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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1512

Senator MILNE (5:28 PM) —I seek leave to make a short statement in relation to motion No. 97, moved by Senator Parry on behalf of Senator Trood, which was rolled in with a series of other motions earlier in the discovery of formal business.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator MILNE —This relates to the Select Committee on the Reform of the Australian Federation. I want to indicate that I spoke last week at the conference on the 40th anniversary of the Senate committees. I feel it is important to say here what I said there and that is that the use and abuse of the select committee process demeans the Senate and undermines the standing of the Senate in the eyes of the community. A select committee is meant to be established for the purposes of dealing with a hot button political issue. It is meant to be for a specific issue and it is meant to be for a specific period of time. Instead of that the way the select committees are now being used is as taxpayer funded coalition Senate committees that are open-ended in order to provide additional status for coalition members effectively, and I object to this.

This committee was given permission to re-form after the election and to report on 17 November. This has now been extended until May 2011, with absolutely no meeting having occurred in the time. This committee has not had a meeting. My colleague who is on that committee has not been consulted about the extension. There has been no meeting and there is no agenda. It is just a long-term process for establishing a committee with no outcomes. If you cannot produce anything or even have a meeting before the reporting date, why should the Senate give you a period of extension, as has occurred? I wish again to state clearly that it undermines the standing of the Senate in the eyes of the community when you start using Senate committee processes for effectively party political purposes under the guise of being paid by the taxpayer—and I object to this extension.