Senate debates

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee; Reference

3:50 pm

Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | Hansard source

I want to agree with everything Senator Ludlam has said but the coalition have more broad considerations than the matters that he has raised. We will not be supporting his motion. I take no comfort from that. We filed a dissenting report. The ground has moved since then. There have been imperatives brought to my attention and I have spent some many hours reviewing 20 pages of amendments that were lobbed in my office yesterday morning.

The situation is this. Australia is confronted with one of the most incompetent, ignorant governments in our history. This legislation is a disgrace. It is inadequately prepared and it is inadequately thought through but the fact is it contains a very important diplomatic tool for Australian defence industry participants, and that is a treaty with the United States.

Having bolted that onto the defence export control legislation, the coalition is bound to support it. It is wanted by industry, notwithstanding that it is extremely poorly drafted. As I have said, it is ambiguous. All of those problems were highlighted in evidence to the committee by various industry players. The fact is that the ITARS provisions, which have existed for Australian defence industry participants, are still available to be used in the event that the provisions are not adequate or are vague and uncertain.

Insofar as the second part of this legislation is concerned, the defence export control legislation, it is typical of this government—a really sloppy, poor piece of legislation. We are bound to support it for the reasons I have set out. I have no doubt we will be moving some amendments. I am working my way through 20 pages of amendments in the hope that we can see some daylight in having a workable regime in order to comply with the Wassenaar agreement.

The politics of this have been dictated by a government which has cynically and quite stupidly sought to bolt these two pieces of legislation together. There is nothing the opposition can do about it other than to highlight to this chamber the fact that this is poor legislation. We will endeavour, I think on 29 October, to repair it as best we can, but I do not hold out much hope. The fact is that the government is incompetent and we have to live with it.


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