Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Racial Discrimination Act 1975

3:28 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture) Share this | Hansard source

In her contribution Senator Singh demonstrates, as occurred all through question time today when Senator Brandis was answering questions in relation to the exposure draft of the amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act, that the opposition is not even prepared to listen. We have put in place a process, and at least Senator Singh did acknowledge that Senator Brandis's answers during question time were that he has had extensive—in fact I think the term he used was 'exhaustive'—consultation with minority groups throughout the development of the exposure draft.

It is important to note that this is part of a process. Senator Brandis has also said that he wants to have a conversation with the Australian community about the shape of these laws, which is why they have been released as an exposure draft—so that the community and members of parliament can comment on the exposure draft that has been released. Rather than just howling from the sidelines and spending all of question time interjecting and screaming at Senator Brandis across the chamber, it might be very useful if those members opposite—who obviously do not want to listen to any opinion other than their own—were to engage with the process.

Senator Brandis has released an exposure draft of this legislation for public comment—for the community to engage, for the community to comment—prior to bringing a final piece of legislation to the parliament. I think that is good process. In fact members of our party who had expressed concern—as part of the public commentary about our proposals to modify the act that was taking place prior to this process—have expressed their appreciation since Senator Brandis brought the exposure draft to the party room. They appreciate that it gives them the opportunity to participate in the public debate and to consult with their communities with that exposure draft in their hand.

But the Labor Party just do not want to listen. They are not interested in what Senator Brandis has to say.


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