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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1583

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (12:37): Given where we are in this second reading debate at the moment and before I commence with the remarks that I intend to make on behalf of the Labor Party, let me address a few process issues. I was somewhat surprised to see the circulating speaking list with Senator Rhiannon listed first as if she is now the major opposition party. I suspect it more reflects the fact that the Greens are now in coalition with the Liberal Party and the National Party, and they were the only ones that were told that the government was not proceeding with its normal process and adjourning this matter off before it then continued to follow what was indicated in the red.

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let me remind senators, as Senator O' Sullivan is interjecting, that listed on the red, after we deal with the message regarding the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016, is that we move to the corporations amendment bill. At no point did the Manager of Government Business advise us that it was now your intention to move into the second reading debate on this bill, but, obviously, the Greens were advised. I want to paint a slightly broader picture for anyone listening to this debate. What we are talking about here is the very important issue of electoral reform. The Labor Party will treat this matter in that context. The issues that this fix has left off the agenda, such as the very important issues around political donations, we will seek to further in this debate. I will get to some points about that later.

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator O'Sullivan, I would like to acknowledge that interjection—dangerous territory, is it? This is how you deal with these issues that Senator Rhiannon is seeking to claim some moral high ground on. I encourage anyone to listen to her contribution and see if that really is the case. I was very pleased to hear the full government second reading. We did not provide leave as would be customary for the minister, and it was interesting that the minister at the table at the time was Senator Brandis and not the minister who had circulated the revised explanatory memorandum or, indeed, the minister responsible for this legislation. I was interested to hear the second reading contribution of the government in this matter. It is a very important issue and the pace in which we are moving here is more than alarming. It highlights the point that Senator Rhiannon is so desperate to try to hide that what has occurred here is a Greens-coalition fix and you are seeking to just ram this through with unprecedented poor process.

It was the second or third time I have heard Senator Rhiannon prattle on about, 'Senator Conroy didn’t use all of his questioning time.' That is no cover at all for what you have agreed to. Five minutes in a round is what? Labor senators were given equal time with the Greens in a committee inquiry that was an absolute farce. Let me give one example of that farce, because I will not have time to talk further on this. At 9.20 pm last night, I received an email from the secretariat of this inquiry—it must be really embarrassing for this very new chair to have to have managed this process—telling me that the chair's draft report was on commdocs. You cannot access commdocs unless you are on a PC in the building, which I was not at 9.20 pm last night.

Senator O'Sullivan: I was still here.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Eventually the secretariat forwarded me an email with the report attached. We then had until 8 am this morning to digest that report and provide any additional comments or dissenting remarks. We met that time frame, but I want everyone in this place to understand how ludicrous that process was. I have finally managed to get a copy of the Greens' additional comments to that report. Examples of how ludicrous are illustrated by a couple of things represented in their comments. In the Greens' comments to the chair's report they reflect on the issue that some people are raising the concern that there may be an advantage to the coalition in this deal. Do you know what they do not deal with in this report? It is the advantage to the Greens. The issue that former Prime Minister John Howard raised which is: this dirty deal will entrench the Greens Party. The Greens did not even have enough time to deal with that issue in their report. They have the former Prime Minister highlighting the consequences of this deal and they cannot even try to mount some counter except, 'Senator Conroy didn’t use all of his questioning time.' How absolutely ludicrous.

The committee process was a farce, and I made that point with a message. I have never, in 20 years in this place, participated in a committee inquiry where the government refused to allow the relevant department to appear, and I wonder why. Senator Cormann would not allow his department to appear and, indeed, he is not dealing with his own legislation. What is this government hiding? That is the real question.

The other issue, which is entertaining about the Greens additional comments, is that when they talk about resourcing and preparation they say, 'We're going to make sure that there's enough time.' They are not even allowing the full three months that the AEC said was absolutely necessary to implement these changes. They make recommendations that the Department of Finance be instructed to do some things, and we have not even heard from the department.

This process has been a joke and it is a joke that has been perpetrated by this coalition and naively accepted by the Australian Greens. The naivety that is involved here is highlighted time and time again as we get new amendments.

Debate interrupted.