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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3579


Senator KETTER (QueenslandDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (12:16): Today is not a shining example of the work of the Senate. It's not a day that we can hold up as an example of the Senate chamber operating at its finest. I'm a great believer in our parliamentary democracy. I believe that this forum is a centre point for the nation's debate on very, very important matters. Today, unfortunately, we saw the reputation of the Senate traduced.

I particularly want to highlight the fact that the Centre Alliance party, in its performance today, certainly did not live up to the goals and aspirations of its founder, former Senator Nick Xenophon. We all had our differences with former Senator Xenophon in terms of his policy positions on a range of matters but there was always one thing that former Senator Xenophon was very, very strict on, and that was that he would not support a gag. He understood that this place is a forum for debate and for trying to fully explore all of the issues that need to be looked at, whether they are bills or important matters of the day. Former Senator Xenophon was a stickler for ensuring that the proper processes were observed when it came to debate. It is extremely disappointing to find that the Centre Alliance senators did not live up to that aspiration of their party. I would hazard a guess as to say that that will probably count against them when next they face the people.

It's also very disappointing that we saw Senator Hanson in her position. As a senator from Queensland, I know there are many Queenslanders in certain parts of the state who see Senator Hanson as a person who reflects some of their views, and, perhaps, some of the disaffection that voters have with major parties. It is extremely disappointing to find that Senator Hanson, on this occasion, has decided to vote with the government. But it's not surprising, in one sense, because we know from Senator Hanson's track record that she has voted with the government around 90 per cent of the time—I haven't looked at the statistics recently but that's the sort of level that we're talking about. That's not something that the average Queensland voter is well aware of, and I'm sure that that's something that they're about to become very much aware of.

What we want to see in this place is proper process apply. We want to see the committees operating as they should. We want to see fulsome debate, particularly when we're talking about things such as a bill which is of the order of $144 billion in terms of loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. I get the point that this is money of the people in terms of their income tax, but we are talking about the issue of the budget of the Commonwealth. This has a major impact on the finances of the Commonwealth. It was only four short years ago that this government was talking about the 'debt and deficit disaster' and saying that we had to have all sorts of swathes of cuts affecting vulnerable people. But now we see that that's gone out the window. We see the fact that gross debt has crashed through the $500 billion mark. We're seeing handouts being given to the top end of town.

The government does not respect our right to debate these important issues. The actions of the government today have been deplorable. What I say is that we need to have an election. We want to bring on an election. We need a Labor government to restore fairness to this country. We need a Labor government to restore fairness to this chamber, a government that would respect the proper processes to ensure that the people have all of these issues properly ventilated and we come out with a proper process here.

Question agreed to.