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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26454

Senator BROWN (10:09 AM) —This is an extraordinary abuse of the Senate. We expect that the Labor Party will support it but, who knows, they might peel off from the government somewhere during the day's proceedings. Because of some press condemnation of the government and the discrimination against gay marriages that it wants to bring into law with the aid of the Labor Party, here we have it putting that ahead of antiterrorism legislation. Because it has an election coming down the line the government has suddenly changed its priorities in the Senate and wants to bring the two antiterrorism bills on first.

Let us have a look at what the government does not want to bring on. This includes the Family and Community Services and Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2004 Budget Measures) Bill 2004. Senator Abetz is not here. He is not talking about that; he is not promoting that—it apparently does not matter. It includes the Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill 2004. Where is Senator Minchin? That bill is apparently not as important, let alone the Surveillance Devices Bill (No. 2) 2004, from the same minister. Then, there is the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Telecommunications Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2004; that one does not get a guernsey, even though it is listed on the Notice Paper ahead of this bill to allow people to be indicted because they associated unwittingly with people who it is claimed are involved in wrongdoing. There is also the Tax Laws Amendment (Wine Producer Rebate and Other Measures) Bill 2004. The wine producers—Senator Abetz has the charge there again—can wait. They can wait weeks. There is the Australian Passports (Application Fees) Bill 2004 and the Australian Passports (Transitionals and Consequentials) Bill 2004. They are Senator Abetz's again. Is he in the chamber? Is he in the parliament? Is he in the country? Who knows? All his bills are here, but there is no sign of the Special Minister of State.

There is the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Amendment (Employee Involvement and Compliance) Bill 2002. The employees can wait; Senator Ellison is not here promoting that bill onto the agenda. Then we get to No. 11—we are still five short of the antiterrorism bill that did not matter yesterday but does today—and we have the Schools Assistance (Learning Together—Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Bill 2004. We had the Prime Minister sitting with kindergarten kids just a few weeks ago, but now the bill is relegated. Of course, the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 is something which one might have thought was critical to the promotion of public education and indeed education in general in this country, and absolutely critical as part of the debate on the future of education funding, particularly in the run-up to the election—let us see what the bona fides are. It is not on the agenda. Who is the minister in charge of that bill? Senator Abetz. Senator Abetz is AWOL as far as this debate is concerned.

Then we have Indigenous education, with the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2004. If you are in the Indigenous community you might think that is important. It is not important to this government; it is only No. 12 and it is not going to be debated. Senator Coonan is in charge of that one and she is not here either. There is the Workplace Relations Amendment (Simplifying Agreement-making) Bill 2004. I am sure business wants to see that go through. It is the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Campbell, who is in charge on this occasion, and he is not here either. Then we move on to the Indirect Tax Legislation Amendment (Small Business Measures) Bill 2004. Small business does not matter this morning. Their misfortune is the minister—guess who!

Senator Cherry —Senator Abetz!

Senator BROWN —Yes, it is Senator Abetz and he is missing again. Could somebody please send out a call for Senator Abetz. He is not in the parliament. Is he in the country? There is a whole slate of legislation here which is not being given its due priority. Why? Because the minister has fled the parliament. Senator Abetz has gone missing. Senator Abetz, can you hear us? Would you please come back? We need you.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Watson)—Senator Brown, address your remarks through the chair.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BROWN —There is some dissent from that call. I am talking about the people who need support: those in education, Indigenous people, those in workplace relations—the whole gamut. (Time expired)