Senate debates

Thursday, 14 February 2008


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

11:34 am

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I feel as if I am in the twilight zone—truly! It is as if the last 2½ years did not happen. This morning I went into my concerns about the coalition having amnesia. They have forgotten how they opposed virtually every committee that we tried to get up last year. Maybe Senator Ronaldson was not here in the chamber when we had numerous discussions about housing affordability, when we were trying to push the then government into having an inquiry into housing affordability. All of a sudden they have a road to Damascus experience, over the last couple of months, in relation to housing affordability. Well, the public of Australia know exactly what is going on. It is only because they are in opposition that the coalition have suddenly discovered housing affordability as an issue and have suddenly decided that the Senate has a role in scrutiny.

As I have said just recently, I am gobsmacked. They talk about other parties having hypocrisy! The hypocrisy of them coming in here and, all of a sudden, deciding that the Senate does have a role is simply astounding. I think most Australians are probably feeling as if they are in the twilight zone at the moment if they are listening to the arguments we have had this morning about the role of the Senate. However, I am not going to take too much time in expounding on my astonishment because it is boundless.

The issues that are being raised here to be inquired into by select committees are very important issues. The fertiliser issue is very important. I am passionate about agriculture and passionate about this issue, but I would have preferred to see it referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport. That is the committee it belongs with. That is the most appropriate committee, so I am a little frustrated that the opposition wants to set up a select committee.

I would also like to add that we need to consider the issue of peak oil when we are considering the issues around fertiliser because the two are intimately linked. The impact of restricted oil supplies is necessarily linked to the issues around fertiliser.

I have touched lightly on the issue of housing affordability. The Greens, the Democrats and the previous opposition, the ALP, tried numerous times in this place to raise the issue of housing affordability. So we do think it is important that we inquire into these issues. We are just astounded that all of a sudden the opposition have decided that they need select committees to inquire into these issues. So the Greens will not be opposing this motion, because we will not oppose motions that in fact lead to better scrutiny by the Senate. We are deeply concerned about the way the opposition have gone about doing this, trying to put these committees in place. We believe that they should be using the existing standing committees rather than setting up select committees. But, as I said, we will not be opposing it.

We will, however, seek to divide the opposition’s amendment, because we do not support opposition amendment (3A)(c):

A participating member shall be taken to be a member of the committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the committee if a majority of members of the committee is not present.

Under the existing quorum rules, my understanding is that we need a member who has been nominated by both the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the government. We are very concerned that participating members might be used to form a quorum and we do not believe that is an appropriate process. We will be seeking to divide the amendment so that amendments (3A)(a) and (3A)(b) are put and then (3A)(c) is put separately. So I am giving notice that that is our intended approach to that amendment.


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