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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 113

Senator NETTLE (3:54 PM) —This motion and the following motion, No. 17, were due to be debated this morning. At that time the minister said that he was going to defer those matters until a later time in the day because he was involved in consultation and discussion around those two motions. It was news to the Greens at the time that there was any discussion going on, and it is still news to the Greens. Presumably, this is the opportunity for that consultation. That is all we can assume, given that neither I nor Senator Brown have heard anything from the government on this issue.

Senator Ian Campbell —We haven't heard from you either.

Senator NETTLE —You happen to be the acting Manager of Government Business.

Senator NETTLE —The minister heard from Senator Brown when he spoke this morning that we were asking questions about why this was being deferred until later in the day and when it was being deferred to. The minister gave an answer. The answer was that the minister, as the acting Manager of Government Business, was involved in consultation. Presumably, that was with the other senators in the chamber. We are still waiting for that consultation. This motion to exempt bills—

Senator Ian Campbell —This is the first I know that you have any interest in this; you haven't said anything in here about this.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Ian Campbell, rather than there being a conversation backwards and forwards in the chamber between you and Senator Nettle, let's allow Senator Nettle to raise the issues.

Senator Ian Campbell —The hypocrisy offends me.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It might do so but Senator Nettle can raise the issues.

Senator NETTLE —In the last half an hour I think this is the fourth motion I have counted in which the government is proposing to exempt bills from the cut-off. This cut-off was put in place by a senator from the minister's own area and by a Greens senator to ensure that there was capacity for the Senate to review legislation appropriately and to ensure that there was a time frame from when legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives to when it came to the Senate so that senators—particularly Independent, crossbench or minor party senators—would have the opportunity to get their heads around all of the legislation and to hear from community groups about these issues before they were decided on. I do not think it bodes very well for the operations of the Senate and the respect that this government intends to pay to the Senate from 1 July when we have seen four motions in the last 20 minutes to exempt a series of bills and in the next motion 14 bills are set to be exempted from the cut-off order. That does not show the respect that the minister and the Prime Minister have been saying that they are going to afford the Senate and our process of review.

The particular bill that is involved in this motion is the subject of review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which is currently reviewing the Thailand-Australia free trade agreement. As the Manager of Opposition Business pointed out earlier, the government needs to make a case for urgency as to why we should deal with this issue now. This issue is before a joint committee of the parliament, which is looking at reviewing and making recommendations in relation to this agreement. There is no urgency for the Senate to deal with the matter, because it is currently before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. So the case for urgency has not been made by the government.

I will ask further questions that relate to the number of bills that the government is proposing for the next sitting fortnight, but I will wait until we get to the next motion and see if we can get some consultation from the acting Manager of Government Business.