parliament can't sit, then the usual communication between the government and the Speaker will cause those sittings to be cancelled at the time. But to presume that we don't need to be back here until 11 August defies logic, defies common sense and is something that the Labor Party, the opposition, cannot support.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Adam Bandt</p>
  • <p>The Greens can't support the cancellation of sitting weeks in advance when we don't know where we're going to be at that stage, we don't know what's going to be required of us as MPs or of the government and we don't know how the government's stimulus package is going to play out. We've just passed, in a very short period of time, with very little scrutiny and very little notice, legislation to give the government the authority to spend an enormous amount of money and to make an enormous amount of changes, and that has happened in this parliament because there is a recognition from everyone in this place that we are confronting a crisis and we are confronting an emergency and urgent steps need to be taken. But it is because it is so unprecedented, because so many changes have been made, because such a large amount of money is going to be spent and because there is so much at stake&#8212;so many lives at stake, so many livelihoods at stake, so many jobs at stake and so many people who don't have work so their livelihoods are at stake as well&#8212;that we need the capacity to work out whether more changes need to be made, whether we got it right or whether we got it wrong.</p>
  • <p>In the short period of time that we've had, we've already been able to identify a number of areas where the government has left people behind. We've already found that carers, for example, are not going to get the coronavirus supplement. The people on disability support pension are not going to get it and the people who are studying are not going to get it. I asked the government earlier what's the rationale for that and they didn't have one; the minister just sat there in silence. They didn't have one and that is probably because there isn't one and probably because this has been rushed. I understand the circumstances for rushing it but, in rushing things, governments can make mistakes. We've already been able to identify people who have been left behind in sectors like hospitality and tourism. There are no specific packages for them. There are big gaps, for example, in the continued requirements around mutual obligation for people receiving social security payments. We just haven't had the time, because we've all agreed to come here in good faith and work on this on an urgent basis, to work out exactly who's been left behind and what more will be needed.</p>
  • <p>A part of the reason, certainly from our perspective, that we were willing to engage in this in good faith and say to the government, 'Yes, we accept this needs to be done and done quickly,'&#8212;even though we would do it differently&#8212;was there were further sitting weeks scheduled in the not-too-distant future that could give us a chance, after being with our constituents and seeing how this is playing out, to come back and say, 'Look, some changes are needed. We need to look after students and give them the coronavirus supplement because too many of them have now lost so much money they can't afford their rent; they're in dire straits.' We thought we would have the chance to come back to argue, to plug some of the gaps and, I suspect, to have to massively increase the level of stimulus that will be required.</p>
  • <p>If it turns out that in a few weeks' time it is not safe for parliament to sit then it must be within our wit to be able to work out alternative ways of making such decisions if we need to. There's been a good deal of goodwill and co-operation here today, people's safety has been a priority as well and we've been able to balance that. If further urgent decisions need to be made then, surely, we should be able to work out how to make them if parliament has to be cancelled. But the starting point in an emergency is to have more democracy, not less. The presumption that simply because there is a crisis we should cancel parliament is a worrying one. Yes, we should definitely impose restrictions if safety requires it. If it is putting people at risk for us all to come here and meet again because that is what the health advice says then, of course, let's listen to the health advice. But that's not the basis on which this is being put forward, so we can't support a change that automatically removes another several months of opportunity to debate and improve the package, scrutinise the government spending and hold the government to account. The fact that the government's already made mistakes and left people behind does not give us that requisite confidence. We thought we'd have the opportunity to come back after talking to our constituents and tidy up gaps. The removal of that opportunity is not one that we can support. And it is, I must say, concerning that one of the first responses of the government in this is to cancel the opportunity for scrutiny. Yes, by all means let's cancel parliament on a week-by-week basis if that turns out to be the medical advice, but the Greens cannot support the cancellation of parliament in advance, especially at a time of emergency.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>