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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1229

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (10:08): I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for three minutes.

Senator RHIANNON: Senator Conroy comes in many forms. There is the tough man, there is the reasonable man and there are many things in between. Today we have seen an extraordinary Senator Conroy putting himself out there as a defender of democracy who is concerned for the small parties. Firstly, let us get on the record what happened at JSCEM last week. Senator Conroy and all the other senators were invited to be participating members. They can come along and make suggestions. That was done. The committee is working in a very respectful way.

To say that he was told—

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator RHIANNON: I know I should ignore the interjections. What they are essentially doing is wanting to defend the status quo when it comes to the current system of backroom deals. Remember this about Senator Conroy. Yes, he is a senator, but where has he come from? He has come from being one of the experts in backroom deals, and that is what he wants to defend. That is the essence of all the tactics that played out last week and that are playing out today and that they are cooking up now.

Let's go back to the JSCEM hearing last week. Apparently, he was not told who the witnesses were. He emphasised when he just spoke that he was not told about the time, the witnesses, when they would come and how long the inquiry would go for. It was like any other inquiry that we go to where the secretariat puts in a great deal of work and comes forward with proposals. He could have made suggestions. All Senator Conroy did was throw a few bombs, complain bitterly and then storm out, banging the door. That is how helpful he was.

Senator Conroy: I was thrown out!

Senator O'Sullivan: You are misleading the Senate, Senator Conroy.

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides!

Senator RHIANNON: It was just a bit of theatrics he had up his sleeve. He then comes into this place and makes out that it was a shocking process.

To show us how extreme and irrational the arguments are from the opposition side, they have been complaining that there is not enough time to debate. What is very clear is that we will start debating this week and then the debate will extend into a further sitting week, because we do need the time. But also, remember, as we have put on the record many times before, we have had this position. We have had one inquiry into this. The issue has been alive for two years. Let's remember that amongst the few senators here we have one position from Labor. We have another position from the Labor Party set out in the original submission to JSCEM. We have the position set out by their former Special Minister of State and now opposition special minister of state. We have a position set out by Jennie George, a former Labor MP and former head of the ACTU, urging that this reform the past. So it depends which Labor position you want to listen to. (Time expired)