Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (09:50): We are 20 minutes into our time—20 minutes that could have been used on the ABCC debate. We have the Leader of the Government in the Senate—he who must be obeyed—coming in here and again mismanaging things. We should have got into the debate. All through this management of the ABCC debate, there has been cooperation. Although we have huge differences on the actual substance, there has been clear cooperation in getting on with the debate. So what should have happened today, if somebody had actually been reasonable, is to come in here, get on with the debate and then, if we run out of time, negotiate with the whips and then work out more time. That is what we should have been doing. We should have been well into the debate by now.
But the attitude that comes through, to my mind, in many ways encapsulates all the problems that the coalition is running into now because of its failure to have a clear message and the elitism of the ABCC—which is essentially what that bill is about. It is saying, 'There are some people in Australia who are less than we are, and we're going to treat them badly so we can get our agenda up.' To my mind, it is not that different from this waste of time that is going on here. Seriously! It is Wednesday morning. We have all had a late night. We came in here expecting we could get our teeth into the ABCC. As soon as we come, they decide to waste half an hour with an hours motion, totally doing it back to front. It is a really irresponsible and, I have to say, arrogant way to treat people. Yes, we have our sharp differences. Yes, we will have very big fights about the substance. But we do not need to have the arguments on this sort of thing; we really do not.
Why do they do it? I think in some ways it is quite an interesting psychological study of what goes on with the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Right now, you would have to see that it is just elitism. He just wants to sort it out. He is not mindful of even getting it working for the government. This is not working for the government—starting off the day in this time-wasting way. It is really just tragic, actually, because we are all a bit tired and we want to get on with it, and here is the Attorney-General, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, with no clear explanation of why it is done back to front.
We should be having the hours motion—if it has to come in to manage the Senate's time—only if we run out of time. I reckon there would have been a good chance that we could finish this this morning, before lunchtime. We were well down the track.
Government senators interjecting—
Senator RHIANNON: I am happy to take the interjection: somebody tells me to sit down. But the point needs to be made about the mismanagement that is going on here—the arrogance that is occurring in how the government tries to manage this place. It does not make for a cooperative set-up in how we run the debate on this bill, because there are complexities. We are now into a heap of amendments that we need time for, but the starting point for the Attorney-General is to put people at loggerheads, not showing any cooperation or a willingness to just follow the informal practices that occur in this place—which I always find quite fascinating, actually. While there are all the rigid rules that go down, there is that flexibility and cooperation. There is so much that is done by leave in quite a civil way so we can keep this place moving and we all get our cut of the action to some degree. But this heavy-handed approach that we have seen from the Leader of the Government in the Senate is a really bad start to the day.
I look forward to getting to the debate. I think what would be wise for Senator Brandis is just to withdraw this motion. Let's get on with it right now. That is what we should be doing: getting back to the committee on the ABCC.
The PRESIDENT: The question is that the motion moved by Senator Brandis to suspend standing orders be agreed to.