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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26490

Senator CHERRY (1:07 PM) —What extraordinary accusations! I am extremely disappointed in the actions of the government this morning. If the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs looks at the history of the native title debate, the environmental protection bill debate and all those debates she will see that the guillotines were added at the end of a very long debate. From memory, I think the native title debate went for about 30 hours. It was intransigence on the part of the Liberal Party around about Christmas Eve, if I recall, that actually finally resulted in an orderly end to the debate. The Democrats have never, ever agreed to a guillotine that actually cuts short a second reading debate, let alone allows half an hour for the bill to be debated.

I notice that there are 19 senators on the speakers list for the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004—that is one-fifth of the entire Senate, including all three gay members of the Senate, wanting to speak on that bill. The government has allowed 3½ hours. We do not even have enough time for the senators to get on the record what they wish to say. It is very disappointing for the gay population of Australia that the government is acting in this way.

It suits me politically. I can go back to Queensland and say the government guillotined it. I will put out a leaflet through Ingrid Tall's electorate in Brisbane and tell people how hypocritical the party she has chosen to represent as a gay woman is. I can do that and go on to the Labor Party. It suits me. But it does not suit this Senate, as the setting of our democracy, to have important views curtailed in this way—to say that there will be 3½ hours for debate on the Marriage Act when there are fundamental issues at stake and when there is vilification of a fundamentally important part of our population, and half an hour for debate on the issue of prisoners' rights, which is again a fundamental issue of our democracy. It really disappoints me.

The key thing I want to say today is that this place lives on cooperation and it always has. What I find particularly offensive about this is the lack of respect that the government has shown for my party, the Democrats. I can accept they have got the numbers on this particular occasion, but they will need us. They will need me and other Democrat senators at some stage. I can recall many times over the course of this year when I have been approached by Senator Campbell's office or Senator Ferris's office or other people's offices when they have been wanting cooperation on the management of some particular issue. We have tried to provide that cooperation. We have tried to ensure that the government has had a reasonably workable Senate.

Senator Bartlett —The workplace bills.

Senator CHERRY —Yes, there were the workplace bills and there have been many bills on which the government has been able to look to cooperation from the Democrats. I cannot recall such appalling treatment of the Senate and the Democrats by the government over the course of this year. They have the numbers today and they will win on this occasion, but I say to Senator Campbell, Senator Ferris and Senator Vanstone that we will remember this. Next time you come cap in hand asking for cooperation in some matter of management we will remember that, on what for us was a fundamentally important bill—the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004—you guillotined 3½ hours of debate when 19 people wanted to speak on it in the Senate.

Senator Ian Campbell —What about the native title bill?

Senator CHERRY —After 30 hours of debate, Senator Campbell. Thirty hours of debate! Let us stop misrepresenting your position and the position of this particular parliament. The native title debate was actually a very long debate. The EPBC bill was a very long debate.

Senator Ian Campbell —What about the education bill?

Senator CHERRY —We have never guillotined a debate after half an hour of debate or after 3½ hours of debate with 19 people on the speakers list. You are showing complete contempt for the gay population of Australia by guillotining this bill. I know the whole bill is about contempt for the gay population of Australia, but by not even allowing it to be debated properly you are showing complete contempt.

Senator CHERRY —But I will remember. I am putting you on notice; I will remember your performance today.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McLucas)—Senator Campbell, don't interject.

Senator CHERRY —I will remember that you did this without consultation with our party room. I will remember, and my colleagues will remember, the lack of respect you have shown today. Next time you come looking for cooperation I will remind you of this and I am sure you will regret the action you have taken today.