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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26452

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (10:04 AM) —It is important to draw attention to what is being attempted here and the fact that it cannot be done without the acquiescence of the Labor Party. Clearly the government does not have the numbers to do this unless others agree. In the first place, it is extraordinary to be sitting on a Friday. I could accept that there was a majority who wanted the free trade agreement and that we should sit until that has been passed. That has been passed; we have had that debate.

There is no need for us to continue to debate any legislation. The government are making no case that it is urgent to pass these two bills or any of the other bills on the Notice Paper or the red. Unless they do, frankly, I believe that we should adjourn. I will not move a suspension, but the Democrats openly signal to the chamber that we support adjourning because there is no need for us to now continue to sit. People can get back to their electorates. I gather there is this thing called an election coming up, and people might want to campaign.

Senator Ian Macdonald —A pity you didn't think that for the last week!

Senator BARTLETT —I note the interjection from the government. The fact is that, despite all the criticisms and allegations of filibustering, the Senate could not come to a vote on the free trade agreement because the government and the Labor Party had not figured out their deal on what they were doing until yesterday. When we got to their amendment at 11.30 on Wednesday night, they stared at each other blankly across the chamber and said, `What are we doing?' We had to adjourn. It took you two weeks to figure out what you were doing. Do not blame us for it taking so long. We have now finished what that was about, after two weeks. We can now adjourn. There is no urgency on any of these bills. I make that point first: the Senate can adjourn, and the Democrats would support the Senate adjourning. If the government will not do it, we can suspend standing orders and others can move to adjourn.

The second point here is what is being proposed with the two pieces of legislation. Let us look. Yesterday the government had on the Notice Paper a list of 11 or 12 bills that they were suggesting should all be debated before we adjourn. That did not include Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004. It is No. 16 on the Notice Paper. It is not on the red; it is not on the order of business for today. I know it is about antiterrorism, but it is No. 16 with a bullet! It has gone from No. 16 to No. 1—to the top of the chart—in the space of two seconds. Suddenly it is superurgent. But no reason is given, of course.

People actually following the issue would know that groups like Amnesty International have expressed strong concerns about the threat to basic freedom of association that is contained in that bill. This has happened with no notice at all. It is farcical enough that we are debating anything when there is no urgency. To have a bill, with no notice at all, suddenly surge from 16th in priority to No. 1 at one minute's notice is just not acceptable. If the government want to debate it, they can debate it separately. Although one is called Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004 and the other is called Anti-terrorism Bill (No. 3) 2004, they deal with different matters and should be considered separately.

The government should not be trying to sneak through more attacks on our freedom on a Friday in the midst of everything else, hoping nobody notices. If the government are going to do this sort of stuff, we are going to look at it properly. If the government are not going to adjourn then we are certainly prepared to sit here, examine these bills properly and expose the truth about them. They do not need to be taken together and so we will not support them being taken together. We should not be lifting a bill up from being No. 16 to No. 1 with a bullet. Frankly, we should be adjourning.

If the government need to lift it up then they should make the case. But none of these bills are urgent. There is no reason why we cannot come back and deal with them in a couple of weeks. Yesterday, despite the lists of the bills that the government had given notice needed to be debated, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate stood up and said, `Actually, we don't need all those; we just need the free trade bill, the antimarriage bill and the electoral bill. Forget about the rest.' Suddenly, as well as the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 we now have the antiterrorism bills back on as well.

Who knows what will happen? They might bring back some more bills. We are totally open ended. It is simply ridiculous. We do not know what we are supposed to be debating from one minute to the next, with legislation that it is not even necessary to debate today at all, and we are expected to agree with this. It is a joke. The Senate and the public should get more respect than that. The government might have the numbers to get these sorts of bad laws through but they should at least have the guts to ensure that they are properly examined. They should try to figure out themselves what they are going to bring on, what order they are going to bring them on in, what is important and what is not rather than keep changing their mind from one minute to the next. We should be adjourning. We should not be debating any of these bills and we certainly should not be trying to mush them all together in one heap and hope nobody notices the extra dangers. (Time expired)