Business of the house
Government Business Program - This is not an issue about the two bills that are before the house in terms of their content. This is a procedural issue. I oppose the government’s business program for the reason that it is inappropriate to behave in this way. Now, this is representative government, and to represent our constituents they are entitled, we are entitled—everyone here is entitled—to see the bill that is before the house and to consult on it. Now, proceeding in this way does not give us the opportunity to do that. I think it is a great mistake to push through these two bills in the way that is being proposed today.
We know that it is a better bill than the bill that went through this house some time ago, because we have been told that most of the amendments were adopted that were negotiated by this party, by the opposition. So we understand that it may well be a better bill, but we have not seen it. We have not had the opportunity to take it back to anyone. I think the mistake in this is to think it is really about the CFA or about the disability legislation in itself. We know about the disgraceful behaviour on Good Friday, but two wrongs do not make a right, and to proceed now with both these bills in this way is effectively putting yourself in the same category. I would urge the government to reconsider on that basis, because it is not appropriate that we simply be asked to vote on legislation that has not been seen.
So what are the volunteers saying out there? I think the other mistake is to think that many people are very supportive of this legislation because of many of the amendments that we understand were adopted in the other place. I know at the Shepparton station, 17 out of 18 volunteers have voted to stay in the integrated station with the paid firefighters. Things have moved on. People are taking a different view to it. So politics aside, this is about what is appropriate behaviour in this place, and a government that has won so resoundingly in the last election does not need to put itself in a position where it has to manipulate or push through legislation. It will get this legislation through—we all know that—but surely the process ought to be properly adopted so that people are able to have time to see the legislation, to see what the amendments are, to understand what they are and to ensure that proper debate takes place on it. There are members in this house who did not see the bill last time, so it is not right to say that we have all seen it before. We have not. The member for Mildura will not have seen it. She may take a different view to the previous member for Mildura. There are other members in this house who will not be familiar with this legislation, and so the appropriate course is to allow it to sit on the floor of the house for the two weeks in the usual fashion.