Senate debates

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; Second Reading

8:29 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I am very proud to rise to support the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016, legislation that puts the power over preferences back where it belongs in a democracy—that is, in the hands of the voters. It takes it out of the hands of the backroom wheelers and dealers now so beloved of the Labor Party and returns it to where it should be in our great democracy of Australia: in the hands of the voters. It is actually impossible to argue against this reform in a democracy whilst still maintaining any integrity whatsoever. That has been proven by the Labor Party over the last few weeks, by Labor senators who have lost any integrity they may have had, during their desperate attempts to smear the Greens on this legislation and to argue against a democratic reform that they themselves supported not a year and a half ago.

We have heard a fair bit of rubbish from the Labor Party over the last few weeks, and I am not going to dignify all of that rubbish with a response. But, in essence, their argument, and that of many unions in Australia, is that, if this reform goes ahead now, the Turnbull Liberals will gain control of the Senate. That is the essence of their argument. I am going to place it firmly on the record now: if that happens—and heaven forbid it will—it will be for one reason and one reason only: because the Labor Party and the union movement, or large parts of it, in this country took their eye off the ball and, in attacking the Greens, who have stood up time after time for working people in this Senate, granted the opening for the Liberals to gain control of this Senate.

Senator Polley interjecting—

So do not come whingeing to us, Senator Polley, if the Liberals win control of the Senate. It will be because you took your eye off the ball. It will be because your Senate colleagues took their eye off the ball. It will be because the ACTU took its eye off the ball and the CFMEU took its eye off the ball. In attacking the Greens, who have stood up time after time after time for working people in this country, who have joined with Labor to vote down, time after time, draconian antiworker and anti-union legislation in this place, you took your eye off the real problem, which is Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals and their coalition partners in the Nationals. If they should win control of this Senate after the next election—and heaven forbid they do—it will be your responsibility and yours alone, for taking your eye off the ball.

As I said, we have heard some rubbish from the Labor Party in this debate. I think we need to place some things very clearly on the record. Firstly, Labor signed up to this in writing in 2010, when the House of Representatives was returned with no party having an absolute majority. In their agreement with the Australian Greens, Labor signed up in writing to reforming the Senate voting system. What happened? They squibbed it. They broke their word, as Labor so often do. If Labor had kept their word, which they signed up to on paper, in writing, we would not even be having this debate today, because Senate voting reform would have got through in the previous term of government, and the democracy would have been enhanced in Australia, by the power over preferences being returned to the hands of the voters. But that did not happen, because Labor broke their word, as they do.

There is something else that needs to be said here and placed very firmly on the record. It is about the voting records of the parties in this place. In this term, the Labor Party has voted with the coalition on nearly 40 per cent of the votes. The Greens have voted with the coalition about six per cent of the time. That is, Labor votes with the coalition by a factor of six times more often than do the Greens. So, if you want to talk about the natural alliances in this place, have a look at the voting records and have a look at your policy positions. Any reasonable person would not take long at all to form the view that the natural coalition in this place are the three old-style parties: Labor, Liberal, National. That is what the voting record shows. That is what policy positions and platforms show. We are very proud, in the Greens, that our policy platform is so different from that of either the Liberals or the Labor Party.

Then we have seen—and I will tell you what; this one does grind my gears—Labor this week come into this place and use marriage equality as a political football.


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