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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 4370

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (19:52): The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013 makes a number of technical and enabling amendments to streamline investigations and prosecutions of people-smuggling crew which appear to the coalition to be quite sensible changes. This bill was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which reported just yesterday and recommended that the bill be passed—a recommendation in which coalition members joined. It is worth quoting from the additional comments of the Liberal senators. They said:

Coalition senators consider that the terms of the … Bill 2013 are directed at a number of apparently useful changes to existing legislation. Some of those changes have been expressly welcomed by submitters to the inquiry.

However, Coalition senators take this opportunity to outline their concerns with the lack of proper scrutiny which this bill has been afforded under this rushed reference to the committee.

Input to this inquiry has been seriously hampered by the restrictive timeframe, putting at risk the strong reputation of this committee for conducting careful and comprehensive scrutiny of every bill referred to it.

It is this fact that Australian Lawyers for Human Rights … raise in their submission where they state:

The fact that submissions are required in less than 40 hours destroys any notion of accountability and public scrutiny which is sought to be provided by public involvement in the committee process.

They go on to say:

However because of the time period the Parliament has chosen to allocate for submissions, ALHR—

that is, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights—

are unable to assess and respond on these matters. We would like the Committee to note our concern and opposition to such a short time being made for submissions.

So, even though this week the government has made a farce of the role of the Senate as a house of review by guillotining through 55 bills in a week—an absolute farce—and although their complicity in that legislative manoeuvre has exposed the Greens to be the rank hypocrites that they are, never will one of them be able to say, without knowing themselves to be uttering wilfully dishonest statements, that they care about the role of the Senate as a house of review.

Notwithstanding that, it is worth remembering that it is not merely in the Senate chamber that this government's abridgement of democratic processes is seen. It is also seen in the abuse by the government of the committee system. How extraordinary that a bill of this kind should require public submissions from the time of advertisement to the time of closure to be provided in 40 hours—less than two business days?

It is bad enough to guillotine legislation through the chamber; it is even worse to effectively guillotine the committee system, because the committee system is the point of direct intersection between the parliament and the public. It is the point of direct intersection between the parliament and, in particular, the specialist public—like, for example, on a bill relating to the criminal justice system, the legal profession and criminal law practitioners and people who work with victims and work with offenders—to solicit their expert input so that the Senate's deliberations can be informed by the people on the ground, as it were, who are in the best position to advise the parliament as to the effectiveness or appropriateness of bills and opportunities to reform those bills.

I think this bill, which the opposition, as I said, does support, provides a shocking example of the way in which the guillotining of legislation not merely interferes with the parliament's capacity to deliberate but it also foreshortens to the point of effective irrelevance the public's capacity to contribute to the Senate committee system. The gibbering fools who comprise the Greens party and who speak so loudly and eloquently about democracy and the role of the Senate as a house of review are complicit in that. So let us not take any protestations from you, Senator Rhiannon, or you Senator Penny Wright, or you Senator Di Natale, or you Senator—whoever you are—Siewert seriously. In any event, having made the point about the disgraceful process which has attended this bill—

Senator Siewert: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Brandis can at least use our proper names when he is taking up the valuable time of the Senate hurling abuse. He could at least use our proper names.

Senator BRANDIS: Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President: I am sorry, Senator Siewert. I thought your name was Senator Siewert, but I momentarily forgot it.

Senator Siewert: Mr Acting Deputy President, he also forgot Senator Di Natale's name.

Senator BRANDIS: Mr Acting Deputy President, is there a point of order?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Edwards ): No, it has not risen to one.

A government senator interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! I just remind the chamber that every senator has an obligation to address each of the other senators by their correct name. Thank you very much.

Senator BRANDIS: Certainly, Mr Acting Deputy President. I simply forgot Senator Siewert's name momentarily. I was reflecting on the grossness of the hypocrisy of the Greens party in allowing the process of deliberation, not just in the chamber but through the Senate committee process, to be so truncated as to be virtually non-existent. But, nevertheless, the opposition have scrutinised the terms of the bill and we are satisfied with it and find ourselves able to support it.

The Liberal senators devoted most of their report to a critique of the inadequacy of the committee process. I have made the observations that I wanted to make about that. As to the substance of the bill, the provisions seem to us to be sensible and, therefore, as indicated at the start, the bill has the coalition's support.