I rise to speak against this motion too. While there is a good argument that one day might seem trivial, there really is an important issue of principle here, and it has been reflected in so many ways in this Parliament over many, many years where we have seen a slow derogation of the capacity for this side of the house to scrutinise government. Just on the issue of 13 and 14 days alone, I think it is an important issue, because this bill is actually a really important bill.
It is a piece of justice legislation that goes to the issue of trial by jury, trial by judge alone in a time of pandemic. We saw something rushed through the house during the course of last year to enable this to occur on some sort of temporary basis. There was no time for scrutiny and no time for debate about that in this house. It was effectively some sort of amendment, I think, that no-one had the opportunity to consider in any detail. This is a really important issue. Trial by jury is a fundamental human right that exists in our society, and trial by judge alone in criminal matters in particular is something that has been embedded in our justice system forever. It is really so important that we have the time to look at this.
For the issue of one day to become an argument here—again, it might seem minor, but let us not forget that late last year the government came into this house with the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 around the pandemic legislation. It introduced it here on a Tuesday morning—first read—and we had to vote on it on Thursday afternoon of the same week. There was no room for consultation. There was no room to go back to our communities, to go to the integrity bodies, and let me tell you, they were very interested. They said that they had not been consulted in the way that they were supposed to have been consulted with. So what happened then was a very torrid time in so many ways because of the way that bill was dealt with, whereby we had demonstrations on the steps and we had crossbenchers in the upper house being vilified at every level, but ultimately the bill was made a better bill and ultimately it came back here. In some ways you might say that that was democracy at work, and in a sense it was—two houses both working on it. But if we do not try and preserve some of the norms of this Parliament, then we are going to be in trouble.
Let me tell you, people are talking about it. People are talking about the motion that I put before this house every Tuesday—that we should debate whether we should have a non-government business program. That is now being talked about more broadly than in this place. You all might think that I am being trivial raising that, but that is an important feature of any parliamentary democracy, any house of Parliament. Every single other lower house in the Westminster system has a non-government business program. The Victorian Parliament is the only one that does not. When do we get to do consideration in detail anymore? Hardly ever. The last time I remember a significant one was on the assisted dying legislation, and it was an outstanding opportunity for the minister to talk about and be scrutinised on an important bill. We have a situation now where most of the ministers are here, but up in the upper house, the other place, that is where the consideration in detail takes place, not with the minister who is responsible for the bill fronting those questions, because they are down here. This should be happening here; it should be happening in this house.
So these are some of the fundamental issues around how Parliament operates that we need to start thinking about. We need to preserve them, and they need to be respected. It might only say in the standing orders ‘a reasonable time’, but 14 days has been the norm. We should stick to the norms. As someone else has mentioned, if we are approached on this side of the house and good reasons are put for something, they are considered and very often agreed to. But to come in here and think you are just going to push that through is not good enough. It is just a reflection of a change of attitude that has developed over a very long period in this place that is denigrating the standards and the actual operation of this place, which is meant to operate in a way that gives all members of this house the opportunity to know and understand what is going on, to go back to their communities and to be able to debate effectively.