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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26488

Senator BROWN (12:54 PM) —It is black Friday, August 2004. What we are witnessing today is a sell-out by the Latham Labor Party of the democratic principle that you do not allow the government to ride over the right that there be debate by the people's representatives in this house of parliament when important issues for the whole nation are at stake. That is Labor's mantra. But today it has sold out that mantra because Prime Minister Howard wants to hold an election and Labor wants to get to it too—to prove it is further to the right, more Hansonite, than the Howard government.

This is a triple winner for John Howard today. He gets the free trade agreement up, and the Americans can knock out the minor change that this parliament has agreed to from Labor. He gets discrimination against gay and lesbian people having an equal right under the law to get married through here, supported by everybody on the Labor benches. Then he gets a guillotine motion through here to truncate debate on those issues and matters of enormous importance for the people of Australia so that he can hold an election at his leisure in the next month. And the Labor Party waits to take part in that election. We have two radical right parties in this parliament now vying for government. They have moved across to the right, cheek by jowl, to offer the public of this country no real choice. I hope every green group in this country notices the performance here today by the Labor Party—because that is where the problem lies—when they are considering the allocation of their preferences.

What is the difference between the Howard government and the Latham alternative when it comes to the free trade agreement which sold out democracy to the United States this morning? What is the difference between the social justice view of the world from the Howard benches and the Latham benches when it comes to building in discrimination against gay and lesbian people in this country under the law? There is none. What is the difference when it comes to the democratic right of this parliament, held back on a Friday at the start of the spring session, which is unprecedented, to meet the Prime Minister's wish to have a free and unfettered ability to announce an election when he wants to—not in the interests of this country? The Labor Party has said, `Yes, we will bring in the guillotine on that.' I ask all Australians: can you spot a difference between the Howard coalition and Latham Labor on any of those issues?

It has not escaped my attention that the last time every person on the Labor benches went across to vote for a guillotine on debate in this place it was on the regional forest agreement legislation to license the Prime Minister's death warrant on Tasmania's forests. Labor voted for that as well. Since that regional forest agreement came in, the destruction has doubled. Spot the difference, if you can, between these two camps. I know that there are people hurting, particularly on the Labor side about what the heavyweights in the Labor Party are doing here, but the fact is that they go across and vote with the government every time for these motions which breach Labor philosophy and Labor principle of the last 100 years—

Senator BROWN —and, as Senator Murray correctly reminds me, small `l' liberal philosophy and the philosophy of The Nationals, who are more grassroots in their make-up than the other parties. Getting the free trade agreement through—that was the big one. Labor supported it. Then there was this dastardly move to support the government on the built-in discrimination. Labor are voting for discrimination. It is not a matter of saying, `Let's leave things as they are.' It is about moving to say, `We support the Howard government in their philosophy of putting a prohibition in the marriage law.' That prohibition came from a debate under the Bush administration in the United States.

What has happened to the Labor Party? That is something that will have to be left to the electorate. They are sick and tired of the Howard government. But they do have alternatives—and those alternatives are at this end of the chamber.

Senator Boswell —They won't vote Green! You only get six per cent of the vote.

Senator BROWN —The Leader of The Nationals intervenes about the percentage of the vote. The fact is that that is a bigger vote in this country than the vote for his party. He should look at the figures. That is something we will see in greater numbers this time than we have ever seen before.

Nevertheless, we put our faith in the people. You can cut the debate here. You can hand the powers to the United States trade department. You can usurp the powers of the courts here and give them to some faceless trade ayatollah, as Labor and Liberal did this morning in determining matters of importance to this country. The job of all of us is to get that to the people—and we will—in the coming weeks. But, if Latham Labor loses the next election, it will be writ large through its cave-in on three basic issues in this black Friday parliament of 2004.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McLucas)—I acknowledge that you are seeking the call, Senator Cherry, but I understand Senator Vanstone is seeking the call. For balance, I call Senator Vanstone.