Senate debates

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Agricultural and Related Industries Committee; State Government Financial Management Committee; Housing Affordability in Australia Committee; Establishment

11:22 am

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Special Minister of State) Share this | Hansard source

I can only assume from Senator Bartlett’s comments about the gallery that he does not intend pursuing a post-parliamentary career in journalism, but his points are nevertheless well made in relation to the observation of what occurred yesterday. It is a fascinating debate today because what was wrong is apparently now right. Senator Ray trotted out today to raise these matters. I actually thought it was probably the worst speech I have ever heard Senator Ray make. I have a lot of respect for Senator Ray, but that was the worst speech he has made in this chamber, because he was trying to justify the unjustifiable. He said that the substance of these matters was significant. So, if it is significant, there can surely be only two reasons for him to not support the select committees: one is political and the other is utter churlishness. I will go to the latter first. This is not about select committees; this is about the government this morning being knocked off in relation to an inquiry by the Senate on industrial relations legislation. This was a very childish and churlish act this morning in relation to that legislation and you stand condemned for it. You failed the very first test of transparency and you failed abysmally. It was the very first test of your complaints about the workings of the Senate being taken over by the executive and you failed. On the second day of sitting in this place you failed your own test, imposed over the last three years.

Senator Ray cannot have it both ways. He said that there is now no need for those select committees because of the change of structure to the committees, but those changes occurred three years ago. He then complained about select committees being knocked off in the last term. He cannot actually have it both ways. Either the select committees are important or they are not. You cannot rewrite history and say, ‘Well, now they are not quite as important as they were, because of the changes to the standing orders.’ Those standing orders were changed three years ago. He was complaining about select committees being, in his words, knocked off in the last term. So he is trying to have it both ways and he cannot do so, despite his endeavours.

Let us look at the substance of those committees. My colleagues will remember that, in the 12 months leading up to the last election, housing affordability was a matter that was apparently absolutely fundamental to the Australian Labor Party. I will not talk about the agriculture select committee proposal because Senator Heffernan will do that; I will confine my comments to the other two. For 12 months, all we heard about was the issue of housing affordability. At the very first test of this by the Australian Labor Party, they are refusing to have a bipartisan committee—not an opposition committee but a bipartisan committee—look at the issue of housing affordability.


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