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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3336

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (20:31): I rise in support of the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2011, and I note that I have spoken in this place on this bill before. I used an adjournment debate to talk on this bill because of what I saw as a complete abuse of process. I saw the Labor Party shamefully playing politics with an issue that all Indigenous Australians have an especially strong interest in, particularly Indigenous Australians from Queensland.

The reason I became aware of what was occurring on this bill is that I am a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry. This bill was referred to that committee by the Selection Committee. When it was referred to that committee, every member queried why it had come to us. Upon investigation it became very clear that the bill had been sent to us as a stalling practice—as a way of deferring its coming onto the floor to be voted upon. The Leader of the Opposition has introduced this motion today so that we can see where everyone stands on this wild rivers bill before the Queensland election. There is no doubt that if we get the right result this coming Saturday this will be the end of this issue. I think every Queenslander—and in particular all Indigenous Queenslanders—will be extremely grateful that that has occurred.

I want to return to the playing of politics with this bill. The Selection Committee has referred this bill not once, not twice, not three times, not four times but five times to different committees. No other private member's bill in this place has been referred five times. The process was meant to enable the sun to shine in, was meant to put an end to petty politics and was meant to lead to being able to have substantial debates on issues of importance to members of this chamber. Instead, we have seen a blatant abuse of process by the members of the Selection Committee. That is why I am standing here, for the second time, talking about this. I used an adjournment debate to do it, but I was also very keen to support the Leader of the Opposition. His intentions in acting on this are because he knows and understands Indigenous Australia. It is absolutely shameful that we have not been able to see where everyone in this chamber stands on this motion. There is no doubt that those opposite are too afraid—are too scared—to vote on this bill because they would have to show their true colours on this issue, and they would be embarrassed to have to do so. That is why we have seen these appalling delaying tactics.

I want to mention the last few points of this motion from the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition. It notes that most recently the wild rivers bill was referred for a fifth time. It expresses concern that, despite the scrutiny that is unprecedented for a private member's bill, this House is yet to have an opportunity to vote on this bill. It notes the comments from Noel Pearson and the Cape York Institute in support of the cause and calls on the government to allow the members of this House to exercise their vote on this important bill.

I say: let the sun shine in. Let us have the vote before Queensland votes. I have no doubt that the Queensland people will do the right thing on Saturday and put an end to this draconian policy once and for all. But let us see where everyone in this House stands before that happens. (Time expired)