Thursday, 13 May 2010
Do Not Call Register Legislation Amendment Bill 2009
I will be brief, yet again, because yet again we are running out of time. As the minister just said, this is uncontroversial legislation, but the handling of this legislation by the government is anything but. It is a disgrace that we are here in the last 15 minutes of this week in parliament, the last possible opportunity to deal with this legislation. If we do not deal with this legislation in the next 15 minutes, more than four million families across Australia might be exposed to those nuisance calls from telemarketers that they do not want. Here we are in this position. The government, through its mismanagement, is putting the Senate in this position. Because we are focused on the national interest, because we are focused on the interests of more than four million families across Australia, we are doing the right and the decent thing. The coalition, the Greens and Family First are all facilitating the speedy passage of this bill, but the way this is being handled is a disgrace.
Of course, the whole handling of this legislation since it was introduced in November last year has been a disgrace. The reason the government get themselves into trouble again and again is that they have these ideological slogans, these grandiose statements. They come up with these announcements with great fanfare: ‘We’re going to include all the businesses across Australia in this as well.’ Not thinking things through is what gets them into trouble again and again. That is what delivered us the failure on GroceryWatch, on Fuelwatch, on the ETS. Everything they have touched they have stuffed up.
I did promise that I would keep it short and Senator Fisher explained in some detail the many flaws that the minister had to address belatedly in a late Friday afternoon backflip which he thought he could get away with while no-one was watching, on 30 April. Here we are. This inclusion of businesses in the Do Not Call Register was never going to be workable. We told you so right from the outset. It only took you five or six months to figure it out, and eventually you came onboard with what we told you all along. It is incompetent government. It is a government driven by grandiose ideological statements. They do not think things through. That is why we always end up, under this government’s mismanagement and maladministration, in the sorts of circumstances we are in.
While I am on my feet, and so that I do not have to get on my feet again, I am just going to quickly make a comment in relation to the amendments that Senator Fielding has foreshadowed. The coalition will not be supporting those amendments. Essentially, in relation to the exemption of political parties, we take the view that allowing an exemption for political parties from the register is consistent with other exemptions in the bill which seek to balance the ability of organisations to undertake socially important work. Political parties, Independent MPs—including you, Senator Fielding—and nominated candidates play a vital role in a democratic society and it is important that they be able to continue to make a range of calls to enable them to continue to fulfil their roles.
In relation to permanent registration, we agree with the government that permanent registration on the Do Not Call Register would lead to many practical difficulties with keeping the register accurate and relevant. Industry figures suggest the Do Not Call Register would be 40 per cent out of date within five years if permanent registration were introduced, and 10 per cent of phone numbers, incidentally, are disconnected every year. We agree with the proposition that it would unfairly disadvantage businesses, because they would be forced to comply with a register that does not reflect consumer preferences in relation to receiving telemarketing calls.
With those few words, I conclude my contribution on this particular piece of legislation but yet again point out that it did not have to come to this. We did not have to waste the last five or six months. It came down to the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, with coalition senators under the leadership of Senator Fisher, to expose the many flaws in this legislation which the government had to address at the last minute. They thought they could do it under the cover of a late Friday afternoon announcement. It is one backflip after another. We are dealing with an incompetent minister, we are dealing with an incompetent government and it is time that they actually learnt that public administration is something that involves a little bit of thinking from time to time.