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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 117

Senator CONROY (8:48 PM) —Could I take up a number of points that Senator Nettle has just made. I really do want to highlight the farce that was that committee process. The Clerk advised some of my colleagues that this was going to be the world record shortest Senate inquiry. While we may have a bit of a chuckle about it, that is not something that we should be proud of. This was a situation where the government foisted the bill on us without notice. They foisted on us a committee hearing that was passed by the Selection of Bills Committee at 11.30 and by the parliament at 3.30, and a hearing was required to be held at 7.30 or eight o'clock that night. As Senator Nettle has indicated, very few people were able to attend. It is a miracle, in my view, that anybody was able to attend, and it is a credit to those people—who know when they are being dudded—that they were able to get here at all.

I think this is a very disturbing indication of the arrogance with which the government treat this chamber when it refuses to be a rubber stamp for the executive. It sends a very powerful signal right across the country about what the parliament, the Senate and Australians can expect from 1 July, when the government will be able to conduct these sorts of jumped-up star chamber inquiries as quickly as they want, to ram them through and treat this chamber with contempt. I hope the government reflect upon this. Senator Campbell, I think you have been the longest serving Manager of Government Business—although I am not sure that is something you ought to proclaim proudly; I know you were very happy to pass it on—and I hope you reflect on this farce of a process. I hope you have the good grace, after 1 July, to stand up and be counted when it comes to these sorts of arguments so that we do not see an abuse of process and we allow the Senate chamber to do what it should do, which is to examine and scrutinise legislation. It was with a lot of goodwill that people cooperated to allow this committee hearing to go ahead, despite the fact that we were placed in an intolerable position. I wanted to take up those points that Senator Nettle made because I believe this is an indication of what the parliament will be subjected to under the new regime from 1 July.

On the substance of the Greens' proposals, Senator Nettle is fully aware that they would successfully gut this bill and there really would not be much point in passing the rest of it. While I am probably a bit more sympathetic to copyright holders in this particular instance, I am not sure they were able to get their views across as strongly as they would have wanted to in the time permitted, so I am not sure that we got a balanced view on these sections. On that basis, Labor will be opposing the Greens' proposals.