The move by the Coalition and Labor to permanently axe Senate motions is an attack on transparency and democracy that entrenches the big parties’ cosy duopoly, say the Greens.
Lines attributable to Greens deputy leader and leader in the Senate Larissa Waters:
“This is yet more Senate bastardry from the big parties. Today they gave the Senate late verbal notice that tomorrow they’ll gang up to permanently remove the rights of Senators to move and get a vote on motions.
“This is utterly undemocratic and means that the Coalition and Labor get to dictate which issues the Senate can vote on.
“The government’s Labor-backed proposal will replace motions, which require a vote, with two-minute statements. The problem is, voting is where the accountability is! Big parties want to weasel out of telling the public what their position is on issues that might be politically inconvenient – but people deserve to know.
“Senate motions are not just an important accountability mechanism to hold parties to account, they have also sparked important policy reforms.
“The threat of LNP backbenchers crossing the floor to support the Greens’ motion to set up a Commission of Inquiry into banking misconduct forced the government to set up the banking Royal Commission. The Disability Royal Commission had a very similar genesis.
“Motions, mostly from Greens, for many years helped build political pressure to finally deliver marriage equality.
“Greens’ motions since 2009 calling for a federal corruption watchdog similarly built pressure which led to the government committing to set up an ICAC – though we are still waiting to see their bill, despite my ICAC bill having already passed the Senate.
“Senator Lambie’s motions culminated in the veteran suicide Royal Commission.
“Greens and many others have used motions to stick up for their constituents, and force political attention on issues that big parties prefer to ignore.
“Motions often achieve multiparty support too: in March a Greens’ motion opposing the Crib Point gas import terminal received consensus of the Senate and, shortly thereafter, the Victorian government rejected the proposal.
“Just last week, the Senate passed a concurrence motion calling on companies who made a profit or paid executive bonuses while receiving JobKeeper to pay it back, forcing the Speaker of the House to use his casting vote to prevent it passing the House as well.
“Senate motions can get things done. They’re an important part of our democracy. Axing motions means shutting down Senators’ rights to represent constituents, to put issues on the agenda that big parties want to stay silent on, and to force big parties to be honest about where they stand on policy issues.
“This is a direct attack on our democracy by the Liberals and Labor who are clearly worried about the influence of smaller parties and independents and are trying to entrench their cosy duopoly.
“Needless to say, the Greens will fight this with everything we’ve got. And we expect all crossbenchers to join us.
“There’s a reason the crossbench is the largest in history: people are sick of the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of integrity from this government and opposition.”