Senate debates

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bills

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee

1:28 am

Photo of Jacinta CollinsJacinta Collins (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | Hansard source

I understand. I was not being critical, but it does help me move towards the point that I am making. I note that Senator Rhiannon is now back in the chamber. I was about to suggest or hope that she had gone to have a rest, because the contribution that she made a little while ago was so unhinged. But it did reinforce where we are in the consideration of this legislation. As much as I would like to hear Senator Wong go into further references and, perhaps, long quotes that challenge the position that the minister is seeking to maintain or recreate, I seriously do think that at this hour we are in quite a ridiculous process.

Let me remind both the Greens and the government, though, that this is a process of your creation. So do not try to sheet home the blame to anyone else. Do not try to say that anyone else is responsible for the fact that we are attempting to have adequate consideration of this matter—in order to make up for the fraud that was the government's consultation in developing these measures, not to mention the purported committee consideration that was so inadequate that we could not even question the department. Indeed even the Greens could not question the department about important aspects.

I thought I sighted Senator Xenophon a moment ago. I thought perhaps he was back in the chamber with us. I want to go back briefly to an earlier discussion that took place, I think, when he was not here. Senator Cormann was using this rhetoric about 'choice'. As part of the discussion, he said people should not be forced to vote for parties they might not want to vote for. I thought for a moment: 'My God! He is going to go down the path of an argument for voluntary voting', because what he seemed to be suggesting was that people should not be forced to follow the very instructions he claims are going to be on the ballot papers, which is for people to vote for the number of positions that are being filled. Instead he is saying, 'No, you should not be forced to vote for a party if you do not want to.' That sort of philosophy would take us very much us down the path towards voluntary voting.

I contrast that with Senator Xenophon's discussion about New South Wales, the ACT and what an appropriate benchmark would be to allow us to subsequently review what the implications of the changes had been. When he said that, I thought: 'Good heavens! Senator Xenophon has given these issues more competent consideration than the minister is displaying in his reference to them.' The minister was asked what the appropriate benchmarking would be, but instead of answering he gave us a philosophical discussion about how people should not be forced to vote.

I am sorry, but—

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