Senate debates

Thursday, 3 December 2020


Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2020; In Committee

10:42 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

The Greens will be supporting this motion for having this report in continuing effect, to report on what has occurred under this legislation. It is a tiny measure that we have been able to get through this chamber to provide some level of accountability for this bill. It is a tiny measure, which is why we will support it.

In terms of the bill overall, the Greens know that issues of foreign interference are serious. We know that it is far preferable to have the Commonwealth, the states, the territories, universities and local governments, actually working collaboratively and coherently together to make sure that their interactions with foreign governments and foreign universities are in the national interest. The Greens would have supported reasonable legislation that aimed to do that—legislation that was developed collaboratively and cooperatively, with input from the states, the territories, the universities and local governments, before the legislation was put into this place. But we cannot support this legislation. As I said, this motion is to have an annual report on the legislation. Other than that, this legislation gives unbridled power to the foreign minister. It hasn't been developed in consultation with affected parties; it hasn't got definitions in it; there are no guidelines on how decisions are going to be made as to overriding decisions that sovereign governments have made with foreign entities. There are no reasons for decisions that have to be issued to people who are going to be affected—who have had their decisions overridden. There is retrospectivity, so that states, territories and universities can enter into arrangements, and at some stage in the future, because foreign policy is deemed to have changed, suddenly their arrangements can be overridden. There is no procedural fairness, as we discussed earlier on today. It has all been, 'Trust us; everything will be fine.' Frankly, we do not trust you. You have form in not being able to be trusted to work cooperatively and genuinely with everyone to make sure things are occurring in the national interest and in the interests of all Australians, not just for your vested interests, not just for the people that you happen to get on with. The Greens, as I said, would have supported legislation that went to the serious issue that we're facing. We are supporting this amendment as one tiny measure, but, overall, we cannot support this legislation.


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