Page 874 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 2 April 2008
The government is very happy to go back to the previous arrangement where there was an understanding—that is what it was; it was an understanding—amongst all parties in this place that MPIs were not sought on Wednesdays because that is the day for debating private members’ business. Quite clearly, the Liberal Party are now indicating that they no longer wish to pursue that agreement and that understanding. The Labor Party will, of course, submit MPIs on private members’ business day from next private members’ day onwards, because, clearly, that agreement has now been broken.
If, of course, members collectively wish to go back to that arrangement, the government would be willing to oblige, because we accept that Wednesday is the day for private members’ business, and MPIs are not necessarily the best use of time on private members’ business day.
What is most disappointing is that this is the new regime under Zed Seselja. This is the new regime—it is about being duplicitous; it is about breaking understandings without giving notice of doing that; and it is simply a continuation of the approach we have seen from the Liberal Party for the term of this Assembly. I have met with members of the Liberal Party every week before a sitting week to discuss government business. At every one of those meetings, I ask the Liberal Party representative, “Any items that the opposition would like to flag as coming on for debate in the coming week?” This is after the government has laid out its whole legislative program and the great bulk of its agenda for each sitting week. Guess what, Mr Speaker? They never do flag anything. They never do. As late as today, I again asked the Liberal Party representative: “Any business? Is there any business the opposition would like to flag for debate in the coming sitting week?” The answer was no.
This does not augur well should they ever get into government. It would highlight the fact that they are not prepared to keep deals; they are not prepared to work within the agreements that are in place in this Assembly; nor are they prepared to share information that allows for the timely conduct of business in this place. The government has enormous sympathy for Dr Foskey’s position, and we would agree that it would be absolutely desirable that there not be MPIs on Wednesdays, which is private members’ business day.
We agree that, indeed, if there was to be a change to that, the Liberal Party should have actually done everyone the courtesy of advising them that they would not be doing that anymore. But, of course, they have done neither. They have not been prepared to signal the government in advance; they have not been prepared to do everyone else the courtesy of informing them that they would proceed in this manner. They might not tell the government, but what does this say about their relationship with the crossbench? What does this say about their relationship with those people who they perhaps need more than they need us in this place? It just shows the very poor political judgement of those opposite.
The government will not be supporting this motion today. We accept that standing orders are quite clear—MPIs are available. But this place operates on more than just the letter of the law—the letter of the standing orders; it operates also on our ability to