Senate debates

Monday, 13 August 2018


President's report on government responses to parliamentary committee reports; Consideration

4:55 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I bring this document to the attention of the Senate to highlight another example of this government showing contempt for the community, and, I might say, contempt for Senate committee processes as well. This Senate long ago indicated a view that has been held across a range of governments since 1973. The Senate declared its opinion that the government should provide a response to committee reports within three months of their tabling. I accept there are a lot more committee reports now than there were back in 1973, but, as this report shows, we're not just talking about the government taking six or even nine months to respond to things. Once again, in this report we've got a whole heap of examples of committee reports going back four, five and six years. There are a whole range of them that go back more than three years. There is a report on the impact of mining in the Murray-Darling Basin that is nine years old.

There are a couple of record breakers here. One looking at issues relating to staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act that was tabled in 2003 still not been responded to. The winner is a certain maritime incident report, a committee that I was part of a very long time ago. It's report was tabled on 23 October 2002. It still has not been responded to. This, of course, goes across the six-year period when Labor was in government.

I'm not in any way suggesting that a government response to a committee report is the only part of the process that matters and that the whole thing is a waste of time otherwise. There are a whole range of ways that Senate committee inquiries inform public debate, and they inform government action in other areas. Nonetheless, to not even provide the basic recognition of giving a final formal response to a Senate committee inquiry, some of which are quite comprehensive, does show a complete lack of respect and a total contempt for the community and all the people who put in the submissions, turned up at public hearings and encouraged others to participate in the inquiry, and some of these inquiries are on issues that are just as current today.

The Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas was tabled six years ago next week. We could hold a bit of a birthday party for it! That will be its sixth anniversary without a formal response, but those issues are still very current and are the subject of very significant concern and campaigning in Queensland, for example, at the moment, with the withdrawal of maternity services in regional and rural areas.

This is just another example of an approach from government where the community doesn't matter. The government just do it all themselves according to their own interests and the interests of their donors and backers. When it gets to a situation where you have such continual lack of response to committee reports, it's not surprising that we see such a growing amount of disillusionment in the community towards the political process itself and a feeling that there is no point contributing to the political process, because governments don't listen. This is a clear example and demonstration of the ways in which they are not listening.

I should, just in case people think I'm being negative, point out that there have been some responses since the last time this document was tabled. It's tabled every six months. There's been some action, some movement, in response to a report in 2011 on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which is good to see, and a response to a 2015 report on housing affordability finally appearing. So there is some movement there, but it really is an inadequate response from government of both persuasions and another reminder of why we need such a major overhaul of our political system. It is another example of how our politics is broken and another example of why the community needs to look for alternatives to the tired-out approach of the parties of the political establishment.