Senate gives Peter Dutton four-day deadline to present citizenship bill

Senators vote to support Greens motion to strike bill off the Senate notice paper if it is not offered for debate within four sitting days

Peter Dutton’s controversial citizenship plans have suffered another serious blow, with the Senate giving him four sitting days to put his bill up for debate, otherwise it will be struck from the Senate notice paper.

If Dutton fails to allow his bill to be debated by then, the government will have to move a motion in the Senate to restore the bill to the notice paper, and it may not get Senate support.

It is a major embarrassment for the Turnbull government. A majority of Senators – Greens, Labor, the Nick Xenophon Team, and Jacqui Lambie – supported the motion on Wednesday.

The motion passed 32 to 29. It was moved by Greens senator Nick McKim, with an amendment from Lambie.

Lambie’s amendment gave the government until 18 October – the Wednesday of the next sitting week – to bring the bill on for debate. The Greens originally wanted to strike the bill from the notice paper immediately.

The Greens say they are tired of Dutton telling voters how crucial his citizenship bill is while simultaneously withholding it from the Senate so it can’t be debated, so they have now successfully pressured him to bring the bill on for debate by the first Wednesday of the next sitting week.

According to the parliamentary library, the last time a government lost control of the notice paper in this way may have been in 1995, when WA Greens senator Dee Margetts successfully moved to discharge a government bill.

The move comes less than a week after the Nick Xenophon Team derailed Dutton’s attempt to enact his tough new citizenship laws, saying it could not support his controversial package in its current form.

It meant the Turnbull government had to dump its controversial package or make substantial changes, throwing its citizenship crackdown into disarray.

The NXT’s decision followed weeks of public hearings about the government’s legislation, during which senators were warned repeatedly the legislation could deter people from applying for Australian citizenship.

The NXT senator Stirling Griff said that after weeks of hearings it was clear the government’s reforms were an attempt “to fix problems that don’t exist”.

“A number of the witnesses during the inquiry pretty much suggested the legislation was all about One Nation, about the Liberals cosying up to One Nation,” Griff said last week.

“There are components, yes, that I think with some revision we’d be prepared to support ... but [the bill] definitely needs to be split.”

NXT senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore told the Senate on Wednesday that if the citizenship bill did come up for debate, the NXT would oppose it in its entirety “because it’s fundamentally flawed and would require significant redrafting for us to consider it”.

“The government needs to go back to the drawing board on this,” she said. “As Senators, it is incumbent upon us to do the job we’ve been elected to do which is debate and vote on bills before us.

“This part of a healthy democracy,” she said.


Gareth Hutchens

The GuardianTramp

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