Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the motion moved by the Leader of the House, and let us be clear about what this motion is not about: it is not about changing the rules for political convenience.
It is not about Parliament turning off the lights, shutting things down and going home. This is not like in Chicken Little where the sky has fallen in. It is not about debating the merits of the Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill 2011, although I would like to further debate the merits of that bill because it was something we took to the election.
Honourable members interjecting.
The SPEAKER — Order! We have had some quiet during most of the debate. I want it to continue.
Mr SOUTHWICK — We went to the election with a very clear policy with regard to the legislation, and we are delivering on it through the bill in this Parliament. It is clear there was no hidden agenda.
This is not something on which we backflipped or changed our minds, as our federal colleagues did with the carbon tax. This is something on which we went very clearly to the election, and it is something we are now carrying out. The motion is about rectifying an accident that could happen to any member from either side of the house. When someone has such an accident we should be at least a bit tolerant and allow the mistake to be rectified. We are carrying out the will of the Parliament and the will of the government on a piece of legislation that we took to the election.
The opposition’s claim that missing the vote was an intentional decision and a conscience vote by the member is absolute nonsense. That is absolute rubbish. If you look at the process and what happened, a course of events shows it was clearly a mistake which any member can make. The member for Bendigo East claimed that there has been no process, and that is also absolutely incorrect.
Since the vote was lost a number of incidents have shown, firstly, that it was an accident, and secondly, that we are going through a process of rectifying the mistake that was made. In fact the member apologised immediately after the vote took place. Soon after that it was pointed out that we would seek to rectify this mistake. Notice of this motion was given yesterday, and we have had a chance to discuss it. A number of processes have brought us through to where we are today.
The standing orders need to be suspended, and this motion is all about suspending them to enable the house to divide again on the motion. We have heard today from members of the government that there are precedents, and it has been pointed out that it happens in a number of other state houses here, in the commonwealth Parliament and in other parliaments in the Westminster system. If the standing orders are silent, then the vote should be allowed to take place, and that is what we are doing.
When the standing orders do not deal with such a motion, then it should again be up to the will of the Parliament to act, and the will of the Parliament is very clear about those numbers. If the opposition believes that the will of the house would be to vote down the bill, then it should have no problem with putting it to the Parliament again. If it thinks the numbers would be in its favour, then — —
Ms Richardson interjected.
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — As I was saying, if the opposition believes it is the will of the Parliament to vote down this bill, then it should have no problem with putting the vote again and allowing the will of the Parliament to be carried out. Of course we know that is not the case, and we know that the will of the Parliament is to pass this bill. Let us be assured of one thing: it is a very important thing that we are talking about in this debate. It is not alarmist but reasonable to ensure that the will of the Parliament is carried out. The motion ensures that what we took to the election and were elected on is carried out. It is the will of the people. It is the will of the Victorian electors that put us into the Parliament. On that basis we are rectifying an accident that anybody from either side of the house could make. The intent of the member was very clear. The member has apologised for not being here. It is only fair that we put the motion again and let the will of the Parliament be carried out.