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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5834

Senator ABETZ (8:43 PM) —Can I indicate to the government that we believe the Senate has a very vital role to play in scrutinising legislation. That federal Labor have come to an agreement with all the state Labor premiers and chief ministers and determined what they would do is interesting; but, at the end of the day, I listened very, very carefully to the admonitions of the Labor Party before the last election about how the Senate should not be taken for granted, how it should not be treated like a rubber stamp and how it should exercise its independent mind and scrutinise legislation very carefully.

And of course now that we are listening to the sound advice of people like Senator Ludwig and others we are being told that possibly this is not such a good idea after all because Mr Rudd knows best and if he has come to an arrangement, or indeed his deputy has come to an arrangement, with the state Labor governments then that should be paramount. We on this side have a differing view. We believe that there are certain matters that are quite fundamental and therefore the Senate should be looking through these matters very carefully.

I make those preliminary comments because I would not want a cognate debate on this to descend into a situation where the minister does not deal specifically with all the issues that are raised by senators. So whilst it makes, I think, good sense to have a cognate debate I would nevertheless expect that the government would deal with each question and the merits in relation to each amendment in some detail so that we can have a clear position put by the government as to why they are not supportive of the raft of amendments. If that were to be the agreed approach to be taken by the minister, there should be a clear indication given at all times. I think to a large extent we would be guided by you, Mr Chairman, as to which amendments should be seen as being taken together so that they are in a job lot. And undoubtedly, Mr Chairman, you will be advised by those clever clerks that sit next to you as to how that might best be achieved.