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ABSTAINED – Committees — Selection of Bills Committee; Report

Anne Urquhart

I present the first report of 2024 of the Selection of Bills Committee. I seek leave to have the report incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The report read as follows—

SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE

REPORT NO. 1 OF 2024

8 February 2024

MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

Senator Anne Urquhart (Government Whip, Chair)

Senator Wendy Askew (Opposition Whip)

Senator Ross Cadell (The Nationals Whip)

Senator Pauline Hanson (Pauline Hanson's One Nation Whip)

Senator Nick McKim (Australian Greens Whip)

Senator Ralph Babet

Senator the Hon. Anthony Chisholm

Senator the Hon. Katy Gallagher

Senator Matt O'Sullivan

Senator David Pocock

Senator Paul Scarr

Senator Lidia Thorpe

Senator Tammy Tyrrell

Senator David Van

Secretary: Tim Bryant

02 6277 3020

SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE

REPORT NO. 1 OF 2024

  1. The committee met in private session on Wednesday, 7 February 2024 at 7.40 pm.

  2. The committee recommends that—

(a) the provisions of the COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 be referred immediately to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 14 March 2024 (see appendix 1 for a statement of reasons for referral);

(b) the Criminal Code Amendment (Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes) Bill 2024 be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 13 November 2024 (see appendix 2 for a statement of reasons for referral); and

(c) the provisions of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Consumer Safeguards and Other Measures) Bill 2023 be referred immediately to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 14 March 2024 (see appendix 3 for a statement of reasons for referral).

  1. The committee recommends that the following bills not be referred to committees:

  2. The committee deferred consideration of the following bills to its next meeting:

Treasury Laws Amendment (Foreign Investment) Bill 2024

Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living—Medicare Levy) Bill 2024.

  1. The committee considered the following bills but was unable to reach agreement:

Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 1) Bill 2023

(Anne Urquhart)

Chair

8 February 2024

Appendix 1

S ELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE

Proposal to refer a bill to a committee

Name of bill:

COAG Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

Reasons for referral/principal issues for consideration:

To carefully investigate this legislation and provide interested stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the legislation.

Possible submissions or evidence from:

A range of stakeholders and interested parties.

Committee to which bill is to be referred:

Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee

Possible hearing date(s):

February

Possible reporting date:

14 March 2024

Print name:

Wendy Askew

Appendix 2

SELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE

Proposal to ref er a bill to a committee

Name of bill:

Criminal Code Amendment (Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes) Bill 2024

Reasons for referra1/principal issues for consideration:

To examine the bill in more detail and hear from various stakeholders.

Possible submissions or evidence from:

Committee to which bill is to be referred:

Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

Possible hearing date(s):

May to September 2024

Possible reporting date:

13 November 2024

(signed)

Whip/ Selection of Bills Committee member

Senator Thorpe

Appendix 3

S ELECTION OF BILLS COMMITTEE

Proposal to refer a bill to a committee

Name of bill:

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Consumer Safeguards and Other Measures) Bill 2023

Reasons for referral/principal issues for consideration:

To carefully investigate this legislation and provide interested stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the legislation.

Possible submissions or evidence from:

A range of stakeholders and interested parties including from the Communications sector.

Committee to which bill is to be referred:

Environment and Communications Legislation Committee

Possible hearing date(s):

February

Possible reporting date:

14 March 2024

Print name:

Wendy Askew

I move:

That the report be adopted.

Katy Gallagher

I move the following amendment:

At the end of the motion, add "and, in respect of the Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2023, the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 1) Bill 2023 and the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 2) Bill 2024, the provisions of the bills be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 13 March 2024".

The government supports the referral of these bills to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee with a reporting date of 13 March. These bills will abolish the AAT and replace it with a new administrative review body that is user focused, efficient, accessible, independent and fair. Over nine years, the Liberals stacked the AAT with as many as 85 former Liberal MPs, failed Liberal candidates, former Liberal staffers and other close Liberal associates without any merit based selection process, including some individuals with no relevant experience or expertise. The AAT's public standing was irreversibly damaged as a result of the actions of the previous government.

The bills have been informed by significant consultation over a year, including guidance from an expert advisory group led by the former High Court justice the Hon. Patrick Keane AC KC and engagement over many months with AAT staff and members, AAT users, peak bodies, legal assistance providers, advocates and other experts. These bills are also currently the subject of an inquiry by the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, and there is no reason why the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee cannot complete its inquiry by 13 March.

Despite this, the Liberal Party want the Senate committee to take until July to consider these bills. We all know why the Liberal Party is voting to delay these bills for as long as possible by delaying the committee process—because they are protecting their stack. But what is particularly shocking today is the fact that the Greens are joining them. Our understanding is the Australian Greens will join with the Liberal Party to disrupt and delay these generational reforms that implement key recommendations of the robodebt royal commission and which are directed at ensuring that nothing like robodebt ever happens again. This is a terrible betrayal of the tens of thousands of people who need to seek independent reviews of government decisions that have major and sometimes life-altering impacts on their lives—decisions such as whether an older Australian receives an age pension, whether a veteran is compensated for a service injury or whether a NDIS participant receives funding for essential support.

We are committed to restoring trust and confidence in Australia's system of administrative review, bringing with it the establishment of a new administrative review body that is user focused, efficient, accessible, independent and fair. We are committed to this reform. I'm hopeful that senators in this place will come to their senses and change their minds about the amendment they are about to put, and that we can get the support of the majority of this chamber for a referral for a report by 13 March 2024.

Nick McKim

I move an amendment to the government amendment:

At the end of the motion, add:

"and, in respect of the Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2023, the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 1) Bill 2023 and the Administrative Review Tribunal (Consequential and Transitional Provisions No. 2) Bill 2024, the provisions of the bills be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 July 2024."

Michaelia Cash

I want to respond to the comments made by Senator Gallagher. You'd think that this government, based on the comments made, was giving the Senate adequate time to review what is a very complex piece of legislation. The irony of what Senator Gallagher said is not lost on me, because, when this part of the day finishes, guess what we're about to do, colleagues? Yet again, in typical Labor style, bang—we're going to guillotine another piece of legislation. They're going to slip in today an amendment that until last night nobody had actually seen. This is a government, colleagues, that—just remember—talked big about transparency prior to the election; I'll go through shortly the words the Prime Minister liked to utter on a regular basis. Since they have been elected they have used their numbers in this place—and to those journos who are saying the IR legislation is a huge win for Labor, I suggest you look at the numbers that Labor deals with in the Senate now. It is hardly a big thing to get your legislation through, particularly given the numbers we dealt with when we were in government—at least 10 crossbenchers across the spectrum.

Today we're going to jump in with the Greens and support the Greens here. Why are we supporting the Greens' amendment on this? Because they actually, like us, want to review this legislation properly. This is a huge piece of legislation. The AAT has directly fed into it around 400 pieces of legislation. In terms of the stakeholders I have already spoken to, I can tell you they are not in any way over this legislation.

There is need for improvement in the AAT. We tried to improve it over successive governments. It is a huge tribunal—one that makes very serious decisions. Ramming this legislation through the parliament without the proper scrutiny from the Australian Senate is an affront to the actual piece of legislation and goes against everything this government said it would do prior to the election in relation to transparency. We'll get onto the Attorney-General of Australia shortly because, I tell you, he still likes to talk to this day about transparency, yet he is the one minister in this government who, when it comes to transparency, just likes to use the numbers and push things through the Senate with little to no review.

The role of the Australian Senate is very basic. It's taught in politics 101 classes. In fact if you asked a year 10 student in school to write about it they'd tell you the basic role of the Australian Senate is to be a house of review. We actually take that role seriously, particularly given the fact that the government uses its numbers in this chamber to ram through piece after piece after piece of legislation. The average Australian doesn't know what the government's doing in this place. But guess what? Over the next few months and years, they will feel the impact of the legislation across the board, portfolio by portfolio, that this government, by using its numbers in the Senate, is ramming through this place with little to no scrutiny. That is actually dangerous.

The role of the Senate is to understand the impact of legislation. It is to understand whether or not the legislation that is being put forward, in this case, is actually going to make the system better or, as the case may well be, make the system worse. That's all we want to do. That's all we and the Australian Greens want to do, and the Australian Greens and I are not often in the same place. I tell you that, in the interests of transparency, in the interests of discharging our role as the Australian Senate and in the interests of those people who are actually affected by decisions of the AAT, we need to take this seriously. We need to stand up to Mr Albanese, the Prime Minister, and stand up to Mr Dreyfus, the Attorney-General, and say to them: 'No, we're not going to cop this. We're actually going to do our job and review this legislation.'

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 11:36 AM on 2024-02-08
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 40
Total number of "no" votes: 19
Total number of abstentions: 17

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au