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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2588

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:47): Mr President, what a pathetic effort that was. I thought we would hear some defence of this motion from Senator Abetz that had some cogency and relevance to the proceedings of this Senate but, of course, it had none. The first thing that needs to be said here, Sir—and you will agree with this—is that the chair is not beyond criticism and the Senate prevails.

What Senator Abetz is trying to do here is say to this great Senate—after 110 years of its history—that it should be nobbled in taking on the chair. The opposition would, wouldn't they. They would want the jackboot to be brought into the Senate. That reflects the fact that the Senate is probably at the lowest ebb of behaviour and control that it has been in those 110 years, under this chair, with this rabble of an opposition—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BOB BROWN: As you can see at the moment. Senator Abetz used the word 'cowardly'. He can take that with a capital C. Isn't this the senator who gave notice of a motion here that the Clerk's performance should be put to a vote just this week? That is unprecedented in Senate history, but dragged down to that level by Senator Abetz and his colleagues. I have no doubt that wiser counsel prevailed and he withdrew that totally derogatory motion as it has not appeared here before the Senate. It should never have been put up, but it is an indication of the level to which Senator Abetz and his crew, with this chair, have taken this Senate.

On the matter of the running of the Senate, the simple matter is that I withdrew three references to the committee on those braying opposite who have connections with donors and so on. They were not referenced through to the committee. But when it came to the Greens and Senator Milne and I, it was referenced to the committee. As a result of that, a huge amount of time was taken up by the committee to find that the charges that came from Senator Abetz were totally baseless. The chair had let them through. I expect that, whatever advice was given to the chair, that was adopted. I have not heard anything to the opposite. As a result of that, Senator Milne and I are left with a $70,000 legal fee. That is totally contrary to natural justice. Two senators proven innocent by the committee are left with that legislation and then Senator Abetz, who was trained as a lawyer—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bob Brown, you are entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator BOB BROWN: I do not mind them braying over there. They know how wrong they are. That is the simple matter of it, Mr President. They know that they will be able to keep shouting all the way down to the line and they know that they have had a victory on this. They have left that impost on two innocent senators, through that reference which you recommended to the committee chair, and we will bear it. That is where the chamber has got to under this presiding officer with this rabble of an opposition for which no rule is not meant to be changed in order for them to prosecute a quarrel and to prosecute the base political level to which this chamber has come with Senator Abetz, Senator Brandis and the people who do their bidding like Senator Kroger and Senator Cash. That is the way it is. That is the way it must be. There will be review back on this.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BOB BROWN: You can hear them braying now. Some of the execrable comments that are allowed by the chair right now would not be allowed if I was yelling out at a speaker on the other side. But that is what we have in this chamber in 2012, the lowest ebb in the whole of its history. That is where we are at. This motion cannot be upheld in its current form because it would simply traduce the reality of what is happening in this Senate in 2012, Mr President. It would be a very bad look indeed. Of course, you have Senator Abetz as your chief supporter in this chamber, as we can see through this motion. You live with that, Sir; I will live with the opposition he sends in my direction.