Local Issues Parliament

Legislative Vacancy - Joint Sitting of Parliament

14 September 2016

Legislative Council vacancy

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to speak on the amendment of the manager of opposition business that this motion be dealt with immediately. We have had this debate a number of times in this place now, and I am surprised that those on the other side of the house are such slow learners when it comes to this particular issue. We have had this debate, and can I remind the manager of government business in the house that they are two very distinct issues. The suspension of the Leader of the Government in the upper house, Gavin Jennings, was a process that was gone through by the upper house, asking for documents to be produced.

The Leader of the Government in the upper house has chosen not to produce those documents. We will not have some cross‑table, dirty little deal done down here where he actually gets back in without having to produce those documents. More importantly, there is a process up there where that issue can be resolved by appointing an arbiter that can actually go through those documents and decide what documents are cabinet in confidence and should not be released and what documents should be released. There is a very clear process in the upper house for how the issues concerning the Leader of the Government in the upper house can be resolved.

As I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition in the upper house, Mary Wooldridge, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the upper house, Gordon Rich‑Phillips, actually met with the government solicitors, at the suggestion of the Leader of the Government in the upper house, to go through that particular process and be briefed. So from our side of politics in the upper house we have shown very good faith in how this issue can be resolved. There has not been that same good faith shown from the other side in the upper house. They just want to play games around this particular issue. As I said, they are two very distinct issues that should not be linked. There is a way of that matter being resolved in the upper house, if the government actually wants to resolve it — that is, by appointing an arbiter that can go through those papers and determine what should and should not be released. That is very clear. As we know, under our system both houses are in charge of their own particular business as to how their houses run, so that is an issue to be resolved by the upper house.

When it comes to the appointment of Mr O’Sullivan, the upper house has actually passed a motion that there should be a joint sitting and has requested us to agree to that. Some on the other side of the house, in their contributions over this time, have said it is an issue for the upper house. Well, the upper house has spoken: it is asking us to have a joint sitting. That is what we are talking about again in this particular place. The constitution says that when there is a vacancy and there is a person nominated by the party concerned to replace that person who has created the vacancy, there must be a joint sitting of the houses to choose that person. This is the process we have debated now for two or three sitting weeks in this place: the request of the upper house to have that sitting. I do not know why those on the other side are such slow learners. These two things are distinctly different and we should actually have a joint sitting. Mr O’Sullivan should take his rightful place in the upper house and start representing the people of Northern Victoria Region.

The rewriting of history by the leader of the government in this house is absolutely fanciful — there was not a vacancy in the upper house until Mr Drum resigned on 25 May. You cannot start a process to fill a vacancy until there is a vacancy, and the National Party is very democratic about how we go about preselecting people. There has to be a process of nominations and making sure the members can make a decision about who the replacement is. This is not just about having some little Labor caucus factional stitch‑up where you can just appoint whoever the factions think it should be; there is actually a proper process that has to be gone through within the National Party where the members get a say in who that particular person is. By the time that could happen, unless the house was going to be reconvened in July and interrupt the overseas trips of all those on the other side of the house — —

An honourable member interjected.

Mr WALSH — No, I have not. We had to wait until the house reconvened in August, and that process has happened, so I do not know what the issue is here.

I want to end on the member for Essendon’s contribution last time we debated this issue. He said that he only came in here so he could rule those people on the other side of the house. I remind the member for Essendon that after the end of November 2018 it will be us who will be ruling him, and I look forward to seeing him sitting on this side of the house.

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