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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 8705


Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (18:25): I suspect the minister has chosen his words carefully enough to force me to stand up again to refute that because you know, Minister, that not only do I wish to restrict the transmission of technology and the techniques behind nuclear weapons proliferation but also I am an advocate for the abolition of this technology altogether. Again, Senator Feeney, you have conducted this debate mostly in terms pretty measured apart from the last statement, which says that the amendment completely blows a giant hole through the entire bill and would allow people to start sharing enrichment technology with Iran. You know for a fact that we would not.

Senator Feeney interjecting

Senator LUDLAM: That is correct. I am verballing you there somewhat, Senator Feeney, but I completely understand the subtext of your comments. You may, in good faith, believe that we would not craft a vote for an amendment that allowed that. You could certainly be reasonably confident that Senator Johnston would not put his name to an amendment that allowed that to occur, so I just regret to observe that right at the late stages of the debate you have drifted into unhinged hyperbole, and that is a great shame.

I pay tribute to some of the people who have worked hard to educate and try to talk some sense to the MPs who are grappling with these quite complex and quite technical issues. Some pretended to hear them but we did hear what Professor Jill Trewhella, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Sydney University, has been telling us. For example, there are many voices in this debate, but the deputy VC has been a leading advocate for just a cooling-off period and a period of time for, firstly, the committee to work through these amendments and then, ultimately, for the chamber itself to see reason.

Universities Australia have also played an important role in the debate, as have the NTEU, whose recent statement overnight I just quoted from extensively. I particularly thank Jill and some of her staff and the people around her who have worked tirelessly until pretty late at night for quite a period of time to try to get the MPs to see reason. The image in the House of Representatives last night said it all. The major parties are better at obedience than they are at law-making in the interests of our universities, our innovation and our research. And they knew it—that was the saddest thing—as Senator Bishop did the other night when he stood up and slammed the bill. My staff were quite critical of me when I returned from the debate. They said, 'Why can't you be as impassioned as Senator Bishop was in condemning the actions of his own government?'

The Independents and the Greens tried our best. I would also acknowledge those other members of the crossbench in the other place. We will continue to monitor these issues and I am at least pleased that we made the substantive improvements to the bill that we did, to buy some breathing space and perhaps, over a period of 24 months, create some space for second thoughts. I suspect this bill is going to need it.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Pratt ): The question is that the committee does not insist on its amendment to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.