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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4800

Senator BROWN (9:33 AM) —Once again we have the government moving to exempt two bills from the provisions of standing order 111, which is the standing order that was devised by, amongst others, former Greens (WA) senator Christabel Chamarette to ensure that the Senate had proper time to consider bills before debating them, amending them, passing them or rejecting them. The two bills that the government now wants exempt from that process are the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002 and the Dairy Industry Legislation Amendment Bill 2002. Let us look at the second one, which is undoubtedly very important. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's own notes on this bill and given to the Senate point out that the origins of this proposal date back to:

... meetings of a large number of industry leaders, including dairy company CEOs, held in 2000 to discuss possible future industry services, structures and funding mechanisms.

The minister goes on to say:

As a result of these meetings a draft possible structure was outlined at the December 2000 AGM—

annual general meeting—

of the ADIC. The matter was further developed during 2001 and broad agreement on a proposed set of arrangements to put to Government was reached in December 2001.

It may be that the government is arguing that it has taken 10 months for it to get that bill together. It may be that the minister believes that it was complicated enough for him to spend nine or 10 months before he could get it in here. But suddenly, when it gets into the Senate, it is so urgent that it has to be exempt from the cut-off so that the few weeks that are required by the cut-off for the Senate to consider the matter and for senators to go back to constituents and get their point of view are not to be ensured. I disagree; the Greens disagree.

This is happening more and more. Ministers are being dilatory, lazy and slow and then they come into the Senate, under pressure from constituents, and want the Senate to not have time to properly consider it. That is not good democratic process, Mr President, as I am sure you will agree. We need to be able to go back to our constituent bodies to make sure that the legislation reflects not only our point of view but also the considered point of view of the people affected by it; in this case the dairy industry. In the case of the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002, which is looking at funding in coming years, we certainly need to be able to adequately consult and get feedback from the people concerned once this legislation comes into the Senate.

The government has to get this right. It is making a habit of proposing exemptions for bills which do not have urgency in the way that they have been prepared and which have involved considerable consultation between the government and the community. In the case of the dairy bill, as you have just heard, two or three years of consultation have occurred. It is brought to the Senate and suddenly the government says, `We do not have time to wait for the Senate to do the same.' One minister says, `We do not have time for the 75 other senators to go out and find out what their constituents think.' I do not agree. It is not that these matters are not important—they are. But it is equally important that, if we are to make the right decisions and come up with amendments, we need to consult. If there are aggrieved people out there or people who can see ways of improving this legislation then it is important that we are able to get that information, draft amendments, and approach the debate fully informed by our constituents.

I, for one, am not accepting the government's increased tendency to put up bills like these with a cut-off attached to them. There is a requirement in the Senate that you wait until the end of a sitting period if you introduce a bill at the start of it, or you wait until after the next break for the next round of sittings if you introduce the bill in the second half of a group of sittings. That is a sensible move because it gives some weeks for the Senate to be properly informed and to make sure that it makes the right decision. I am going to defend that, so I oppose this motion.