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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5384

Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) (11.03 a.m.) —Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

  That so much of standing order 142 be suspended as would prevent debate taking place on the motion.

Surprise! Surprise! The only real surprise is that it has taken so long. There was no doubt that, in the end, the combination of the government, the Greens and the Australian Democrats—the `family', part of the general left thrust of Australian politics—would join together and curtail this debate. There was no doubt that they would bring this debate to an end and refuse to allow the house of review to fulfil its full and proper function to properly explore the detail of this legislation and all its major shortcomings. As I said, it is amazing that it has taken so long for them to reach this stage, as it was always inevitable that the Greens would vote for the bill. Of course, the Democrats announced that they were going to vote for the bill before they even saw it.

  So the family has joined together—the five factions; the Right, the Centre Left, the Left, the Greens and the Democrats—to thwart the proper function of the Senate in debating the detail of the remainder of this bill, and then to vote it through no matter what detrimental consequences it might have for the Australian people. I remind the Senate that Odgers, the bible of Senate practice, says:

It is suggested, however, that the guillotine should be applied in the Senate only in case of real emergency. Except in such emergency, the guillotine is not compatible with the proper exercise of the functions of a House of review.

What is the emergency in this situation? The government contrived to bring this bill in after the Senate was due to rise and to ram it through before Christmas. The whole exercise was designed to ensure that there was not a full and complete debate within this place.

Senator Collins —Full and proper debate!

Senator HILL —It is alright for Senator Collins to say we do not want that full and complete debate; government senators are not interested in the democratic process being carried out in full. All they are interested in is the bottom line, that they get their bill; and accommodating the Greens and Democrats is sufficient to achieve that objective.

  There is no emergency. In fact, it is a contrived exercise to put the bill in a slot where the pressures of Christmas and the pressures upon staff are such that they have to get to a bottom line before that deadline. So there is no emergency except the emergency the government has contrived. Therefore it is an abuse of Senate practice for the government to come in here and seek to impose this guillotine today.

  Do we remember the macho words of Mr Keating, the Prime Minister, yesterday, `We will hold the Senate here through Christmas; we will bring them back on Boxing Day; we will not be thwarted.'? All that time, Senator Evans was arranging the guillotine with the Greens and the Democrats. Big talk! But the Prime Minister got his headlines today; he fooled the media again. It was all just a sham to illustrate that he was prepared to sit for as long as necessary, when the government had no intention whatsoever of sitting as long as necessary because it knew it would be able to do a deal to accommodate the Greens and the Democrats and bring this to an end without there being a full and proper debate.

  Do honourable senators also remember what this minister, Senator Evans, said about the Western Australian government when it applied the guillotine on the native title bill a few weeks ago? He attacked Mr Court in this place, saying what a terrible thing it was that the Western Australian parliament was applying a guillotine to such critically important legislation. Mr Keating in the other place said likewise, `What a shocking thing it is for the Western Australian parliament to apply a guillotine'. But when it comes to this parliament and the interests of government senators, there are double standards. A different standard applies: it is legitimate to cut down the process of the Senate and thwart the proper practice of this place.

  The role of the Australian Democrats we must contemplate again. It was the party that came in here to keep the bastards honest; it was the party that would never accept the guillotine. The other day in the corridor Senator Spindler said to me, `Don't you think you will wear us down on this one, because you won't. We will be here in the new year; we are not going to guillotine this bill'. But as soon as Senator Evans comes along, hands out a few morsels and says, `Come on friends, it's time that we embrace again; it's time that we become part of the family and separate ourselves, the party of the Left, from the real opposition', they said, `Okay Senator Evans, okay Mr Keating; we are just part of your whole'. Senator Kernot said, `You can have this bill even without giving us the detail'.

  What a disgrace. There is only one alternative to this government in this chamber and in Australia, and that is the coalition parties. We would be prepared to stay here and do the job properly—New Year's Day, next year—or however long it takes.