Thursday, 10 February 2022
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
I present the first report of 2022 of the Selection of Bills Committee. I seek leave to have the report incorporated in Hansard.
The report read as follows—
The report was unavailable at the time of publication
That the report be adopted.
ator McKIM (—) (): I flag that the Greens have a number of amendments to this report. After the two amendments that I will shortly be moving, Senator Rice and Senator Waters will have amendments. I move:
(1) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022, contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
(2) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cyclone and Flood Damage Reinsurance Pool) Bill 2022, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
These two amendments are critical. I will speak first to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cyclone and Flood Damage Reinsurance Pool) Bill 2022. This bill, in effect, creates a system where the government becomes an insurer of last resort. It will only apply to a relatively small geographic part of the country. The reason the government has to do this—or wants to do this—is because insurance companies are vacating the field. The reason insurance companies are vacating the field is because of climate change. What we are facing is a climate that is breaking down around us. Governments are going to have to come to grips with this, because, more and more, we will see insurance companies—driven by the massive, global, multinational, reinsurance companies—vacating the field. This will mean that ordinary Australians won't be able to get insurance on their homes, their properties and their businesses.
This shouldn't just be limited to one small part of the country; this is a valid and growing area of concern around the whole country. It's only going to get worse. So it's critical that this bill be referred to an inquiry, so that Australians from right around the country who will not benefit from this bill can have their voices heard, and Australians who are extremely worried about the lack of climate action and climate ambition with both major parties in this place can make those views heard.
What needs to happen on this bill, ultimately, is that we should be putting a levy on the companies that massively profit from burning fossil fuels, logging our native forests and producing massive carbon emissions as a result. We should be levying them to pay for schemes like this. That's why this needs to go to an inquiry, and that's why the Greens have moved this amendment.
In the short time left to me, I will quickly indicate why we believe that the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022 needs to go to an inquiry. Of course something needs to be done to address some of the online harms that are caused by trolls. This bill does not do that. This is actually not an antitrolling bill, as is claimed in the title. What we've seen from this government is the continued erosion of rights, freedoms and liberties over the last couple of decades. This bill is yet another step in that dangerous path down the road to a surveillance state and a police state. On that basis, if on no other basis, this bill should be referred to an inquiry so people can have a say about that.
Question agreed to.
I seek leave to move three amendments to the Selection of Bills Committee report as circulated in the chamber: Nos (3), (4) and (5).
(3) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Foreign Influences and Offences) Bill 2022, the bill be referred immediately to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 25 March 2022".
(4) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Authorisations) Bill 2022, the bill be referred immediately to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 25 March 2022".
(5) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (COVID Enfranchisement) Bill 2022, the bill be referred immediately to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 25 March 2022".
These amendments pertain to removing the three latest electoral bills from being rammed through this chamber, because we would like to refer those three electoral bills to a committee for scrutiny in the ordinary manner of all legislation, because no-one should be passing legislation that they haven't even seen until 24 hours ago. So these amendments refer each of these three electoral bills—one about COVID enfranchisement, one about authorisations and one about foreign influences—to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry by 25 March. This is a fairly tight inquiry time frame as it is, but—people are looking at me strangely.
I'm sure our chamber attendants will do their very best to circulate them. That is the effect of the amendments: to refer those three electoral bills to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for an inquiry by 25 March. That will be with you on a piece of paper shortly.
The reason that we need these bills to be properly inquired into is that no-one should pass laws that they've only just seen in draft form 24 hours ago, particularly laws that relate to people's ability to vote and choose the government of the day. Some of these bills sound innocuous. Maybe they are, but we will never know unless we have time to scrutinise them and hear from experts and potentially find loopholes or nefarious consequences that the Senate might then seek to amend and close and change. That's the whole point of an inquiry, so it's kind of ironic that we need to argue for basic process here.
I might just point out that these three bills follow 10 electoral bills that we've seen in five months, so we have had a flurry of attempts by the government to change very fundamental rules about voting and elections in the shadow of an election that they are desperate to attempt to win, because they are so deeply unpopular throughout the entire community—in particular the Prime Minister. This is not the way to win an election—trying to rig the system at the last minute and ram through bills that suit your own purposes. It's pretty shameless, folks, even for you. So we'd like these bills to be inquired into.
I might add that, the last time we dealt with electoral legislation, this government was proposing to bring in the requirement that voters show identification before they voted and to then set up a convoluted, impractical process in the event that someone couldn't provide identification. It was a pure attempt to disenfranchise people. It would have had the effect of disenfranchising First Nations people, people without a home and women fleeing from violence. These are people who might not have their ID papers with them. They might not have ID papers at all, and they might not have a person who can come along to the polling booth and vouch for them, so that they can get a declaration vote. It was a shameless way of trying to deflate the vote of people who traditionally don't vote for the Liberal Party.
A deal was done between the two big parties. In the course of dealing with that bill, the government were also trying to silence the genuine involvement and advocacy of not-for-profit organisations in the contest of ideas that is an election campaign. They were trying to bring an additional layer of bureaucracy to non-government organisations which advocate for their purposes—sometimes, charitable purposes—and which are already covered by a schema that heavily regulates charities. The government were essentially seeking to silence dissent and silence voices that call out their terrible policies. In the course of dealing with that bill, the two big parties did a deal together, as they so frequently do, and pushed off voter ID laws. Yesterday in this chamber, we saw Senator McGrath introduce his own voter ID bill, so this issue is not dead.
This government is once again trying to rig the electoral system to benefit themselves because they've got nothing left. They've got no policies that anybody likes. They don't have any representatives that anyone likes much any more, if the latest polls are anything to go by. And now they're trying to ram through three more electoral bills which may have consequences that this chamber isn't across without having an inquiry to find out.
We are moving for these three electoral bills to go to an inquiry, as they normally would, in the usual manner. It's particularly important when bills are about voting and the right of people to have their say about who runs this country and protects their future or sells it out to big corporations and political donors.
by leave—I want to move two amendments to the motion to adopt the selection of bills committee report; however, I want to amend what has been circulated, just to change the date from 25 March to 24 March for both motions. With that, I move:
(6) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Social Security Amendment (Improved Child to Adult Transfer for Carer Payment and Carer Allowance) Bill 2022, contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
(7) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Workforce Incentive) Bill 2022, contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
Here are two bits of legislation. It is standard practice for legislation to be sent to a committee for inquiry. It's a really basic part of our job as the Senate—to inquire into bills. It is not acceptable that this legislation is being introduced and not being sent off to a committee for inquiry. By referring these bills for inquiry, we're basically just asking the Senate to do its job so that we have transparency on two bits of really important legislation that are going to affect people's lives—in particular the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Workforce Incentive) Bill 2022, which is in the space of income support and workforce incentives. There is a whole nexus between supporting people who are seeking employment, supporting people who need to be supported by government with income support and the actions that the government can take to support people to move into employment. It is a very complex space, and it's one where we know the government is doing very badly at the moment.
We have people living on income support who cannot find work, who are living in poverty, who are living well below the poverty line, who cannot afford to put food on the table. We've got people who should be on the disability support pension who can't get on the disability support pension—because maybe they will recover from their brain cancer!—who are then on JobSeeker. We've got other people who should be on the disability support pension who are on JobSeeker who are being forced to comply with so-called mutual obligations. Even in COVID we have now got people being forced to go and have face-to-face meetings with their employment services provider; they are being told, 'No, you can't have these meetings over the phone or via videoconferencing; you've got to come in, in person.' We have so many people jumping through hoops which are supposedly meant to help them find work. They feel they are being asked to do so many things which are not helping them find work; it is all just a matter of them having to do crazy things and apply for jobs they know they haven't got a hope of getting and they haven't got the skills to do, but their employment service provider is telling them they've got to do that.
These are the sorts of things that this bill is in the middle of. We really need to get our employment incentives right, with what really works to get people into employment. We need to make sure that people who, for whatever reason, are not able to work get the support they need. We need to at least double the current rate of JobSeeker from the pitiful $43 a day that it is at the moment. The Greens' position is that we need to double it to at least $80 a day so that people are not left living in poverty.
It is critical that everybody in Australia has support and that government can support them so that they can live a decent life, not be in a situation which so many people across Australia are in today—of not being able to afford to put food on the table, of only being able to afford to eat one meal a day, of their kids not being able to have shoes on their feet, of kids not being able to go on school excursions, of people being homeless because they can't afford skyrocketing rents. This is the reality for far too many people in Australia. Yet we have this government saying, 'We'll just invent some other useless workplace incentive and workforce incentive to try and get them into work.' But people know that they need to be lifted out of poverty and be supported to help get their lives in a good place, to help them get the education they need, to help them have a roof over their heads, to help them afford to eat healthy food. These are the sorts of basic measures that will allow people to really live their life to the fullest, to genuinely participate in the workforce. These are the sorts of fundamental measures that need to be inquired into. (Time expired)