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Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Page: 9182

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:40): I move to amend the motion as follows:

Paragraph (b), omit all words after "be referred", substitute "to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 6 February 2013".

It is a sorry saga which has befallen the treatment of the package of bills in relation to gambling reform. You may recall that as part of the agreement that the government reached with Mr Wilkie to secure his support they undertook to present to the parliament a package of measures to give effect to his desire to see mandatory precommitment—something which the opposition never supported. But it was initially publicly flagged by the government that that original package of legislation was to come into the parliament in March of this year. The opposition at that time indicated that it was our desire to have that package of bills referred to a committee for inquiry, as is appropriate. So there was a contingent reference to the Selection of Bills Committee submitted at that time.

As is a matter of public record, the government reneged on the agreement with Mr Wilkie. The government went through a period of time where they had multiple positions in relation to gambling reform. Ultimately and finally legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on 1 November. This legislation does deserve serious inquiry. If the chamber supported the report, which proposes that the legislation be referred for report by 27 November, the Senate would be complicit in seeking to turn this place in effect into a sausage factory. This is a serious and significant package of legislation which does deserve appropriate scrutiny. What is proposed here is that the committee to which this legislation is referred would basically have less than a week to consider the bills and to report. That is not satisfactory. That is not adequate for legislation of this significance.

So the coalition, quite reasonably, is asking the Senate to amend the motion to substitute a reporting date of 6 February 2013. The reality is it is highly unlikely that this legislation will be passed in the remaining sitting week. If it is likely to be passed, then one can only conclude that my prediction earlier today, that the government will resort to the gag and the guillotine, will come to pass. I think what this desire to have the committee report by 27 November indicates is that this government is lining up to ram legislation through this parliament in the final sitting week. It is lining bills up, getting ready to gag, gag, gag and guillotine, guillotine, guillotine. That is what this government has in mind. For its part, the opposition wants to make sure that legislation receives appropriate scrutiny. I do not think it is at all unreasonable that this legislation be given until the first sitting week of the Senate in February next year to consider this package of measures.

I do note that the government have moved their own amendment to seek to refer this legislation to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee. We think that the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee is the appropriate committee, particularly in light of the fact that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which falls within the ambit of that committee, now has prime policy responsibility for the not-for-profit sector. Certainly clubs and those institutions that this will affect fall under that remit.

I commend to the Senate the amendment to seek to substitute 6 February 2013 as the reporting date.