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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5665

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (10:01 AM) —I thank all senators for their contribution to the debate—although, on a day when the Senate will probably be dealing with more business than it has dealt with for many days, it is slightly frustrating to have to have the debate. It is still an important one, and I particularly welcome the contribution of Senator Andrew Bartlett, the new Democrats leader: it showed a sound understanding of the process, which we appreciate. I also appreciate the support of the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, who shows a sound understanding of the competing stresses on the Senate's time and the management of the government's business program in the Senate, which is very rarely anything but difficult because of the modern complexities of managing what you could only describe as an important medium sized power in the world. There is a range of governance issues and there are always changes occurring.

Can I say for the record, because I think it is important that all Australians understand this, that if you listen to Senator Brown's comments you might think that there is some sort of railroading going on; however, the Senate envisages the exemption of a number of things from standing orders for very good reasons. It always occurs with a majority decision of the Senate, and it seems that the vote on this bill will be passed with a significant majority, if the number-counting skills I have learnt through my career are of any benefit to me, of the order of 74 votes to two, with the exception of pairs. I have not figured out how Senator Kerry Nettle is going to vote yet; she could have a split in the Greens on this one if she is sensible.

We need to understand the process here. In most cases the bills that we are exempting have been available for some extended period of time. Reflections were made on the diligence of my ministerial colleagues. References were made as to why they were not in the chamber to explain the urgency of their bills. I explain the urgency of the bills on their behalf, as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate. They distribute, in most cases, detailed notes on the urgency and on the consultations that have occurred in the process of bringing the bills here. On 8 August this year, many months ago and some weeks before we came together in the national capital for the spring sittings, I circulated a detailed list of all legislation that the government wanted to consider in these sittings, which allowed all senators—including Senator Brown if he was diligent—to go through that list diligently and find pieces of legislation such as the egg bill, as I am beginning to call it—the Egg Industry Service Provision Bill 2002. If he had an interest in the egg bill, he could have picked it up from that list on 8 August—and, yes, it was on that list. He could have come to me or to the minister or to Parliamentary Liaison Officer Myra Croke and said, `I have an interest in this bill. Can I please get a briefing on the bill? Can I get a copy of the bill as soon as it's available or even a draft copy before it is introduced?' But did Senator Brown do that in relation to the egg bill? Of course not— and it was available.

The customs bill he referred to was introduced on 22 August, two months ago. If he was interested in the customs bill, he could have come to us—come to the minister—and got a briefing from the Assistant Treasurer, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer or the Treasurer himself. But was he really diligent and was he interested? Of course not. Was he interested in the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002, which was introduced on 25 September, two months ago? Did he ring up Senator Alston's office and say, `I have an interest in this, Senator Alston. I want to be diligent. I want to ensure the Senate considers this bill properly. I want to do my job as a senator for Tasmania. I care about HDTV and digital TV for Tasmanians'? Did he do that? No, he did not. What he does do is come in here and pull another stunt—and that is what he is good at, not diligent consideration of legislation. What did he do on every one of the 60-odd days between now and 25 September? Did he diligently go and have a look at the broadcasting amendment bill? Did he go and have consultations with people? Did he ring up Kerry Packer or Kerry Stokes or any of the TV people and say, `I want to have a yarn to you about this'? No, he did not. He was not diligent: he did not look at the legislation; he has not asked for a copy of it. The family and community services legislation came into the parliament on 26 September. Has he asked for a briefing on that? No. He showed no interest in any of these bills.

What we have seen today from Senator Brown is that he said we are trying to railroad these things. Of course we are not. We introduced them diligently, we went through a diligent policy process, and the ministers worked extraordinary hours to bring these proposals together. Senator Murphy made some quite legitimate comments about the Inspector-General of Taxation Bill, which the government has been working hard on. You could say that Senator Coonan should have brought it here more quickly, but I think even Senator Murphy would know that Senator Coonan has been working particularly hard on a whole range of issues. She probably has one of the busiest workloads in the government, and I think Senator Murphy would respect that.

I am not making any excuses; I am just saying that even Senator Murphy would know that the government have tried very hard to live by our promise to get the bill passed by Christmas this year. We will continue to do that and we will see it go to the Senate committee, which is the proper process. We will cop legitimate criticism from Senator Murphy and others who say we can improve it; we will listen to that. We have done our job within the Treasury, within the government and within Senator Coonan's office to bring forward the best bill we can through a diligent process. I am sure Senator Murphy knows there is very broad consultation on a new policy proposal. It is a new concept. Are we going to get it right first time? Let us see.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —Senator Murphy says no; I am sure Senator Coonan would say she has got it absolutely right. But that is what the Senate can do. Of course, some of the bills for which we are seeking the exemption from the cut-off have in fact already been to two committees. For example, the customs bill, which Senator Brown was saying was going to be railroaded through, has already been through a detailed inquiry by the Senate Economics Legislation Committee. Regarding the egg industry bill, about which he says, `We need consultation; the Senate needs to consider the egg industry bill,' do you know where that bill is? I will give you three guesses. It is actually before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee.

Senator Brown would have listeners who are driving around Australia listening to this program on the Parliamentary News Network believe that we are railroading the egg bill through the Senate; it was referred to the relevant committee. They have gone around and consulted, but where were you, Senator Brown? Telling all my ministerial colleagues they are not diligent for doing the bill properly. Where were you on those areas? Did you go to one hearing? Did you get yourself put on the committee? Do you care about the egg bill? Of course you do not. You care about coming in here and casting aspersions on hardworking senators on that committee, hardworking ministers who are doing their job for Australia—you come in here and pull a stunt.

I thank Senator Bartlett for his support and I thank Senator Ludwig for the opposition's support. We will not pull any stunts. We will work hard to make sure that Australia is well governed and we will not cop it when this lazy senator wanders in here and pulls another stunt. This person is not diligent. How can he possibly stand up and cast aspersions on ministerial colleagues who work hard for this country—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Knowles)—Order! Senator Ian Campbell, I ask you to withdraw your terminology in referring to Senator Brown.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —I referred to him as lazy and I should not have done so. It was inappropriate of me to do so. However, I am saying that he should not call other senators—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESI-DENT —Could you withdraw the comment?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —I have withdrawn it unconditionally. In fact, I am chastising myself. I am in the process of saying it is not fair for this bloke, this honourable senator, to come in here and say that ministers and other senators are not diligent when they have been working hard on the egg bill, which Senator Brown has not been doing. How dare he come in here and say to the Australian people that this egg bill has been railroaded through, when it is being considered by a committee at the moment? I think the report is coming in today. Will he read the report? Of course he will not. The closest he comes to caring about an egg is when he hoes into one at breakfast time with his knife and fork—that is about as close as he comes to caring about eggs in this place.

Madam Acting Deputy President, the Senate considers legislation in a most diligent fashion. The government brings forward legislation in a most diligent fashion, and the person who is least qualified to talk about the diligence of the process is the one who has caused this debate. I commend my motion to the Senate and I thank people for their support.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Brown's) be agreed to.