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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1246

Senator MILNE (11:57 AM) —I take it, Senator Scullion, that having moved all of the amendments together you are going to continue the debate on them, or are we just dealing with this one now?

Senator Allison —All together.

Senator MILNE —I will quickly respond in relation to the Greens’ position on the opposition amendments. The opposition is moving that any additional functions which the minister might require for Infrastructure Australia be laid on the table of the house. We would support that. I am seeking parliamentary scrutiny for this process throughout and I hope that the opposition will also support my amendment requiring projects over $50 million to come back and be laid on the table of the house as well. I will talk about that when I move my amendment, but I just point out that there is a consistency here in terms of parliamentary scrutiny. We would support what Senator Scullion just said about things not being buried in the annual report and that there actually be an indication to the parliament what the additional functions are that the minister is asking for. I hope there will be consistency in supporting our amendment a bit later.

We do not support removing the capacity of the minister to give a direction to Infrastructure Australia, because, to me, it is bad enough that it is only discretionary for Infrastructure Australia to deal with climate change. To then remove any ministerial discretion to require them to do anything actually limits what they do to what they choose to do themselves. As I have indicated, I have real concerns about the make-up of Infrastructure Australia and the breadth of knowledge and expertise that is going to be brought. I think it is important that the minister has the capacity to direct them on additional functions and, consistent with that, that those functions, if they are additional, be laid on the table of the house.

As to the ministerial directions, the Greens have exactly the same amendment, just worded differently, in terms of having the ability to disallow. My advice is that the intent is the same but the wording is different. So, because the opposition amendment is being moved first, we will support that one. I withdraw my subsequent amendment to the same effect.

As to the last clause, which says that the minister must consult with the chair before appointing the infrastructure coordinator, I am not going to support that. I would assume that that would occur anyway during discussions on it, but the point is that the government do have the right to appoint whomever they like. The make-up of Infrastructure Australia ought not to be able to influence who the government decide should be their infrastructure coordinator. I just wanted to indicate that that is the way that the Greens will be responding to each of those amendments.