Rule changes start parliament business day

by Maeve Bannister and Paul Osborne


New rules for the lower house have marked the first business day following the opening of parliament.

Recognising the increased crossbench size and recommendations in the landmark set the standards report on parliamentary workplaces drove the changes, House Leader Tony Burke said.

“The expectations of this house have been set in a bad way for nine years,” he said.

“Under these proposals we will get a lot more time for (members) to make sure they represent the people who sent them here than we’ve had for a very long time in this parliament.”

Crossbench members will have the opportunity to ask three questions during Question Time, up from one in the previous parliament.

The opposition accused the government of withholding information until the last minute, claiming the text of the proposed changes was only made available late on Wednesday.

“This is an extremely problematic way to proceed particularly from a government which talks about a new, kinder, gentler approach to politics,” opposition business manager Paul Fletcher said.

The Question Time changes will also mean fewer opportunities for the opposition to scrutinise the government, Mr Fletcher said.

Members of the crossbench largely welcomed the government’s changes with some concerns about the new provisions for urgent bills.

“It is a sign of positive engagement with the larger crossbench that consideration has been given to the proportion of the opposition that the crossbench now constitutes,” independent MP Zali Steggall said.

Other changes include parliament starting half an hour earlier on Wednesday and Thursday and no votes will be held after 6.30pm.

This is expected to put an end to the marathon late night sittings seen in previous parliaments as MPs will be able to leave without missing out on a crucial vote.

The Senate is also expected to make a number of changes to its rules, including the installation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the chamber.

Anthony Albanese faces his first opposition grilling as prime minister following Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of the 47th parliament.

It will also be the first chance for Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who took over the Liberal leadership from Scott Morrison, to quiz the fledgling Labor government.

All eyes will be on the lower house as Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen introduces the government’s much-anticipated bill to enshrine a 43 per cent emissions-reduction target by 2030.

The bill is one of 18 pieces of legislation Labor is intending to introduce in the first week of parliament.

The government will also introduce a proposal to scrap the cashless debit card scheme, and aged care laws to deliver on 17 recommendations of the royal commission into the sector.

Sitting on the opposition benches for the first time in nine years, the Liberal-National coalition is expected to hammer the government on cost of living and the biosecurity threat of foot and mouth disease.

Inflation figures to be released on Wednesday morning will fuel the debate.