Senate debates

Monday, 15 March 2010

Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010

Third Reading

3:53 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Finance and Debt Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a third time

In acknowledging the issues surrounding bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the concerns held by Australian consumers in regard to their health security and the concerns held by a large section of the cattle industry in the threat to the security of the Australian beef herd, it is very important that we enact a bill that enshrines the backflip of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mr Burke, the other day. The minister clearly pointed out, and has been held to account, that his initial position on BSE was wrong. The minister now acknowledges that we need to have an analysis process rather than an assessment. The minister acknowledges that the food labelling standards are insufficient. But the minister does not acknowledge that we need to have a traceability scheme. The question—and the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010 deals with it—is to put in legislative form the minister’s decision and backflip. In putting in legislative form the minister’s backflip, we also bring into place quite naturally the matter of traceability. How can you have a proper risk analysis without traceability? Why would we have put our nation’s herd and the Australian consumer at threat by not initially dealing with this in the proper format? This bill takes the same form of labelling standard for the beef industry standard that is acknowledged in the pork industry.

There was a large outcry at the importation of beef from countries with BSE. This outcry was heard not only in regional Australia but also in metropolitan Australia. It came from consumers in Australia—the working mothers and housewives, the guys who go to the butcher shops—who wanted to know that they were eating a clean green Australian product, no questions asked. They did not want to have over their heads the effect of a product that could have come from a country that had bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Everybody rightly holds the concerns of what mad cow disease can do when it comes into human form as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.  Some people say it is only a minor concern, but it is not that minor when you are not able, for instance, to donate blood in Australia if you have lived in England. If you have lived in England for a period of time—I think it is for five years—you cannot donate blood in Australia. That is the sort of concern that is held across the board about the influence of this condition.

Australia has many attributes but one of our greatest attributes is our clean green image—the image of our food not only being abundant but also being some of the safest and cleanest in the world. It was the Labor government that decided to put this under threat. It was the Labor government that went forward and one night decided that we would have the importation of beef from countries with BSE. It was peculiar in the extreme. Even a week before Minister Burke’s backflip, he was announcing once more to the world that this was the proper decision and the right decision. A week later he told us it was the wrong decision and he was going to recant everything he had previously said and go down the path that is spelt out in this bill.

There was a lot of hard footwork done by quite a number of people within the coalition. I would like to acknowledge the hard work done by my colleagues Senator Nash, Senator Williams and Senator Heffernan most especially, the hard work done by Senator Chris Back—it was great to have a vet in the house—who clearly spelt out the issues pertaining to this, and obviously Senator Colbeck. This is an issue that really galvanised people. The Australian people asked us to go forward and try to resolve this issue. Once more, we will have success on this because from the position of opposition we will have the capacity to change the direction of the government and bring it back to a sense of sanity.

I say to the Australian Labor government: stop making these decisions which leave the Australian public behind. The decision to import beef from countries with mad cow disease was a bureaucratic decision straight from the minister’s office. It would have been inflicted on Australian consumers who formerly had got an Australian-grown clean green product that they had no questions about whatsoever. We would have had a situation where, if you had a meat pie, you would not have known whether it was Australian beef or beef from a country with BSE.

The Labor government has to stop making these decisions overnight that go contrary to the wishes of the Australian people. This is a clear indication of it. It is another example of how the Australian Labor government cannot be diligent in the process they follow. How was the Australian public going to have any confidence in a decision about food safety and about the diligence of the Australian Labor government to make sure that we did not have any cases of BSE-inflicted Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease coming into our nation when this was the same crowd that brought us the ceiling insulation debacle? Take the amount of diligence that was shown in the ceiling insulation debacle, which has killed four people, burnt down 106 houses and electrified over 1,000 roofs. If this was the management critique that was then going to be applied to the importation of beef from countries with mad cow disease, then the Australian people had every right to be concerned. And we had every responsibility, as a coalition, to draft a bill to protect the Australian people from this risk.

So it was the coalition that went forward and drafted this bill, and this bill states we must have an analysis process. It is not an assessment process; it is an analysis process. It is a diligent analysis process conducted to clearly dispel and to ventilate any risks that would obviously be present with the importation of beef from countries with BSE. It is the coalition that has said that we must have traceability. Australia has invested so much into the National Livestock Identification Scheme, and so we have every right to say if this is the prerequisite we put on our own beef producers then surely we should not expose our own beef producers to competition from other countries that do not intend to have this traceability. We go out of our way to protect Australian consumers from risks and to trace the product from birth—from the paddock to the plate. We do that in Australia. If we demand that sort of protection for Australian consumers in the western suburbs of Sydney, in the western suburbs of Brisbane and in our regional towns and country areas—so if we demand that sort of protection for Australian consumers in our own nation—then why would we not demand the same sort of protection for Australian consumers when the beef comes from somewhere else? It would stand to reason that we would not have one rule for beef that comes in and yet another rule for our own beef. That would make sense, but apparently, in the first instance, it did not make sense to the minister.

It would also make sense that we would tell the consumer quite clearly where their beef was coming from. That would seem to be a natural concern. We do it with pork. Why wouldn’t we do it with beef? It was self-evident. It seemed to be self-evident to us and it seemed to self-evident to the Australian consumer, but it was not self-evident to the minister in the first instance. It was also quite obvious that we needed forms—so we had traceability, we needed an analysis process and we needed labelling. It was not, in the first instance, evident to the minister, and he forthrightly went forward and stated his case not only in the first instance, but in multiple instances after that, that he was set in his ways, that this was the way that we were going and that he would boldly go where no other agricultural minister had been before, and that he would force on the Australian people the prospect of the consumption of beef from countries with mad cow disease without the proper traceability, an analysis process or anything else entailed in that.

He said that until about 8 March and then all of a sudden there was an epiphany, an epiphany for Minister Burke: he has now changed his mind! And what he has changed his mind to is virtually everything that we have in this bill. So wouldn’t it make sense since he has made that journey—since he has made that long march and since, stone by stone, he has crossed the river to find himself in the position of the coalition camp—that he would complete the journey by endorsing what is written in paper, which is manifestly what he is saying himself? It is nothing but a fit of pique and his own substantial ego that preclude him from making that final statement to finish his journey on his position to the coalition’s position by endorsing what, quite evidently, is in this bill. And now we are going to hear the ridiculous arguments from the Labor Party of how it was not really a backflip, it was something else—it was political gymnastics; it was Rudolf Nureyev, as orchestrated by Minister Burke—and they are not going to endorse what is written in the bill, which is emphatically and almost completely what he stated the other day. So we will go through this scenario. Those watching will understand this. We have put down on paper what the minister has said in an audible form the other day. We are now asking for the minister to confirm in an actual form what is stated in our bill. But the minister will find a reason not to go the full nine yards on this, and the only reason he will not is because he does not want to offend his ego. This is about Minister Burke’s ego, it has nothing to do with the proper process that is quite self-evident, which he even now acknowledges is the path we should be going back down.

The Australian consumer and the Australian cattle grower can be quite comfortable in the knowledge that the reason we are going to protect them from the consumption of beef from countries with mad cow disease is that we took up the fight and we put in legislation, this bill, to stop all this. The Labor Party, with the arrogance they have developed and their belief of omnipotent knowledge whereby they go forward with complete conceit, forced these decisions on the Australian people, and what more primary form of decision can you force on the Australian public than to say: ‘We will now import into your country’—into this clean, green country—‘beef from countries with mad cow disease, and we will not have a proper analysis process, and we will not have a traceability process and we will not have a labelling process. We will just bring this beef in.’

But the force of the Australian people has once more forced a turnaround on this, just like it did with the ETS. It is an incredible thing, democracy. It is an incredible thing, given the power of the public when they say, ‘No, it doesn’t matter what you say, Minister Burke; you will change.’ And Mr Burke has changed, but he has only changed in the audible form. What he now has to do to show his sincerity in this epiphany, to show his repentance over this issue, to show that he is genuine in his desire to keep beef from countries with mad cow disease out of Australia when it does not have the proper analysis, traceability or labelling process behind it, to show that he is genuine, is to have the Labor Party join as a supporter of this bill. If they do not, it is another one of the Labor Party’s two-bob each-way bets. It is like the moral issue of our time, the ETS, the thing that everything had to stop for. It became the lesser moral position of our time or a second-hand position and today we have that absolutely farcical approach of Minister Carr doing the speaking for Minister Wong. Why? Because Minister Wong has been completely and utterly sidelined.

It is good to put this to the Senate. I ask all those involved to make sure that we give the Australian people the protection that they demand, which will be enshrined in this bill rather than just talked about, as the Labor Party likes to do. It is all talk and no action. This is exactly what the Labor Party is about, all talk and no action. Here is a bill for action. Let us see which wins today. Do we have a bill for action or do we have to rely on Labor Party words?

4:08 pm

Photo of Kerry O'BrienKerry O'Brien (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have just witnessed the coalition gag debate on the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010 and then Senator Joyce comes in and speaks for 15 minutes—what I would describe as 14½ minutes of drivel and about 30 seconds of common sense. He was a bit het up. He described the disease as ‘bungee spovine’ or something or other at the start, then he rambled over a number of issues as to a bill that the coalition just gagged debate on and then he had the gall to talk about the minister having ego. If ever there was a performance about ego, it was that drivel just delivered by Senator Joyce. It was probably because he is not allowed to speak about anything else; he is not allowed to speak about his portfolio. He has been gagged by the leader of the coalition because he blunders so often in that area. We will be voting against this bill because the bill is about as logical and about as well written as Senator Joyce’s last speech. We will not be voting for it.

4:09 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010. I learn all the time and I am most interested in the contribution by Senator O’Brien in the last couple of moments with regard to what he referred to as the gag. He might care to go back and read the Hansard and the 20 minutes of the contribution by Senator Sterle the other day on this particular issue in which, by his admission, he said nothing and had nothing to say. In contrast to that, Senator O’Brien actually did, and I hope to draw the attention of the Senate to some of those comments.

The motion which I support reads ‘a bill for an act to ensure equivalence to Australian production standards in the importation of bovine meat and meat products, and for related purposes’. It is important for the Australian community, for beef processors and producers that this bill be understood and passed. There are three essential elements to the bill and they relate to these three areas: firstly, herd identification and a trace-back system; secondly, import risk analysis; and, thirdly, food labelling.

The first essential is that bovine meat and meat products not be imported into Australia until the minister—not bureaucrats—is satisfied that the originating country has in place a program equivalent to Australia’s superior national livestock herd identification system. Why do I emphasise equivalence? Because, in his contribution the other day, Senator O’Brien expressed great concern that we were demanding exactly the same national herd identification system that Australia has. At no time have we demanded this and the bill speaks about it.

I have established with representatives of the Australian cattle industry, in the four hearings that we have had into this issue, that they concur with me that it is essential that we do have that level of equivalence. There is ample evidence, in the Hansard of the public meetings, that support is given by the Cattle Council and others associated with the cattle industry for this. Why is trace-back important? Because it is essential that we can trace back, in the event of any untoward event or activity associated with meat for human consumption, from the retail shelves through the processor to the abattoir, and from the abattoir to the farms that may have provided animals on that particular occasion. Through the excellence of the scheme we have, Australia leads the world in this. Regrettably, many of the countries that have indicated an interest in importing beef and beef products from Australia have indicated to this date that they are not interested in that process.

The second essential element in this bill that I speak of is that we demand and require a full import risk analysis to be undertaken before bovine meat or meat products can be imported into Australia from countries which have had BSE diagnosed in their herds. I am delighted that, as a result of the public hearings we have had, the evidence before us and the community interest that has been engendered as a result, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has seen fit to endorse this view and to enact it. This is critically important in what I hope will become support by everybody in this chamber for the bill.

Thirdly, the bill calls for action on food labelling. It calls for action by the minister, within 28 days from its commencement, that a labelling standard relating to the country of origin of the beef or beef products coming into Australia be determined. Again—second leg of the trifecta and I should be at the gallops—I am delighted to record that the minister, with the committee and our findings into the fact that food labelling of this type is appropriate, is prepared to move in that direction. It is tremendous that that committee—supported, I hope, on this particular occasion behind the scenes by Senators O’Brien and Sterle—had some influence on the minister in that regard. The most critical aspect of this process is that it must be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny and ministerial accountability before decisions are made to change policies of such critical importance. We have not in the past had the circumstance that beef or a product coming into this country has had the prospect or the possibility, however remote, that it might end up causing a fatal disease of humans, in variant CJD, or indeed a disease of cattle, as in BSE. Remote, yes, but there is no precedent for this.

Australia is, and will remain, a full participant in free-trade activities between countries. We lead the world in this regard, especially as it relates to agricultural commodities. There is no reason for any other country to attempt to mount a case that Australia in some way is in default in this way, and anybody who claims that is being mischievous.

The World Trade Organisation dictates that a country shall not impose any restrictions or hurdles on a would-be importing country or its producers that it does not impose on itself. In this case, Australia enjoys the highest possible health rating for beef and its products and we have a trace-back system, which I have recorded as being world’s best practice. Therefore, there is no capacity for any other country to bring the allegation against Australia that we are demanding of others what we do not already demand of ourselves. It completely complies with World Trade Organisation edicts.

It is not adequate, from the viewpoint of the Australian community, that such a critical policy change be delegated to bureaucrats in the absence of ministerial responsibility and accountability, and these are points that increasingly became apparent as we had our public meetings in December last year and February this year. The committee investigating the BSE issue was faced with the prospect that this entire action could be taken as a result of policy change and implemented by departmental officers with no ministerial direction.

I have the utmost respect for my veterinary colleagues and others for their competence and integrity when it comes to this particular activity. However, they should not have the burden placed on them of implementing policies without ministerial direction, parliamentary scrutiny or ministerial accountability. This bill provides exactly for that process and it is the reason why it should be supported by everybody in this chamber. This is what the parliament is about—taking responsibility for major decisions that affect the Australian community.

To illustrate my point, I draw the chamber’s attention to information—only received on Thursday of last week—that in late February Canada had diagnosed its 18th case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. But the Canadians delayed this announcement to both the international animal health organisation, the OIE, and their American colleagues for some two weeks into this year. You might ask, ‘What is the significance of that?’ The case was confirmed on 25 February. It only came to public attention last week and there are those amongst US producer and consumer groups that say it only came to attention as a result of their pressure. It is important because some 4,000 older bulls and cows per week are transported from Canada into the United States, animals of an age that would potentially be able to contract BSE—of an age as this particular Angus cow was diagnosed on 25 February. Both Canada and the United States have had BSE diagnosed and would be interested in importing product into this country. So the case is relevant, the case is important and it does deserve the attention we are giving it. Further, it is important to understand that once cattle from Canada come into the United States they are allowed to mingle with the US herd. There are no restrictions on them entering the US food chain and, furthermore, they enter the non-ruminant US animal-feeding system. All of those issues are important to us.

A full import risk analysis provides that high level of surety that the Australian community, consumers, producers and processors have every right to expect. It is a process in which relatively competent Australian officials can consider all aspects pertaining to the risk associated with importing beef from those countries; but, more to the point, it allows our officers, as part of the IRA process, to visit the countries that may nominate to import beef into Australia. They can investigate all the standards of herd identification, trace-back from property of origin to abattoir and trace-back through abattoir to processors and processors onto the retail shelves. It allows them to examine all the processes of those activities and to assure us that Australia enjoys world’s best practice. If we do not, it enables us to modify our management so that we do.

Mistakes have been made in the past by our Quarantine officials. They have learned from their mistakes. We all hope they do not repeat them. But a full risk import analysis allows them to review their own standards and to advise government on possible budgetary or other allocations that may be necessary either in countries which would import to Australia or at our shores at the port of importation so that they can give effect to the safety that Australian consumers require.

I refer again to the food labelling laws in this country—and if this bill does nothing else it draws attention to the fact that there is a radical and urgent need for overhaul of our food labelling laws. Consumers in this country have the right to know the origin of each component of foodstuffs they are contemplating purchasing. It is an insult to have a product imported into this country, packaged or repackaged in Australia and presented on the shelves as Australian made or as an Australian product. It is an insult and should be stopped. If the food labelling edict contained within the bill we are proposing has any effect at all, it should be to stop it. For example, in the United States, if a consumer is eating hamburger meat which has been produced in Australia, that consumer knows that that beef is of Australian origin. Fortunately for us and for the reputation of our industry, it is actually a selling point. We deserve the same and so do our consumers.

I commend this bill to the Senate. I hope that it will enjoy bipartisan support, both in this place and the other. The minister has seen fit to effectively endorse two components of the platform upon which we have drafted this bill, leaving only what I would refer to as the ‘gate to plate’ trace back element of the bill to be determined. As the bill states, the action is to ensure equivalence to Australian production standards in the importation of bovine meat and meat products. A critically important element of the Australian offer is our capacity to trace back from the retail shelves through the processor and the abattoir to the farm of origin. Others as yet have not achieved this. Until such time as they do, they should not be contemplating selling into this market. It requires ministerial accountability, not bureaucratic implementation. I commend the bill to the chamber.

4:22 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

This is an embarrassment for the opposition. We are now debating this they gagged the debate on this bill, the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010, during general business—their business—on Thursday, which prevented senators from speaking. They have now used the opportunity of the third reading to bring their senators back to speak again. It is ridiculous. They are engaging in a shonky political stunt. That is why we are now debating. During the third reading, they are finding more speakers to speak on the bill. Because the opposition gagged the debate on the Thursday, this is now intruding in the time for government business.

The opposition claims that the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010 is of vital importance. Indeed. There are important issues at stake here. As the first speaker of the bill, Senator Williams, said, it goes to the heart of Australia’s clean, green image, which allows people not only in Australia but overseas to buy Australian food with total confidence. They were fine words, quite frankly. But that raises this question: if these issues are so important, why close down the debate during general business on Thursday? Why cut it short before it was adequately considered and then attempt to use the third reading to debate it?

It is ironic that the opposition has sought to gag the debate on a food standards bill. In so doing, they are treating the Senate like a sausage machine. They seem not to have been able to get out of the habit that they developed between 2004 and 2007. The opposition has in recent times liked to champion the role of the Senate as a house of review. Indeed it is. As such, it is one of the key checks and balances that is an essential part of any strong democratic system. But when the opposition does nothing but obstruct government bills; waste time; abuse the committee system by, for example, sending bills off for umpteenth dozen inquiries, then you have to ask yourself this question: are they taking the Senate seriously or are they simply reverting back to their old standards of treating the Senate like a sausage machine?

They used the gag motion. It has been used six times since 1998. Senator Parry can claim to have used it a number of times equal to a third of that. The closure of debate is used very infrequently. Fundamentally, it is anathema to the way that this Senate works. The Senate is one of the places where debate is not closed down; the debates are not gagged. However, we have now seen an unusual course taken by the opposition to close down debate in the Senate. Those on the other side in this chamber claim that they are not acting in an obstructionist manner. They clearly are. The Senate is supposed to be able to debate and review legislation. The opposition have used the gag motion to close down debate.

By moving to rush this bill through, the opposition is revealing that it is not only obstructionist but arrogantly obstructionist. On this bill, the first speaker, Senator Williams, gave us about five minutes of his time and addressed none of the specifics of the legislation. This is a hasty piece of legislation which the opposition is keen to simply rubberstamp through this chamber. But this legislation needs more consideration. The Senate Selection of Bills Committee has not decided that the bill should not be referred to a committee. In addition, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report on beef imports, including BSE matters, has been deferred. We have yet to see the final report and the comments of the senators, including of course opposition senators who participated in that inquiry. It is foolhardy to not have the final report on the record before there is an attempt to pre-empt its findings by bringing this bill before the chamber. One of the matters that those opposite have always stood for in this chamber is ensuring that information is available from Senate committee reports on particular legislation. They already wrecked that rule. Now they have wrecked it again.

The government have had limited time to look at the bill and limited time to explore the consequences of the legislation. It is not good legislative practice to use general business and now a third reading debate to air this particular piece of legislation. It can be squarely framed as simply a political stunt by those opposite. In relation to the urgency of this matter, why is it as urgent as more important legislation that the government has before it, such as the private health insurance legislation or the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation? The Australian people deserve more scrutiny of legislation and more accountability than this rushed process on this hastily and poorly drafted legislation that this opposition are now trying to ram through the Senate.

Senator Williams made the statement that this bill was very important. Quite frankly, I absolutely agree. This issue is of great importance, particularly to people in the bush but also to all Australians. But we have not seen in this chamber in the last two years—but particularly since the new Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, has taken over the reins—substantive and proper argument about what is good for Australia and Australians. All we have seen has been pure obstructionist political point scoring by the opposition. Heedless of the waste of time and money that they are causing, the opposition is holding up legislation.

I am not going to use up my time in this debate in full. But I needed to make the points that I have just made so that it is clear why we are having a third reading debate in relation to a private member’s bill. Whether they are stacking the list of speakers, whether they are using endless repetition on the same points or whether they are referring bills to committee for the umpteenth dozen time, it seems that the opposition have made plain that their only position is to be obstructionist for obstructionism’s sake; to say, ‘No.’

I have a little parable for them then. All mums and dads recognise that some oppositional behaviour from toddlers is a normal part of growing up and learning to think and do things in your own way. The federal opposition, however, seem stuck at a permanent stage of toddlerhood, lacking their own vision for the country’s future. They are trying to fill the void with noes and a raft of silly games worthy of a two-year-old. This is not what the Senate is for.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

They are complaining loudly about this now. They do not like the frame, but it fits. Rather than circumspectly using the Senate to consider important matters carefully so as to improve legislation, they have now taken control of the Senate, gagged their own debate and sought to use the third reading to air their grievances again. Ultimately, they do not give careful consideration to legislation and do not provide a better course for Australians to be able to consider whether this legislation should or should not pass. Ultimately, it is a private senator’s bill where they gagged their own work on general business on Thursday.

4:31 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Ludwig cannot have it both ways. I will be very brief compared with Senator Ludwig, who has taken about 11 minutes. Senator Sterle—the only other government speaker who contributed to the debate on the Food Importation (Bovine Meat Standards) Bill 2010 on Thursday—spoke for 20 minutes and hardly touched on the topic. At one stage I interjected, and I was reprimanded by the Acting Deputy President at the time. I said, ‘What has this got to do with the bovine meat bill?’ to which Senator Sterle replied—and I hope Senator Ludwig takes note of this:

Senator Parry asks what this has got to do with it. I’ll help you out, mate. Clearly this is filibustering from you lot. That is what we have seen here. You just oppose for the sake of opposing.

We complied with the filibustering allegation, and we put the motion that the question be put. Putting the motion curbs the debate. Senator Ludwig should know that that had nothing to do with government business time. We were taking our own time. We gagged our own debate. We did not gag the government’s debate. So Senator Ludwig is wrong on two points. He had a filibustering senator on his side who wasted 20 minutes with quotes like ‘boofhead’ and ‘thickhead’ and talking about the CPRS bills. He went on to everything bar the bill that was currently before the chamber. You may want to read Senator Sterle’ speech in the Hansard. It was a great contribution, but not for that particular debate, unfortunately. So Senator Sterle let the cat out of the bag on Thursday during our own time and we curbed our own debate. Senator Ludwig is wrong on two counts.

This is simply covering up. I am going to quote Senator Colbeck, who interjected in Senator Ludwig’s contribution a short while ago. He said, in response to his comments, ‘You haven’t got used to governing yet.’ And that is the problem. You accuse us of doing anything we want in this chamber, but we do not have the numbers. We need to have senators from the crossbench to do anything. The senators from the crossbench, who represent other states and other constituencies, support us. You cannot get used to the fact that you do not have the numbers. We have the numbers if we have the consent and the support of other senators. This is simply a debate that has the support of everyone in the parliament except for the government, because they got it wrong. They are too embarrassed to admit they could not legislate themselves, so we took up our own time to legislate for them, and we are going to fix the problem. That is what it boils down to: you are embarrassed by that. There is a new mantra from the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister has failed on so many fronts: ‘We can’t fix this anymore.’ The Prime Minister has even failed to negotiate with the minors and the crossbenchers. So what is the old adage? ‘Let’s just blame the opposition. We’ve failed, so let’s just blame the opposition.’ That is the easy line. Without taking up any more of the chamber’s time, unlike the government, who have wasted a lot of time on this debate, we are certainly going to support the bill’s third reading.

Question put:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time.