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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1228


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Special Minister of State) (10:06): I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for three minutes.

Senator CORMANN: The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, as the expert committee of the parliament to look into this proposed legislation, is of course in charge of its own destiny in putting together its agenda and its approach to dealing with submissions. The important point to make is that what the government is putting forward as a proposal responds directly to the considered recommendations—the unanimous recommendations—of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. That means it responds to the recommendations put forward and endorsed by Labor's deputy chair on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Mr Griffin, the member for Bruce, as well as the still serving Labor shadow minister and spokesperson on electoral matters, Mr Gray. The government was somewhat surprised that Labor's national secretary, George Wright—who is also on the record supporting these reforms put forward by the government—has declined to appear as a witness and indeed has declined to make a submission. No doubt this is because he found it a bit difficult to make a 180-degree turn from the submission he previously made in support of the sorts of reforms the government is pursuing. We have a situation where Labor's shadow minister, Labor's deputy chair on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Labor's national secretary and Mr Feeney—who was asked by Mr Shorten to chair a Labor Party committee—have all recommended support for these reforms.

In relation to Senator Conroy's assertion that the government somehow had an intention to ram this bill through the Senate this week—that is completely false. That has never been the government's intention. The government's intention has always been to commence the debate in the Senate this week, on Wednesday, 2 March. As senators know, on Wednesday we have a limited amount of government business time. On Thursday we have hardly any government business time. So our intention would be for the debate to continue into the subsequent sitting week, which I believe is the week of 15 March. That has always been the government's intention and it continues to be the government's intention. But of course we are very keen for this important debate to get underway and we hope that can happen on Wednesday morning.