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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1454

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:19): Can I also add my congratulations to Senator Farrell on his election to the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Indeed, Senator Farrell has a huge job ahead of him. It is worth reminding ourselves that at the most recent federal election the Australian Labor Party recorded its second-worst primary vote in its history. So by any measure, Senator Farrell and indeed the whole Senate Labor team here in the Australian Senate have a massive job ahead of them. Senator Gallagher has made a very, very important contribution, and senators might have missed it. She conceded Senator Paterson's point that there are more important issues to be talking about.

Senator Gallagher: No, I did not.

Senator SMITH: Yes you did, Senator Gallagher. You conceded Senator Paterson's very, very good point that there are more important issues to be making and to be talking about in the Australian Senate today, this whole week and into the future. I just wish you had embellished that admission and nominated some of them. Interestingly, in the Australian Senate today we had Senator Lambie talking about a very important issue—that is, the affliction of ice on young people in our community. That is a question Labor could have asked the government today. Senator Hanson-Young talked about job losses and lost investment opportunities in South Australia, taking a very different position to the one I would have taken but nonetheless bringing to the Senate issues around job opportunities and lost investment in South Australia. Labor spent its precious time in the Australian Senate gilding the lily. I will just explain that point briefly before I bore the Senate with the dry details of why there is no case for Senator Brandis to answer.

I say that Senator Gallagher is gilding the lily, because she is trying to suggest there was a six-month delay in correspondence in delivering on the meeting that was held on 30 November. In actual fact it is closer to four months. Indeed, in that four-month time period there was a delay of 14 weeks, because the Solicitor-General took 14 weeks to respond to the substance of the consultation he had with the Attorney-General.

I do not need to remind those listening today and, indeed, my Senate colleagues that the temptation in politics to embellish the facts, to gild the lily, is tempting. But at a time in our country's history—and I just want to come to what I think are some of the more important issues at the moment—when there are very real challenges facing young people afflicted with drugs, people addressing issues of lost investment and job growth opportunities in their home states, the Australian Labor Party in the Senate wants to spend its time gilding the lily, prosecuting a case against the Attorney-General where there is no case to answer. There is no conspiracy in this: on the record exists already a 32-page document that Senator Brandis, as the Attorney-General, has made publicly available to the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, which will spend Friday here in the Senate examining that evidence. There are no surprises, there is no conspiracy; but what we witnessed today was Labor's decision to spend its valuable time arguing issues where, to be frank, there is no case to answer and, to be more frank, are not the issues that are concerning Australians and Australian families at this important time.

Labor has cause for concern, because in that very prickly issue of industrial relations reform the coalition government achieved a sizeable victory last night in this Senate by securing the interests of volunteers in the country fire service in Victoria. Labor has a big challenge ahead of it in coming weeks as this Senate layers transparency and accountability over the trade union movement in a way that has not been done before, by debating the Australian— (Time expired)