Thursday, 23 March 2017
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
Thank you, Deputy President. I am always surprised when Senator Brandis wants to have a debate about lying to the Senate. That is a debate I am always happy to have with him.
It is farcical that the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee can be expected to conduct a proper inquiry into this within a five-day period. Already, in the time since the government's announcement was made, we have seen howls of outrage from ethnic communities right across this country expressing severe concern about the emotional distress that is going to be caused to ethnic people around Australia as a result of these changes. They are being denied the opportunity to comment on these far-reaching proposals by the government rushing through this inquiry.
It is also very disappointing to see crossbenchers lining up with the government to rush this inquiry through. I am not particularly surprised to see Senator Hanson and One Nation lining up with the government. We know they vote with the government about 85 per cent of the time, I think, proving over and over again that they are nothing but an arm of the Liberal Party. This is just yet another dodgy deal that has been done by Senator Hanson with the Liberals courtesy of the preference deals that she negotiated in Western Australia.
But I am particularly disappointed to see the Nick Xenophon Team voting with the government to support this farcical noninquiry into far-reaching changes to racial discrimination laws. I have only been in this place a short period of time, but I have certainly heard and I have certainly experienced that Senator Xenophon, in particular, has been one of the guardians of proper process in this place and making sure that the Senate does have the appropriate amount of time to properly investigate significant proposals about the law. So it is deeply disappointing to see that Senator Xenophon and his colleagues today come in and have clearly done some sort of backroom deal with government to rush through an inquiry that will not give ethnic communities right around Australia, including in their home state of South Australia, the opportunity to comment on these proposals, which ethnic communities are very concerned will cause severe distress to people right around Australia.
It should not be happening. We should have a proper inquiry into this. The ninth of May is not too far away. That would enable the committee to hear from people. The crossbenchers should be ashamed of standing with the government on this.