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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1613

Election of Senators

Senator DAY (South Australia) (14:40): My question is to the Special Minister of State, Senator Cormann, regarding Senate voting changes. I refer to public comments made by the minister on 15 February regarding Senate voting changes, when he said:

The Government hasn't made a decision on the way forward.

Yesterday, in evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, the Australian Electoral Commission testified that it had received a copy of the voting change legislation on 11 February. In saying what he said on the 15th, how could the minister say the government had not made a decision when it had already drawn up a bill and sent it to the Electoral Commission on the 11th?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Special Minister of State) (14:41): I stand by my statement when I made it. The government at that point had not made a decision. When the government did make a decision, we announced it.

Senator DAY (South Australia) (14:41): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, the crossbench supported the repeal of the carbon tax, repeal of the mining tax, stopping the boats, abolishing the National Water Commission and many other government matters, all of which the Greens opposed. They say no good deed goes unpunished. Is the minister aware how bitterly disappointed some on the crossbench are with the government's deal with the Greens to get rid of us crossbenchers?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Special Minister of State) (14:41): The reform that the government is pursuing to Senate voting arrangements, of course, responds to the unanimous report and crossbench party report and recommendations from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters which was released some two years ago, which was supported at the time not just by the then shadow special minister of state, Gary Gray, but also by former Senator John Faulkner, who was, of course, on that joint standing committee, and Senator Tillem, a Labor Victorian Senator.

So it was a cross-party report, which came up with a unanimous set of recommendations. The government considered it very carefully and, on balance, we decided that it was in the public interest to ensure that voters have the power to determine what happens not just to their primary vote when voting above the line but also to their preferences, because, as the former shadow minister, Gary Gray, said, we believe that the electoral process has to facilitate election results which reflect the will of the Australian people. And that is what the government is doing. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Day, do you have a further supplementary question?

Senator Day: I do not know what else to say, Mr President, so I will not say anything.