Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3900 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
That is certainly what the Greens are proposing. There is also here an issue about the culture of politics. Politicians who seek absolute power, who rant and rave across the chamber, who turn political debate into petty bickering or outright bullying, fail to understand the importance of a civil contest of ideas, the importance of understanding that conflict is institutionalised so as to be civil and respectful and to deliver accountability and transparency in the work of those elected to serve the people. This contest of several different views is essential in a democracy.
Queensland Liberal Senator Brandis has been speaking stridently against the Senate recently. I was interested to see his comments about the Senate in an article in the Australasian Parliamentary Review. Talking about his experience in the Senate, he said:
...a second impression which again rather surprised me as somebody who had seen the political conflict mediated through the five second grab on television news programs was the collegiality. Perhaps this is merely a feature of the Senate. I am not sure. But certainly within the Senate perhaps born of the fact that the government does not control the chamber and has not done so for a generation and therefore members must work more closely together, perhaps because of the committee system.
Mr Howard and Labor appear to be quite comfortable with the notion of removing the part of our democracy which works best. They strut the world stage extolling the virtue of democracy, yet at home they seek to destroy it. As Harry Evans, Clerk of the Senate, said:
The joint sitting would simply be a formality. It would be like the House of Representatives. All government legislation would be just rammed through. Anything the government decreed would be rubber stamped. The whole parliament would be a rubber stamp.
It is actually about increasing power at the expense of accountability.
Mr Speaker, before I conclude I want to talk about the consultative process of the federal government for the discussion paper "Resolving Deadlocks". Last night I attended the first of a series of meetings to be held round Australia at which citizens will be asked their views about the changes proposed. There were about 20 people in attendance. The facilitator was openly supportive of the government's position. The discussion paper presents the case for change. The options presented do not include no change.
What was really interesting about this meeting was the response from the people present. Most of them had not seen the discussion paper before, but by the end of the meeting they were expressing their disappointment at the process. They were under the impression that a meaningful discussion would have allowed for alternative points of view to be put by the panel and be properly canvassed in the discussion paper. As one person put it, it seemed to be just a roadshow for the government's proposal.
Professor Malcolm Mackerras was articulate in his critique of the paper, calling it dishonest. I was concerned to see that, even though Professor Mackerras was against the options presented in the discussion paper, he was asked by the facilitator to choose between the options. Why this concerns me is that it would be most inappropriate if,