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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6284

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (7:55 PM) —On behalf of the Australian Democrats and before you interject, while it is a conscience vote, I have discussed this issue with my six colleagues and they are understandably supportive of the notion of a public inquiry, or specifically a parliamentary inquiry, into this or any other piece of legislation. Understandably, though, we are wary of enshrining in this legislation the notion of a parliamentary committee. I have just spoken informally to Senator Bishop. I put on the record that the Democrats are happy to support a joint committee or a Senate committee to investigate the operations of this bill at a specific time if Senator Bishop, or any other member of this chamber, wishes to put that proposal forward in the usual form as Senator Evans was suggesting—through a notice of motion, as we would give notice for any other Senate committee or other committee process. I am happy to put on the record our support for that because I do think that, while we have a preference for the current proposed review of the act, a public inquiry is totally complementary. I certainly have no problem with the idea of a broader involvement in a debate or an analysis of this legislation, be it after two years, three years or what have you. I am quite happy to support Senator Bishop in that respect but not by enshrining it in the legislation. I am sure that he and other people who support that position would prefer it to be in the legislation, and I hope that it is fair enough to accept our word on the record and acknowledge that—

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —I will ignore that interjection, Senator Boswell. I am just giving a commitment that we support public investigation. If you would prefer that we do not give that commitment, then I will happily sit down and not contribute to the debate, but I think that the people who have been in the chamber for the duration of this debate have tried to avoid making that kind of interjection and have been quite civil in their conduct of the debate. In relation to the next legislation I will not pre-empt the proposed review provisions, but I suggest that any piece of legislation in its infancy or after it has been operational for a couple of years does deserve scrutiny. Certainly the wider that scrutiny, and the more public and community members that are involved, the better. That is certainly a strong Democrat position and I hope that my commitment on behalf of the Democrats is seen as that and that I do not have to put up with silly interjections from now on.