House debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006

Consideration of Senate Message

4:12 pm

Photo of Nicola RoxonNicola Roxon (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | Hansard source

I just have to comment briefly on the extraordinary comments that the Attorney-General has just made, which essentially ask this House to accept the nonsense that the government cannot move to make improvements to their own piece of legislation following their own backbench committee, along with members of the Labor Party in the Senate making recommendations, because they have not been through his party room process. It is ridiculous to come into the parliament, the law-making body of this country, and say that improvements cannot be made to a quite radical new regime that is being set up, because the Attorney-General has not had time to take it through his party room.

Of course all of us in this place understand that processes need to be gone through. But we are being asked to rush through a piece of legislation that will have a significant impact—and that is what the B-party intercept in schedule 2 of the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill 2006 will have; it will have a significant impact by changing the current regime as it applies—without improvements that have been recommended by a unanimous Senate committee. The Attorney-General is saying that the government cannot move to make improvements because he has not asked his backbench.

I could not let those comments go without making the comment that we regard the parliament as the law-making body here, not his backbench committee or the party room. Those processes can be gone through and should be gone through. It is not beyond the wit of the minister to be able to organise one of those meetings if he had any particular desire to do so. Again, it is a complete nonsense to suggest that they have not had time to draft these sorts of amendments. You have incredibly good staff in the Clerk’s office both in the House and in the Senate who are able to draft amendments all the time, you have OPC and you have your own departments. It is really just a lack of will on the part of the government to improve this system.

I think this is the third or fourth time now that the minister has said, ‘I am aware that this legislation could be better, but I call on this House to pass the legislation and we will improve it in the future.’ We saw that with the legislation on sedition. We have seen it with a number of other pieces of legislation in the past few months, all under this Attorney’s responsibility. We are being asked again today to accept a bill that could be improved were the minister to take the time to do it. We do accept the other changes. We accept that the latest amendments that are being moved are an improvement. But there are further improvements that could have been made if only the Attorney had taken the time to do that himself or instruct his many staff to do it for him.


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