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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 13

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (13:21): The opposition will not be supporting the suspension of standing orders this afternoon, and we will not support the stunt by the Greens political party today. To come in here with five minutes notice, really, to senators and without any motion before us to debate something as fundamental to Australia's past, present and future as the US-Australia alliance I think demonstrates a lack of seriousness from the Greens. There are other mechanisms in this chamber available to senators to pursue this in a serious way. For example, there are opportunities through matters of public importance and there are opportunities through general business. If we take the MPI as an example, which the Greens were successful in winning today, it could have been used—a full 60 minutes—to have the discussion that Senator Di Natale seeks to have at this point in time.

I do not doubt the seriousness of the issues that the Greens are seeking to raise in this chamber, nor the importance of the Senate debating or having a view on those issues. But our concern comes from this grandstanding approach that is being utilised by the Greens in this instance this afternoon. I think it takes away from what I genuinely believe is the seriousness of some of the issues raised by Trump's administration in the past two weeks or so.

I will just make a couple of comments about the US-Australia relationship. It is one that has endured over many decades and under governments from both major parties in both countries, and it will continue to do so. The Australian and US relationship is about values, ideals and interests, not personalities. It includes values such as democracy, freedom and justice. Australia's relationship with the United States is fundamentally important to our foreign and security policy and for our economic prosperity. A strong bilateral relationship and continued US international engagement are in Australia's interests. US engagement has been a powerful force for international stability, security and prosperity, including in the Asia-Pacific region.

America is one of Australia's closest friends and staunchest allies and this relationship has been one of the central pillars of Australian foreign policy since the end of the Second World War and will continue to remain so. Contrary to some of the disparaging comments aimed at the Labor Party by Senator Di Natale in his comments, this will not prevent us from speaking frankly with a friend and ally when we disagree. Labor have disagreed with American policy in the past without undermining the alliance—and Iraq is a recent example of this. We have made clear that we will speak out when policies are introduced that we do not think are in Australia's best interests. We have done so already and we will continue to do so.

However, we do not agree with this mechanism being utilised by the Greens today. It is much more about trying to get a headline than it is about genuinely discussing and responding to some of the issues that have been raised by the ascendancy of President Trump in the United States. We welcome debate on that. We welcome discussion on that. I foreshadow a motion that Senator Wong will be giving notice of today and moving tomorrow precisely to respond to some of those issues—for example and particularly around Australia's non-discriminatory immigration policy and our belief that it is a core responsibility of being a good global citizen to use appropriate diplomatic channels to encourage other countries to take the same approach. That is a serious way of getting the Senate to pass a view on some of the issues that have been raised, as opposed to coming in here without any notice and without even having before us the motion being sought to be debated.