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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6288

Senator HOGG (8:25 PM) —I come back to an issue that I raised before in respect of the people to be chosen by the minister with the agreement of each state. The more I sit here and think about this the more concerned I become about that specific provision because it lends itself to the minister being held hostage by the various states until they selectively put on the review panel those that will conform with their own view. There is nothing there that prevents people who might be of different views— regardless of what side of the debate they are on here—being selected, because of the right of veto that comes under subclause 25(2), which says:

The review is to be undertaken by persons chosen by the Minister, with the agreement of each State.

It seems that we are heading down the path where there is going to be a select group that may be chosen and then there is a right of veto by each state over each of the people to be chosen. I do not know if that is the intent of this, but that is the way it reads. So the concerns that Senator Harradine has raised about the independence of this body really start to bite even further.

One should consider that there will be a lot of behind the scenes argy-bargy. Let us face it, when these committees are set up they are not set up by some broad democratic elective process; they are set up by people lobbying the appropriate people, or by people approaching the appropriate people. And we may find that the committee of review is a loaded committee of review. Or if it is not a loaded committee of review, you may have the ministers of the various states being offended by the views of someone. Let us assume that someone with Senator Harradine's views is to be put up for this committee. All that I would see as necessary would be for one state minister to object and that person would be rejected from serving on the review panel. I do not think that is the intention of what is in the current provision. That is the way it is reading and that is a real concern because one then does not have an independent review. One does not even have a review that is semi-independent. So, Minister, I ask again: can you clarify that for me and give assurances that that is not to be the case? (Quorum formed)