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Monday, 9 August 2004
Page: 25921

Senator ALLISON (5:34 PM) —I was not planning on taking part in this debate. It is my view and the Democrats' view that the government has not complied with returns to order from this place. I think that needs to be treated very seriously and it is clearly not treated seriously by this government. However, I take great exception to the Democrats being blamed by Senator O'Brien for this sorry state of affairs. I remind Senator O'Brien that the return to order to which he referred was complied with. In fact, here I have the documents—some hundreds of documents—whose return to order was complied with. It was not a question of the Democrats giving in to anything. We said to the government, `We won't deal with that legislation until you supply those documents,' and it did. Most of them were indeed supplied under FOI to Senator O'Brien. I do not know what he did with them. Most of them, I imagine, would have been fairly useless in his ongoing attack on the ethanol industry, because most of them point out the advantages of ethanol and of biofuels, so no doubt he was disappointed by that finding. However, as I said, I take very strong exception to being accused of being party to the government's recalcitrance on returns to order.

We will join Labor at any time at any stage on their suggestion that we hold the government to account. I wish we did far more of that in this place. There are plenty of ways that the Senate can be non-cooperative with the government if documents are not provided when it is reasonable that they should be, and I would argue that our returns to order are most reasonable. As Senator Harradine says, the information that is requested is requested for good reason, by and large. I am not so sure about the great wad of documents that Labor asked for in the Honan debate but, nevertheless, we agreed with those, and I think it was important that they were provided to whoever needed them in the debate.

I make a commitment here and now that the Democrats will join the ALP whenever they invite us—in fact, we have invited them on a number of occasions to do likewise—to not be cooperative when the government does not provide documents that the Senate has asked for. We do need to restore the importance of that. But for Senator O'Brien to come in here and accuse us of being party to some nasty cooperation with the government so it does not have to provide documents is very silly. As I said, I have the documents here and I am happy to hand them around to anyone else who wants them. I know that Senator O'Brien also has them. We had them before we dealt with that piece of legislation. Senator O'Brien is simply fabricating what happened in this place. I think it is important for him to come down and correct the record.