Senator FIFIELD (Victoria-Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) -I have to admit that I never bought the new paradigm.
I always suspected that this parliament would resemble far, far too closely
the previous parliaments.
When there is talk of new paradigms, a new political culture and a new way of operating, you will forgive me if I am a little cynical.
We saw the first episode of that last night when Senator Brown sought to gag debate in this place.
Senator Carr-You do a good trade in cynicism.
The PRESIDENT-Order! Senator Carr, it will assist if you do not interject.
Senator FIFIELD-Senator Conroy had to step in after Senator Brown bungled procedurally.
Clearly Senator Conroy did not read the comments of Mr Swan, mentioned on the front page of the Australian newspaper yesterday, which were to steer clear of the Greens.
The Labor Party and the Greens are in this place in an alliance.
It is an alliance against accountability; it is an alliance against transparency, and that is what we saw last night.
We are seeing another instalment of that today, with Senator Ludwig seeking to suspend standing orders to introduce a motion to vary the order of business today.
There is a well-established pattern of business in this place, and it is the government’s obligation to manage their program within that established program, which it has failed to do.
Alongside that, we on this side of the chamber are not prepared to be party to any rush of consideration of the telecommunications legislation, which has taken up part of this week.
That legislation actually has not received significant scrutiny.
It is not for any lack of trying on this side of the chamber.
It is because the parliament and the Australian people have been denied basic information which they need when assessing something of this magnitude-when assessing a $42 billion or $43 billion government program.
We wanted the business case but that has been denied.
We have been given an abridged version of it but that is not adequate; it is not sufficient.
We have argued time and again that something of this magnitude should go to the Productivity Commission.
Even the $16 billion Building the Education Revolution program at least gets the scrutiny of the hapless Mr Orgill.
Even that program gets a modicum of objective assessment.
But for something that will cost $42 billion this government seeks to deny even the most basic elementary scrutiny.
We are not minded to support-and we will not be supporting- the suspension of standing orders to consider a motion to vary the hours in this place-
Senator Abetz-It still hasn’t been written.
Senator FIFIELD-It is still being written as we speak, as Senator Abetz points out.
This legislation does deserve proper scrutiny. In my own portfolio of disabilities, just the concept-it is a good concept-of a national disability insurance scheme, which probably goes to a dollar figure of $3 billion to $5 billion, is being examined by the Productivity Commission, even before it has come into existence, just as a concept.
In my time here, I have never seen such a denial of scrutiny, such a denial of accountability.
We had the farce last night of Senator Conroy on TV referring to the processes of this place, this chamber of which he is a member, as ‘arcane’.
But there is nothing arcane about good old-fashioned scrutiny.
There is nothing arcane about having sunlight, having the spotlight, put on government legislation.
We heard a lot about Operation Sunlight, as colleagues would remember.
It sounded like a North Korean concept, but we gave it the benefit of the doubt.
This government was going to be better and do better than previous governments.
They have failed, and we will not be supporting this motion.