Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Order for the Production of Documents
At the request of Senator McGrath, I move:
That there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, by no later than midday on 10 December 2020, the report by Kerry Blackburn, commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), in relation to the ABC's coverage of the 2019 election.
Labor won't be supporting this motion. We support transparency, but we won't be part of a coordinated attack on the ABC by this government, by anyone—from Senator Bragg to Minister Fletcher. We do not support this motion from Senator McGrath, who regularly seeks to undermine the national broadcaster. The ABC has statutory independence, a term that you guys don't understand, and the government must respect that independence. This motion undermines continuous improvement in election coverage at the ABC, when the ABC is the most trusted news source in Australia and a fundamental pillar of our democracy. Labor will not be part of any base, short-sighted or ideological attack that undermines our democracy.
The Greens will not be supporting this motion. I am concerned that this is just one more step in the attack by this government—they can't help themselves—on the ABC, our public broadcaster. Australians love their ABC. They know that it is the most trusted news source. Boy, don't this lot hate it! They hate it. They are obsessed with attacking the public broadcaster, attacking the people who work there and attacking the Australians who tune in every night and all through the day to access their local news on the ABC. It is fundamental in this country that we have a public broadcaster—
It is a clear convention in this place, where leave is granted for contributions to be made in relation to motions, that that leave is granted so that a senator can explain, simply, their position—not to debate the motion. If senators are going to carry on in this manner, leave will not be granted.
Order! Everyone knows my view of this particular session of business and the farce that it has become and the limits placed on the other senators who aren't given the right to speak and explain their position, so I won't restate that. But I will say one thing. The ability to grant leave is in the hands of every single individual senator—I also note, me included, but I think it's inappropriate for me to deny it; it's tempting sometimes. Anyone can be denied leave and I don't have to say who it is. I seek the unanimous consent of the chamber. So, if any one senator decides to, that means this procedure will end. Secondly, once leave is granted, a point of order can't be raised, I'm afraid, unless there's something unparliamentary, Senator Birmingham, because leave has been granted to make a one-minute statement. There are no orders around that.
I would encourage people, though, to remember that the practice has been that senators do allow parties and crossbenchers to state a position—again, in the hands of all 75 other senators—and that has been done in the terms that Senator Birmingham noted: to explain rather than debate, conscious that, if you do debate, you are disallowing other senators from debating what you have asserted, which I think is unfair. This procedure works this way, and it is done by convention, not by standing order. You've finished your contribution, I gather. You have 15 seconds remaining, Senator Hanson-Young.
Thank you, Senator Hanson-Young. I've had to apologise to people too, so that's fair enough. I will now put the question on the motion moved by Senator Rennick at the request of Senator McGrath, No. 934. The question is that motion No. 934 be agreed to.