Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee; Reference
I understand the statements that other senators have made and I understand that they're not supporting this committee reference, so I'm not expecting my words to influence the outcome of the proposal by my colleague Senator McKim, which is, on the face of it, really quite simple: to have a more thorough examination of a very, very large number of amendments that are intended to be put and, potentially, passed by this chamber within the next couple of days on issues that go to some of the fundamental parts of our freedoms. I know the core of this legislation, the broader ideas of it, has gone before the joint security committee. If I'm correct, that's one that doesn't have crossbench representation.
I literally do have a grey beard so I probably am playing the 'old grey beard' role of the Senate here but this brings to me so many echoes of so many previous debates. I recall a number of times when former Senator Robert Ray, who was very ferocious in the way he put his arguments but very learned in his approach, would back up his position with facts rather than just hollow rhetoric. There was a view back then, and there still is today, that somehow security matters are the domain of just the two parties of the political establishment, and, for crossbenchers, it is, 'You can look at it all once we decide to give it to you in the chamber.' That would be okay if we then had adequate time to look at the detail of those matters. These are not minor matters—I won't repeat what my colleague Senator McKim just said about some of them. They are large in number. Perhaps this may give some senators some reason not to reconsider their position on this motion—I know that won't happen—but to at least consider ensuring that this debate, when it happens in this chamber, is not guillotined, that the amendments are properly examined and that, if necessary, it goes through to the next sitting in August. Unless a case is made for extreme urgency on the grounds of security, then it does merit proper scrutiny. Surely, if there's one thing that this chamber should still be able to hold its head up as being able to do properly, it is to properly scrutinise legislation.
The particular echo I had, in a strange way, folds back to the comments that Senator Dean Smith just made on a separate report. In the week that this chamber guillotined through the legislation to make same-sex marriage illegal, it also guillotined through two pieces of antiterrorism legislation, also under the guise that somehow this was super-urgent, super-necessary and just had to be pushed through. Right on the eve of the election, the chamber went right through to a Friday and guillotined it through. It was part of what made that particular week so distressing, because they were such serious matters. We all know how many more times we've had security legislation and antiterrorism legislation of all sorts continually put through this chamber since then. Each time it's justified as being necessary but each time it's also justified as being urgent.
Here we've got something with so much detail and on matters of such significance—areas where, frankly, it hasn't been proven that a lot of the past changes have been necessary. Surely, we can finally learn from those past mistakes and not just keep going over the same old problem. Maybe this will end up getting passed anyway by whatever combination of senators, whether it is both the traditional parties of the establishment or some mixture of the crossbench, but let's at least ensure that we have proper scrutiny.
The ideal way to do that on something of this level of detail and by something that enables broader scrutiny by a cross-section of the community—who are the people that will be most directly affected by this, not us in this chamber—is to send it to a Senate committee. But seeing that we're probably not doing that, I simply take the opportunity to urge the Senate to make sure that there is full scrutiny given to all these amendments; that, if necessary, it not be guillotined through this week and that it be given the level of sober and proper consideration that the Australian community deserves. (Time expired)