Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Discovery of Formal Business
by leave—Consistent with the government's position on formal motions, which I outlined to the chamber on two occasions last week, when we get to general business notice of motion No. 669, I flag that the government will seek to have it dealt with during general motions rather than formal motions. As I stated to the chamber last Friday, considered in the context, it is proposed this motion raises complex policy matters on which all senators should have an appropriate opportunity to explain their position in an appropriately detailed and nuanced fashion. This session on formal motions is not the right place for detailed debate of complex issues.
I seek leave to make a two-minute statement.
This motion that I am proposing uses well-considered, neutral language to present accurate data on deaths in custody from the latest report of the government's own Australian Institute of Criminology. This is not the first time a grubby backroom deal between Labor, Liberals and Nationals has been used to deny the formality of such motions. When everyday Australians go to a polling booth, do they look at the names and think, 'I will vote for this person because they run away from hard issues'? Do they think, 'I'd vote for this person because they're going to be a gutless bastard'? No, certainly not.
No, they certainly do not vote that way. Australians want champions, not cowards. Let me be clear: black lives do matter; all lives do matter. Deaths in custody are a tragedy. They are happening, yet not in the numbers bandied around. In fact, Aboriginal deaths in custody, according to the government's own data, occur at a similar rate as non-Aboriginal deaths in custody. Getting to the truth is the very thing for which this Senate was designed. Truth must be our currency.
On Friday I listened to the Prime Minister refuse to talk about these matters. I understand Senator Cormann taking his orders from the Prime Minister. What I don't understand is why Senator Wong would go along with it. Is Labor now taking instruction from the Prime Minister? Just how deep is the Liberal-Labor duopoly? For the last year, I've stood in shock at the number of times Labor, Liberals and Nationals have crowded themselves onto the opposition benches to vote down a worthy crossbench initiative. With this process, the people's elected representatives have been silenced.
Senators must decide: do we do grubby deals to silence senators just to preserve daily talking points or do we follow the spirit and intent of the rules developed over 120 years to ensure all voices are fairly heard? George Orwell said, 'If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,' even solid data.
Firstly, the Greens are also opposed to these motions being denied formality. These are important issues that we need to be addressing. Senator Roberts made comments about the minister doing deals. It appears there is some sort of deal that has been done, because Senator Roberts's motion on this issue was pulled and withdrawn for today. But I actually want to address the issues around deaths in custody. What the motion failed to mention was that Aboriginal people make up two per cent of our population yet they make up 47 per cent of our prison population. So, when we're talking about facts, let's get the facts right.