Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Leaders' Debate Commission) Bill 2013; Second Reading

3:49 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table the explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Too often our political leaders do not answer the questions which are important to voters, instead feeding them one line slogans or just engaging in a slanging match with their opponents. Voters deserve better from their political leaders.

The Australian Greens believe the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Leader's Debate Commission) Bill 2013 provides a way to make sure the leaders of our country are held to account and give voters the answers they are waiting for. In the past we've witnessed the farce of the two old parties making all the decisions about the format, timing and rules for election debates. This bill establishes an independent, non-partisan Commission to take the politics out of political debates and give Australians an opportunity to hear from all political leaders before the election. The Australian Greens hope to have the Commission established in time for the 2013 federal election and, as the third largest political party, expect to play a key role in this year's debates.

The bill establishes a Leader's Debate Commission which will implement a system to convene three or more debates between the leaders of each party that is a registered political party, and independent or non-aligned members of parliament, within the period of three months prior to each general election for the House of Representatives. The Commission will be impartial, independent and apolitical at all times.

The bill requires a Commissioner and seven Deputy Commissioners to be appointed. Together they will determine the format, length and structure of the debates, the number of debates, the participants, the moderator, the location of the debates, the broadcast and promotion of the debates as well as a system to identify questions that the participants will be asked at each debate.

In order to be representative of all those involved in the debates as well as the general community, the Deputy Commissioners will be chosen from a broad range of professions. The Deputy Commissioners will be a member of the Commonwealth Parliament Press Gallery, a representative of the National Press Club, 1 representative of each of the ALP, Coalition and Australian Greens Parties and 2 non-partisan community representatives. It is necessary to ensure the community have a role in administering the debates to ensure the Commission deliver what the people of Australia want.

The establishment of a Leader's Debate Commission is an important democratic reform for Australia. It will increase the level of the public's engagement with politics at the crucial time of elections to better inform voter's choices.

I commend this bill to the Senate.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.