Australian Senate inquiry to new anti-terrorism laws to take place in one day

Friday, October 14, 2005

Canberra, Australia

An Australian Senate inquiry into new federal anti-terrorism laws is to take place in effectively one day, it was revealed in the Senate October 13.

Senator Robert Hill today moved that the laws, after introduction in the Australian House of Representatives, be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, with the report date set November 8 -- the Senate resumes sitting on November 7, after Senate estimates have been taken place, leaving either next Friday or the weekend for the inquiry to take place.

Amendments to make the date for report later were proposed: the first date of sitting in 2006 was proposed by Senator Andrew Bartlett, and November 28 this year was proposed by Natasha Stott-Despoja. A division on those amendments was called for, but the vote must take place on the next day of sitting -- November 7, due to an earlier order regarding divisions on Thursday at 4.30pm. The inquiry thus cannot commence until after this date.

Senators tempers were raised and vociferously decried the little time alloted for debate on the legislation. Senator John Faulkner called the situation "sheer bastardry of the government", and said "It is one of the most contemptible and despicable things I have ever seen in the time that I have been a senator in this chamber. How low can you go?". Senator Bob Brown has stated that in order to elucidate further Government actions, "between now and Christmas, when Senator Hill asks for leave, he will not get it. He will not get it." and later called the government "a disgrace [...] to Australia" and "a disgrace [...] to this nation."

Senator Julian McGauran said to Senator Stott-Despoja "you would be against [the laws] anyway." Senator Stott-Despoja replied "Don't bait me, Senator McGauran, today because I am not in the mood for it." Senator McGauran earlier this week drew the anger of Senator Stott-Despoja, who lost a friend in the September 11 attacks, by asking her "Have you once in this chamber acknowledged the war on terror?".

The Government has defended its decision, with Senator Hill stating "Unless it is agreed, it is not going to go through. We cannot have divisions, and at least we have tried. ... Time is of the essence in this matter." and later expressed "regret that this motion has been moved with very little consultation." Senator Eric Abetz has remarked that "on 7 November the Senate would be voting on whether or not an inquiry would be held to report the very next day. Of course, that would make a mockery of the system," and that the Opposition failing to drop the amendments "clearly indicates that the Labor Party ... are going to try to play the technical game and say, 'The government will only give us one day to deal with the issue.'"


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • Australian Senate, Hansard (pdf), October 13, 2005