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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6295

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (9:17 PM) —On the amendment moved by Senator Harradine: while I understand the intention of Senator Harradine to make it a public review, as we have had in this debate a wide-ranging discussion about what constitutes a public review I think that the way that Senator Harradine is going about this is confusing. As I understand it, the intention is to insert—in clause 25(1) titled `Review of operation of Act'—the word `public' between the words `independent' and `review'. I do not think that that satisfies anyone because I do not know what is meant by that. Does it mean that it is open to the public to view it, to be involved, to be consulted? Does it involve submissions from those organisations? Personally and on behalf of the Democrats, I believe that the provisions are sufficient and can be combined with a committee at another point in time.

I apologise for not bringing this up in the context of the Community Affairs Legislation Committee. I certainly cannot be accused of not being involved in their deliberations. They were held at the same time that the parliament was sitting. While that sometimes facilitates the opportunity for senators to get there, it often makes it hard, too, when you have conflicting appointments and commitments. I would be satisfied with these provisions if there were a guarantee, an undertaking—and I know that this is not popular with some members of the government—that not only the recommendations but the review would be provided to parliament. It is a standard Democrat request where you have a review of an act, be it independent or otherwise, that the results of that review be tabled in the parliament and thus are available for senators and members. They are also thus publicly available.

I understand that the idea is to make the recommendations available. I certainly do not mean to be problematic at this late stage in the debate, but I do not see a problem with their being tabled in the parliament. I am not seeking to enshrine that in the legislation. I would be satisfied with an undertaking from the minister, on behalf of the government, to do that, because I think that that is appropriate. As I have said—and as I say through you, Mr Temporary Chairman, to Senator Harradine—a more public or a parliamentary inquiry at another stage is something that we would support, but we will not seek to put it into the legislation. Can I get a clear sense from the minister, because I will not pursue it further if I am at a dead end—not through discussions anyway; we might pursue it through other means—whether the minister is ruling out giving that undertaking. I am wondering why it is so problematic.