Subject/s: Turnbull Government Chaos

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: Late last night Christopher Pyne put onto the notice paper some fundamental changes to standing orders. And some changes to how the House of Representatives is run. You might remember the last week that we were here didn’t end real well for the Government. They had a problem with truancy, they had a problem where they couldn’t get their own members to remain at work until finishing time.

So what did Christopher Pyne do late last night? A couple of things. First of all, he wanted to change the standing orders to change the finishing time. So you’ve got a problem for truancy, the answer is just shut down the school. So  instead of having a risk when we get to the adjournment debate, the government might not have all of its members at work anymore, they decided parliament would finish an hour and a half early each night to avoid them from having a problem of keeping their own members at work. They’ve also decided that when we vote on the adjournment at the end of the day, you’re only allowed to have the vote if a minister wants to have the vote. So instead of the concept where the vote of every Member of Parliament is equal, Christopher Pyne has now put forward a new rule for the Turnbull Government, that’s on the notice paper for Parliament today, which says that the adjournment vote only happens at all if a minister wants it to happen.

Let’s not forget, yesterday was also the day when they decided they needed to put a sentry at every exit to parliament house to make sure that they can physically block their members from leaving the building. But at the same time what we didn’t know was they were changing the definition of what early would be. This parliament is in chaos. This is the first government ever that has had to change the rules in order to cover for the fact that they can’t keep their members at work.

They talk about having a working majority but the problem for their working majority is that they have a majority of people who don’t come to work. That’s the problem for this government. And Christopher Pyne can try to change the rules, and think that the Australian public won’t work it out, but it’s too late. People saw, last time Parliament sat, for the first time in more than 50 years, an Opposition take control of the floor of the House of Representatives when there was a majority government in place.

Today, on the notice papers for the first time, we see a plan where Christopher Pyne’s answer to truancy is to give everyone an early mark. His answer to not winning votes is to say we just won’t be allowed to have a vote. And his answer to members of parliament being irresponsible is to have staff at every exit trying to physically block them from taking off early.

JOURNALIST: I’m sure a lot of politicians from your side, staffers and frankly journalists would be relieved to be able to stop work at 8pm. What’s the problem with that?

BURKE: I think members on our side thought last Thursday was a pretty good start to the new parliamentary term. Our view – you know, we were there, we were ready to work, we were ready to do the work that needed to be done to have a Royal Commission into banking and financial services. That’s what we were there to do, to deal with real issues affecting the Australian people. That’s meant to be what this parliament’s about. But in the last two days of Parliamentary sittings –yesterday, and the previous Thursday, we have seen a Parliament that has become a farce. We have seen filibustering in both houses, we’ve seen the Senate engage in debate where they’ve had no business and no legislation before them at all. Straight into a new term, nothing to do. We saw a House of Representatives where the Opposition took control because the government members took off early. The answer to this is not to change the rules. The only way this’ll be fixed is by a change in the government.

JOURNALIST: Given the reports of funding for the yes and no sides of the plebiscite, maybe Labor will now commit to voting against it?

BURKE: My response on all this is the same as what Mark Dreyfus has said to you a few moments ago. The changes have been reported overnight make this proposition, it takes it even further away from something Labor would support.

JOURNALIST: So why haven’t we heard explicitly that you won’t support the bill?

BURKE: It’s not unreasonable for an Opposition to say we’ll make our final call when we see legislation. Let’s not forget with the Omnibus bill, the legislation it turned out was different to what the Government was originally claiming. You’ve got a shambles here in every way. The Omnibus bill ended up with a different number of measures, and completely different measures to what the Government said would be in it, with a $100million black hole straight in the middle of it. Their legislation is a mess, the House of Representatives has been in a farcical situation, the Senate yesterday was a joke.

JOURNALIST: On the Omnibus bill there, is there a deal between Labor and the Coalition on the six billion dollars of savings, and do any of those additional savings  that weren’t in the original bill affect your portfolio?

BURKE: The caucus briefing will be today. As you know there’ll be a briefing straight after Labor’s had its caucus meeting, and I’m the one who gives that briefing so you’ll get all of the information straight after caucus.

JOURNALIST: Mitch Fifield has blamed Labor for the filibustering in the Senate saying it was because of the Lower House, that there were no bills to be debated in the Senate. What would you say to this?

BURKE: Mitch Fifield, if he has said that, is either lying or is a fool. Private Member’s business starts on the Monday morning because the government had approved standing orders saying that that is the time of day, that Private Member’s business will be dealt with. When you put a motion on notice on the notice paper, the standing orders when it gets introduced. The government have made amendments that change the order of business for different things for how the parliamentary program works. The decision that Private Member’s bills will be dealt with on Monday morning, was a decision of the government. So for Mitch Fifield to then say well how dare Labor be introducing its private member’s bill at the exact time that the government said that’s when you introduce the private member’s bills, just beggars belief. What happened yesterday is the government failed to manage its parliamentary program. Every aspect of this has been a disaster for the government. They’ve failed to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives, they’ve failed to manage business in the Senate, they’ve failed to be able to introduce legislation without gaping black holes in the middle of it. This is a government in chaos. We’ve had Malcolm Turnbull, already there’ve been reports in the last few weeks, being rolled in his Cabinet, being rolled in the House of Representatives. And you can only presume it’s not too long before he’s being rolled in his party room.


Tony Burke