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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1684


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (19:05): I have made a number of contributions on this subject over recent days. I almost feel like I have been burdened with the role of being the conscience of the Senate.

Senator Hanson-Young interjecting

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, seriously. We're mates at the moment—don't you start interjecting. I have paid attention to listening to what everyone—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator O'SULLIVAN: No, it is the Australian Labor Party that I am helping out here. There have been massive gaps in the contributions made by your speakers. Over the last few days, we have noted that Labor are working their way through the alphabet. I mentioned in a contribution last night that they have chopped heads off—I will not go into that ghastly description again, but they have decapitated all the key players. Faulkner is no longer the honourable father of both the Senate and the Labor Party. He is no longer the conscience of what is right and fair and transparent in the processes of the Senate and indeed Senate elections. He has been gone for a couple of weeks and, somehow, everything that was thought of him has gone.

Faulkner is out and Mr Gray from the other place, who is probably across this matter in much more detail than his colleagues in the Labor Party, has gone too. Guillotine there is rolling around on the floor and Mr Griffin from the other place, who was a fair and reasonable individual, has also gone. They have been replaced. They have got to the Cs in the Labor Party—we have Carr, Cameron, Conroy and Collins. Sterlo, you are never going to get a brief here; this is going to be over before we get to the Ss. They have now trotted out a brand-new team. Why are they brand-new and not entitled to make a contribution to this? Where have they been since May 2013? This is not new subject matter—there is nothing new about what might need to happen with electoral reform, especially Senate voting. This is nearly older than I—this has been around since May—no, I am known to embellish on occasions.

Senator Ludwig: Only a little bit!

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Senator Ludwig is dead right there—he has known me for a long time. To be serious for a moment—and I find that difficult to do too—the point is that these questions have been under consideration now for almost three years. It is coming up for its birthday in May. I know this because I have participated in the process; I have represented the interests of the National Party on the committee as it considered these very difficult questions, some of which arose as a result of occurrences in the last federal election. I listened to Senator Muir for whom I have very high regard—I was one of the first people in this place to go out and speak positively about Senator Muir. I thought in the weeks and months leading up to his arrival here that he was treated very unfairly. I am qualified to speak to Senator Muir, because he has been criticised for working in a sawmill and now is in the Senate. I too have worked in a sawmill and a dozen other jobs of that nature, and that does not disqualify anybody. One's background does not disqualify anyone from being in this place.

As I have listened to the contributions, particularly from the Australian Labor Party, I have not heard the word 'voter' used once. Not once have they mentioned it; not once have they talked about the issue of transparency or fairness in the electoral process—it has not come into their conversation. I should not mislead the Senate and so I withdraw that and will qualify what I have said. I have heard those terms used by Senator Faulkner before he left this place, by Mr Gray and Mr Griffin and I heard them used while sitting through dozens and dozens of hours of inquiries that we conducted all over this great nation on this very vexed question. They talk about urgency. In almost three years and after dozens and dozens of hours of sitting and listening to contributions by anybody who wanted to make a contribution—if that is urgency, then we are in a lot of trouble.

The fact is that the committee took the time to invite and then to consider 216 submissions. I like quite a number of the crossbenchers and opposition senators, but I have to admit that I do not like some of them at all. None of them attended any of the meetings I was at, and I suspect that I was at them all. They never attended a meeting—not once did they joined us on the journey as we looked at this vexed question of introducing fairness and transparency into the electoral process. I am full of admissions tonight—but, being a retired detective, there was a whole phase of my life to be very careful about making any sort of admission—and I must admit to this: rather than listen to those whose contribution might have suited my year, I focused on those whose contributions might not suit my ear. I found myself drawn into the argument being made by the Australian Labor Party, because it made sense.

Some of the ALP's submission made sense to me. I read it—I will not revisit my contribution from last night—but I will bet you London to a brick that many of those on the other side have not read their own party's submission. That submission is proving to be completely inconvenient to them today—in fact it is embarrassing to them. Sometimes I hang my head because I feel the deep embarrassment which visits upon you with this particular subject matter. You made a submission through your party, and I imagine that was approved, then you put some of your luminaries onto the committee to make their contribution—Mr Gray, Mr Griffin and Senator Faulkner, all wise men. As I listen to them, my ear became attuned to what they had to say; I was drawn to their arguments that it was clear that this process needed to be revamped. Clear—C-L-E-A-R. There was no ambiguity or confusion or qualification about what they had to say. They said it was clear. I must admit I do not spend a lot of time poring over contributions from the Labor Party, but I did on this occasion. I was drawn to their argument. I thought it met the tests of fairness and equity with changes that needed to happen in the electoral system, particularly in Senate voting.

Here we are now, three birthdays on, 1,000 days down, and what does the Labor Party do at the eleventh hour? They knock the noggin off all the reasonable contributors and replace them with the four Cs from the Labor Party. When you see the four Cs come in the room, you know there is a fix on. (Time expired)