Joint Sitting of Parliament - Legislative Council Vacancy and Senate Vacancy
Tuesday 11th October 2016
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — In supporting this motion, which is very long overdue, can I say that the member for Bendigo East never lets the truth get in the way of a good story when it comes to anything she says in this Parliament.
Ms Allan interjected.
Mr WALSH — The member for Bendigo East cannot handle the truth either.
If you look at a bit of the history around the replacement of upper house members, you can see that the Labor Party has form on these particular issues. When Evan Thornley resigned it was 65 days before the Labor Party got around to actually finding a replacement for him. People would remember Evan Thornley as the knight in shining armour who was going to be everything to the Labor Party in the upper house. However, he finally decided that he could make more money in private enterprise than what he was being paid up there, so he decided to ride off on his white charger back to private enterprise. The member for Bendigo East loves to tell a story, but it is always very useful to actually fact‑check what she says, because usually it is not quite true.
Martin Pakula resigned from the upper house to come down to the lower house and Cesar Melhem — —
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The honourable member will refer to other honourable members by their correct titles.
Mr WALSH — He was in the upper house.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! Mr Pakula.
Mr WALSH — Sorry. Mr Pakula, Mr Martin Pakula, resigned from the upper house.
Ms Allan — The Attorney‑General.
Mr WALSH — He is now the Attorney‑General, but, as I understand it, in reference to his time as a member of the upper house it is correct to refer to him as Mr Pakula. Mr Pakula resigned so that Mr Cesar Melhem could replace him. It was 44 days before the Labor Party actually chose a replacement for Mr Martin Pakula in the upper house. The member for Bendigo East gilded the lily quite significantly in her contribution to the debate on this particular motion before the house.
The other thing I would like to comment on is the second part of the motion, and that is the selection of a replacement for the Honourable Stephen Conroy. Senator Stephen Conroy had just been re‑elected for a six‑year term in the Senate, as I understand it, and three months into that term he abandoned the people of Victoria. He just walked out on the people of Victoria after having stood for election. He deserted the people of Victoria three months into a six‑year term, and that is the reason for the second part of this motion that we are dealing with.
We have had a number of debates in this place around this particular issue since the Labor Party broke all precedents by not allowing a joint sitting to choose a new member for Northern Victoria Region. As we go through that debate I would just like to reinforce some of those issues. The suspension of the Leader of the Government in the upper house, Gavin Jennings, and the appointment of the new member for Northern Victoria Region are two totally unrelated issues. The suspension of the Leader of the Government in the upper house is an issue that could have been dealt with by the leader and by the government if they had produced the papers that were being asked for by members of the upper house — motions were passed by the upper house — or if they had agreed to go through a process where an arbiter was put in place who could decide which of those papers should be tabled and which should not for reasons of cabinet in confidence or commercial in confidence. There was a process that could have been followed in order to have Gavin Jennings come back to the upper house, and the government chose not to pursue it.
I suppose there would be a view by many around this place that government members have actually deserted the Leader of the Government in the upper house and that they do not really care whether he comes back.
Mr Pearson interjected.
Mr WALSH — I will come back to the member for Essendon in a minute. Government members do not really care whether the Leader of the Government in the upper house comes back, and the thing that has hurt him the most is that those on his own side do not really care whether he comes back. That is the key issue. He is hurt by the lack of care of those on his own side about whether he comes back to the upper house. The issues around having the Leader of the Government in the upper house come back are very much issues that could have been resolved. There is a process there as to how that can be resolved, and it is disappointing that the government chose not to do something about that.
It is an issue totally unrelated to what we have been debating a number of times, and this motion is finally going resolve it through the appointment of Luke O’Sullivan to the vacant position in Northern Victoria Region. I have listened with interest to some of the debate from the other side. I note that the member for Essendon is probably going to follow me in this particular debate, and I have listened with interest to the contributions that he has made. He made a previous contribution about joint sittings and the replacement of people and how the house actually worked well — and then what did he do? He stuffed it right up by performing the way he did in this particular debate over time. There was absolute ranting from the member for Essendon, saying ‘Give us back our leader!’.
There was this constant rant from the member for Essendon, who was also stating that you just cannot have a joint sitting unless the Leader of the Government in the upper house is there to move the motion. According to the member for Essendon, you just cannot have a joint sitting unless the Leader of the Government in the upper house is there to move the motion to have the new member for Northern Victoria Region sworn in. Well, I say to the member for Essendon: we are going to have a joint sitting, obviously, as a result of this motion. Obviously someone else can actually move that motion, and we can finally move on and have the member for Northern Victoria Region sworn in in this place.
I also note in the contribution of the member for Bendigo East there was talk about the operation of the upper house. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to make sure the Parliament performs well. Last time I looked, tragically the Labor Party was the government. It is responsible for the operation of both houses of the Parliament. The operation of the upper house is very much an issue for the Labor Party, and any conversations about trying to have a quid pro quo to resolve this issue, saying ‘We will give you a joint sitting if you will guarantee you pass this many bills each week coming up to Christmas time’, I think again is a travesty of justice and of the etiquette of this place. To be saying ‘We will only have a joint sitting if you guarantee to pass so many bills’ I think is just plain wrong. It just shows that there is no respect for this place by those who sit on the other side of this house.
We have finally got to the position where we will have an outcome for those people in Northern Victoria Region, with the new member sworn in. I look forward to that happening. As are the normal etiquette and processes of this place, we will obviously also be supporting a joint sitting on Tuesday, 25 October to find a replacement senator for the Honourable Stephen Conroy. Can I just reinforce, in finishing off, that the Honourable Senator Stephen Conroy was only three months into a six‑year term. He stood for election in early July and he walked out on the people of Victoria within three months. I think that just shows the lack of respect and the hypocrisy that the senator had for the people of Victoria, by resigning so quickly into a six‑year term. I look forward to tomorrow night, at 6.45 being in this house when Mr O’Sullivan can finally take his rightful place in the upper house.
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