Thursday, 22 June 2017
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) it has been more than 18 months since the Economics References Committee tabled its report entitled Third party certification of food, and
(ii) in a response to question on notice no. 438, asked on 29 March 2017, the Government has:
(A) acknowledged that it understood the importance of the recommendations of the inquiry, and
(B) admitted that it has given serious consideration to the inquiry's recommendations and has committed to responding to these recommendations in due course; and
(b) calls on the Government to finalise its serious considerations and expedite implementation of the important recommendations in the report of the Economics References Committee on the inquiry into Australian food certification schemes and certifiers.
I seek leave to move an amendment to Senator Hanson's motion, which would omit paragraph 1 and replace it with: 'rejects the comments made by Senator Hanson yesterday regarding students with autism, suggests Senator Hanson acquaint herself with the principles of inclusion, and calls on Senator Hanson to apologise for her remarks.'
Leave not granted.
The opposition believes the government should provide responses to the reports of Senate committee inquiries. Committee inquiries are a critical part of the work of the Senate. Government responses to committee reports are an important part of this process. Since 1978, successive governments have undertaken to respond to committee reports within a specified period, which is currently three months. It is not acceptable for any government to take over 18 months to respond to a Senate committee report. In supporting the important principle of governments providing responses to committee reports, the opposition is not making a judgement on the findings of the inquiry itself. Labor does not support Senator Hanson's view on halal food.
I should remind the Senate that Senator Dastyari chaired this inquiry, which I initiated, and it was unanimously endorsed, as per the recommendations. It is all well and good for the Labor Party to distance themselves from the report now, but it was endorsed by their chairman. The second point I would like to make is that this report and the recommendations arising from it have actually travelled towards the cabinet. It was taken there by some people. In fact, the meat industry themselves were informed that there was a resolution on the books. But, unfortunately, this cabinet has squibbed it—they have squibbed finding a resolution and they have kicked it into the long grass. This is an indictment upon the process, because they are looking for certainty in the meat industry. It is about time they reported on it. It has been far too long, and I think Senator Hanson is quite right to bring it to the attention of this chamber again.
The Greens will not be supporting this motion. I think Senator Hanson and Senator Bernardi should worry less about the eating habits of other Australians and more about the needs of our children in schools. We heard some of the most hateful, outrageous and disgraceful comments towards young children in schools who need additional support. Senator Hanson thinks they should not get that support. We have a situation—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Regarding having children in schools who have special needs, it is not just important that those children are able to attend those schools; it is good for the other kids in the classroom, who learn that if we are in a civilised society where there is difference we should accept and celebrate that difference, because that is what makes us a decent society.
The motion I have on the table here is to do with certification of our food. I think it is atrocious of the Greens to raise a totally different issue that has nothing to do with the motion that I am moving. They are grandstanding on this issue. Go back and watch the tape of what I said yesterday, and you will understand that I am actually trying to—
I will debate the issue to do with what I said yesterday with regard to autistic kids. I believe they need as much assistance and help as any other child in our education system. So let's deal with the issue—
Can I indicate on behalf of my colleagues that we support this motion. The unanimous recommendations of the Senate committee were, I believe, uncontroversial. I support halal and, indeed, kosher certification of food. These recommendations were about greater transparency and clarity in certification. We think that the recommendations are uncontroversial and the government should respond accordingly.
Question agreed to.