Thursday, 20 March 2008
by leave—It is normal practice in this place for a recommitted vote to come with an explanation by the whip. What we do not know here is whether the whip was just asleep on the job or whether there was a change from the time when the government voted with this motion and a few minutes later when it was decided to recommit it. I think it would be useful to also hear whether the opposition seriously thinks that having Mercy Ministries, described as an American style fundamentalist Christian group, treating young women for drug addiction and psychological disorders by using prayer, exorcisms and Pentecostal religion is appropriate and whether or not some misleading and deceptive behaviour might be going on—not only that these young women are duped into this kind of ridiculous voodoo religious activity but also that Centrelink would be involved in it, in that the payments that were being received by these young women were apparently going directly to Mercy Ministries.
What I raised here is a very important issue. I am pleased to see that the government has agreed with the motion. However, it has been defeated by this side of the chamber, which clearly thinks that this kind of behaviour is okay and should not be investigated. So it would be useful to have an explanation as to why there was a change of heart on this side of the chamber and why it was necessary to reconvene this vote. I am at least pleased to see that the government supports it and will, hopefully, make that referral to the ACCC.
Senator Allison, it is possible that I may have contributed to some of the confusion too because, in going through the list that we usually have, I usually have some idea of whether a motion is going to be opposed or whether it is going to go through on the voices. I did not hear the noes from this side, which is why I called it for the ayes. Had I, I would have probably called it for the noes, but of course that did not preclude them from calling a division, so there is no excuse for that. But I may have contributed to the confusion.
by leave—Our position has always been clear: to oppose the motion. There was some confusion in this part of the chamber. The Government Whip was over this side discussing a different matter at the time and maybe the voices did not come through, but certainly Senator Adams and I did call no and we were not quick enough to call for a division. We apologise for not calling a division, but the intention was very clearly no from the onset of this debate. We had discussed the motion and there has been no change of heart; it has been consistent all the way through.