The Senate started sitting at 12.30pm today, with debate starting on the terror legislation. The speakers list on the Bill circulated by the Government Whip’s office had 28 Senators listed as wanting to speak. This initial list included 8 Liberal Senators. This is quite a large number of government Senators to speak on one Bill. The list also included all 8 Democrat and Green Senators and 12 from Labor.
The government amendments had not been circulated when the debate started, despite the plan for such amendments being announced 4 days ago.
Labor’s Leader in the Senate, Chris Evans, kicked off the debate. 5 speakers, including 2 from the government, were able to give their speech prior to Question Time.
(At around this time, the following prescient piece was published – “Parliament to be replaced with Shutuppiment”.)
Condolence speeches following the death of former Labor Senator and Minister, Peter Cook, occurred after Question Time and went for three hours. These speeches, made by many speakers from all sides, spoke of the immense value of his contribution and how his respect for the Senate and parliamentary institutions was part of the effectiveness of that contribution.
Within seconds of that debate finishing, the government moved, without warning, a guillotine motion. This was only passed because every single Coalition Senator voted for it.
This forced the Second Reading debate on the terror law to finish within less than an hour, preventing most of the people who had indicated a wish to speak from being able to do so. Guillotined at the same time was the welfare package, where the Second Reading debate has been given just two and a half hours, which also has to occur tonight, which has been extended (without notice) to sit through until 11.00pm.
Worse still, the same motion allowed just 3 and a half hours for the entire raft of amendments on the terrorism Bill to be considered, including 74 newly tabled government amendments.
Three and a half hours is also all will are allowed to consider all the amendments on the welfare legislation. Again the government amendments have not even been circulated. Indeed, this will also mean that some amendments from non-government Senators will not be able to be circulated at all, as there is insufficient time for the drafting to be finalised before the guillotine comes into operation.