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Thursday, 18 March 2021
Page: 24


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaMinister for Families and Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (11:46): Thank you, Mr President. Before we move to vote on the report of the selection of bills committee—

The PRESIDENT: Sorry. I actually just put that. With leave of the chamber, I'll go back one step and re-put the vote. I wasn't aware that Senator Ruston was seeking the call to speak on the matter.

Senator RUSTON: Thank you, Mr President, and I thank the chamber for their indulgence in allowing me to speak to this today. What I particularly want to do is to acknowledge the importance of a couple of the bills that we are referring to today—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator RUSTON: and to thank the chamber for their indulgence in allowing me to do this today.

Senator Siewert interjecting

Senator Gallagher interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Siewert! Senator Gallagher!

Senator RUSTON: This is a particularly important component of the agenda. I want to acknowledge that there are a number of bills that are being referred today that are particularly important going forward. As I said, I thank the indulgence of the chamber to be able to do this.

There are a number of bills that we've chosen not to refer on—

Senator Urquhart interjecting

Senator RUSTON: Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be at the meeting last night, Senator Urquhart. I would have liked particularly to have been there last night to actually have the conversation and to discuss some of these bills, but particularly the importance of being able to have the process by which we refer these bills to committee. We often come into this place and we have conversations around the fact that the committee process in the Senate—

The PRESIDENT: Order! I've got Senator Patrick on a point of order. Senator Patrick.

Senator Patrick: I don't think that qualifies properly as a filibuster. We need better from them.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Patrick, what is your point of order, or do you not have a point of order?

Senator Patrick: It's just that she's not filibustering properly.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order. Senator Ruston to continue, to be heard in silence please.

Senator RUSTON: I will take the interjection, or the attempt to pull me up on the manner in which I'm addressing this particular section, from Senator Patrick.

Senator Gallagher interjecting

Senator RUSTON: Yes, you can if you like. I know Senator Patrick takes the referral of bills to committees very seriously, because I know that he understands that the committee process is what makes this chamber operate the way that it does. It is a very, very important component of it. I probably would point out to the chamber that everybody in this place should take our committee processes very, very seriously to ensure that we do scrutinise our bills in the appropriate processes, in a manner in which we can make sure that we do our job in this chamber.

I'll tell you a great anecdote, Senator Patrick. When I first came into this place, I remember somebody who was very well regarded in this place, Senator Amanda Vanstone. I'm sure even if you weren't in the chamber when Amanda Vanstone held her role in this place, you would have heard of her, because she was a great South Australian senator. Senator Vanstone said to me on the day that I was chosen to be the person to come into the Senate, 'The one thing you must always remember is that committee work is not optional.' She said, 'The most important role of this chamber, of this Senate, is to make sure that committees are run appropriately,' and that's why I thought I would take the opportunity this morning to stand up and, as part of the Selection of Bills Committee reporting, refer to the importance of the fact that the referrals to committees, the scrutiny of bills by committees, is tremendously important. And I certainly thank the chamber for the opportunity to do that.

There are a number of bills where scrutiny through the legislative standing committees provides so much additional information. Senator Patrick, I know you are one of the people in this chamber who believes, more than anything else, in the importance of the scrutiny of bills through the committee process. You are one of those people who always, when you refer bills to a committee, turns up to the committee hearings, and I commend you for the fact that you are always one who takes your role as a member of committees very seriously. You take the scrutiny of bills very seriously—

Senator Siewert interjecting

Senator RUSTON: as does Senator Siewert. I will commend Senator Siewert for the number of times—she is always prepared to be the person who will stand up and defend the committee process for the additional scrutiny it affords bills, to make sure that we have got the most information, that we allow the consultation and the community engagement into the legislation that we put through this place.

This place truly is the place of review, and the best way that we can review legislation is by enabling a broader scrutiny, by being able to take submissions, to consult with the public, to have hearings and to hear firsthand from people who are impacted by the legislation that we're putting through this place about how that legislation is likely to impact them so that we can make sure that decisions that are made in this place in relation to bills are as informed as they possibly can be. I just would like to take this opportunity to commend the committee process, and thank you for the indulgence to speak on this matter.