Thursday, 28 June 2012
I thought it might actually have been worth continuing a degree of negotiation before we came to put this amendment to the hours of business; however, the government have chosen to bring it on now, so we will deal with it now. We will not be supporting this motion. When we arrived here this morning, obviously with the tragedies of recent days on the minds of all senators, the Greens agreed—and it actually went through with a minimum of debate—that we would be debating the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012 and that we would be debating the Tax Laws Amendment (Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax) Bill 2012 and a related bill.
Senators who are alert will note that this amended motion now proposes that we debate the Stronger Futures package, I understand—and the Greens will not consent to that. If the government sees fit to withdraw this motion, we would be quite happy to continue negotiating the way the chamber is managed over the next few hours, so that we are not sitting until the small hours of the morning.
I have to say, on behalf of my colleague Senator Rachel Siewert, who has done a huge amount of work on the Strong Futures bill, that there was a degree of goodwill shown by the government last week and into this week that this bill would not be debated in the absence of a senator who has put her heart and soul into this issue. We do have strong disagreement with some elements of the bill, but I do not propose to go into the substance of the debate now. The government is now proposing to chop through—presumably this afternoon or when we sit until four o'clock in the morning, if that is the will of the government—a bill of such importance. There is such a large number of people whose views will not be properly represented in here. There is a counter to the government's view. There is strong dissent, in the community to the bill that the government has just parachuted back onto the Notice Paperwithout warning, and those views need to be heard.
So we will not be supporting this motion. I would be delighted if I could get an indication from the coalition as to whether they would support a Greens amendment to take the bill out. If the government chooses to withdraw the motion, that would be greatly appreciated by the Greens, but we simply cannot support it as is. I encourage the government to come back to the table and work out a way that this bill can be debated properly, with all interested parties and all interested views, and relevant views, at the table, in order to bring to bear the very strong concerns of Aboriginal people right across Northern Australia with provisions in the bill. It is utterly undignified to now propose that the Senate simply chop that bill through. We will not be supporting this motion, but I will be delighted to hear from Senator Fifield, if he wants to put a coalition view as to how the business of the Senate should be managed through this afternoon. The Greens have been willing to compromise, willing to negotiate—and we still are; I give that commitment on behalf of the Australian Greens—but we will simply not consent to the bill that was not agreed to this morning suddenly being parachuted back onto the Notice Paper, presumably to sit us through and legislate by attrition. It is an utterly inappropriate and offensive way to deal with an issue as important as this.