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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26176

Senator BROWN (4:12 PM) —The Greens oppose the motion. It is outrageous that the Labor Party has decided to facilitate this extraordinary sitting of the Senate for the legislation on the free trade agreement to be put through the parliament when the Labor Party and the government have not even agreed on their amendment to the bill.

Senator Carr —There's plenty of time.

Senator BROWN —Fine. I know that there is some sort of function going on in the parliament tonight which facilitates this but it is absolutely rude that the government and the Labor party—

Senator Carr —We haven't been invited!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Carr, come to order!

Senator BROWN —I suggest that the Labor Party makes itself better informed when it makes these cosy arrangements with the government and leaves the crossbench out of them.

Senator BROWN —Yes, even some Labor Party frontbenchers do not know what is going on. The fact is that this is a rude arrangement. It is a usurping of the general goodwill of the Senate. We have leaders and whips. If we are going to change the hours like this, we should have a proper debate about it. But some cosy arrangement has happened in a backroom between the Labor Party and the government, because they both want the free trade agreement, which they have both agreed to—the Howard-Latham free trade agreement—to get through the Senate. They do not want a more expansive debate and they do not want more public input into it. So they do not want to wait another fortnight to allow it to be debated properly. The Labor party has decided it will allow the Prime Minister to get this legislation through at the expense of proper Senate process. That is what this is about.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator George Campbell! Senator Brown, address your remarks through the chair and ignore interjections to my right.

Senator BROWN —That is if you can hear me, Deputy President—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I can hear you, Senator Brown. That is one of the advantages I do have.

Senator BROWN —and, yes, there are a lot of interjections—and I am totally ignoring them. Nevertheless, they point out that there is a great deal of embarrassment in the Labor Party about what is happening here. It is just facilitating the programming by the Prime Minister—that is what it is doing. There should have been a proper debate about this. There should have been proper communication with all parties, but the Labor Party has decided it would cave in to the Prime Minister and his wish to have the weekend free to call an election if he wants to. Both the government and opposition want this legislation through, to get past the tidal wave of embarrassment they have—particularly the Labor Party—having had fed back to them the shortcomings of this free trade agreement and how it is inimical to Australia's interest. We will get back onto the debate about that, but the Greens—and quite clearly I speak for other members of the crossbench as well—object to this process.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The question before the chair is in respect of a matter being given precedence. Then there will be a further motion which will be moved in respect of the hours of sitting.