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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1579

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (10:30 AM) —The motion that Senator Abetz sought to move is quite extraordinary in that it seeks to place a gag on the minister in relation to the NBN, specifically to prevent the minister from making a statement on this matter to the Senate later in the day. We may part company with the government on not presenting the documents that are referred to in this motion, but to invite us to join the opposition in a gag on the minister while giving the opposition free rein to debate this topic—to present it to the Senate and move any motion it wishes to on the matter—is to take it too far.

This is a democratic house. There are measures in this motion which can at least take on a minister who serially refuses to pro-duce information. But it is not unlike Senator Abetz to produce a motion that goes a long way further than that. This motion seeks to silence a minister and stop him providing information to the parliament. This is what Senator Abetz rightly describes as an extraordinarily big project in any terms—$43 billion of expenditure. Can I can tell Senator Abetz that this is a very popular project and Australians want to see it implemented, and that includes the Australian Greens.

Senator Ludlam will no doubt be making a contribution to the chamber on the substantive matter of the NBN if this debate continues, but we will not be supporting a gag on a minister on a topic as big as this. It becomes self-defeating, doesn’t it? The opposition want information relating to a report but says, ‘Because we can’t have that, we are going to blockade the minister from giving us information on any other matters.’

Senator Abetz —You’re into blockades, Bob. It’s the first time I’ve heard you speak against a blockade.

Senator BOB BROWN —The Franklin blockade was successful; I am not sure that the Abetz blockade will be—but we will see. That is a matter for a forthcoming debate. Under section 3 of the motion that Senator Abetz was refused leave to move, there are some matters that can be looked at. But section 4 of that motion is effectively a prohibition on any other information except the sought reports being given to the Senate, and I do not want to extend support to that. I am in favour of all information that we can get being put before the Senate, but I think it is a careless motion. It is poorly framed and it seeks to go way beyond what a progression of measures in this parliament might more cleverly, sensibly and with greater prudence and probity achieve.