Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) -The motion which Senator Ludwig sought to move is entirely predictable.
We could have predicted at the start of the year, given the number of sitting weeks that the government scheduled, that there would not be adequate time for the government to deal with their own business and that they would mount that argument.
The fact is that the government, despite the fact they did not allocate sufficient sitting weeks for the year, has a very thin legislative program.
We noted after the election that the legislative program as presented did not have anything of great substance.
Despite the huffing and the puffing at the election and the desperation to form government, it quickly emerged that this government was not putting forward a serious legislative program.
About the only substantive item on the government’s agenda is the telecommunications legislation, which has occupied much of this week.
It has occupied much of this week for the very simple reason that there is the best part of $42 billion of taxpayers’ money-and possibly more-in question.
We saw the summary today of the business case released by the government, which makes clear that there could well be more taxpayers’ money at stake.
The reason why we are spending so much time, as is appropriate for this
quantum of taxpayers’ dollars, is that the government have failed to provide basic information such as the full business case.
The government has failed to refer the NBN to the Productivity Commission for independent analysis.
We in the opposition are doing our job.
We are applying scrutiny, we are critiquing what is put forward, but we are doing it with our hands tied behind our back because basic information has not been provided.
As indicated, the opposition is not supportive of additional hours. They should not be necessary.
The onus is on the government to manage their program and their agenda within the weeks and hours which have been scheduled.
However, we are realists on this side.
We understand that the Independents and minor parties with the government will combine to see additional hours.
We recognise that that is going to happen, and that is okay because on this side we have a lot to say about the NBN.
We have a lot to say about the telco legislation, so we are very happy to continue debating, to continue talking to amendments on Friday and on Saturday.
We are very happy to do that. It should not be necessary to sit additional hours.
This government has consistently failed to manage their limited and thin agenda in this place, but we recognise the reality of the numbers in this chamber and that it is almost inevitable that there will be additional hours.
But that is fine because we want to apply scrutiny.
The government should have given us adequate information but, in the absence of that, we will continue to seek it. We will continue to ask for it.
We will continue to mount the case that this legislation can only properly be examined when we have not just a summary of the business case for the NBN but the full business case.
This legislation should contain a provision that NBN Co. be referred to the Productivity Commission for a cost-benefit analysis.
We can talk about that. We can explore that. We can examine that.
If there is any remaining time tonight we can do that.
We are happy to do that Friday. We are happy to do that Saturday.
I know that is not the government’s intention.
They just want to quickly whip through this as fast as they possibly can.
They want to seek an extension of hours and hope to exhaust this side of the chamber. They will not exhaust this side of the chamber.
This side of the chamber will continue to do its job to examine, to probe, to critique, and we are happy to do that for every hour that this chamber ultimately decides should occur.