Committees - Selection of Bills Committee - Report

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:08): I am the chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, to which the citizenship bill has been referred. I have already been in touch with the secretariat to try to work out a schedule for approval by the committee at an urgent meeting, which we have just called, so that we can deal with this before the Senate rises. I have given the committee some suggestions as to when hearings could be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra to give everybody the widest opportunity to discuss what is clearly a very important bill, on which there will be lots of different views. Senator McKim espouses one view, which a minority might espouse. This is not the place for it, of course. If my suggestions are adopted, Senator McKim, as a full voting member of that committee, will have at least four occasions in public hearings to question witnesses. But when he questions witnesses he will, while I am chairman, do it respectfully and properly and in accordance with the standing orders.

Another senator in this chamber, who I will not mention, has complained to me that even in the committee he cannot hear what is going on because he sits near Senator McKim who consistently interjects. A senator has raised the same point in this particular chamber, not in the committee, complaining to the President that he cannot hear the President because of the consistent and constant interjections of Senator McKim. I have said many a time in the committees that I chair that I will not stand for that type of behaviour. It is bullying and it is disrespectful, and, as I proved with Lieutenant General Campbell, when senators disrespect witnesses I will insist that those senators either withdraw or remove themselves.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, a point of order.

Senator McKim: Quite frankly, I could not care less what Senator Macdonald thinks about me.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.

Senator McKim: The point of order is that you required me to withdraw personal reflections on Senator Macdonald. I ask that you hold him to the same standard and require him to withdraw those personal reflections on me.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, I asked you to withdraw comments which I considered to be unparliamentary. I am listening very carefully to the comments made by Senator Macdonald. If he or any other senator in this place makes unparliamentary comments, I will hold them to the same account.

Senator McKim: I am making sure that you heard Senator Macdonald call me a bully.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I do not believe he talked about—

Senator McKim: He said I engaged in bullying behaviour. I ask you to reflect on that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator McKim, I do not believe the use of that term to be unparliamentary.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Talk about a glass jaw! What I am repeating are actual facts. There has been a senator stand up in this chamber, not in the committee, and request the President to get Senator McKim to be quiet so that senator can exercise his right to hear what is happening in the chamber. The same thing happens in my committee. I have a constant and consistent barrage of interjections from Senator McKim that I will not stand for. There is one member of the opposition—again, who I will not name but those on the committee will know to whom I am referring—who does the same thing. These two senators think they are somehow special and that there are special and different rules for them that do not apply to anyone else.

Senator McKim is also concerned about the fact that, in the committees that I chair, I try to give every senator a fair crack of the time available. It is my consistent position—as all the senators in my committee know—to give each one 15 minutes at a time; no more and no less. They can come back and have another 15 minutes later. That way every senator gets to have their say. That does not suit Senator McKim or the Labor senator I am talking about, who want special privileges. Well, it will not happen. I work on the basis that the questions at estimates should be roughly proportional to the make-up of the Senate. It is my practice, which I will continue, to have one Labor, one Liberal, one Labor, one Liberal and then one crossbencher, because that is roughly the proportions of this chamber. Nothing can be fairer than that. But, of course, it does not suit Senator McKim because he is a member of a very minor party, which is becoming more minor, and he does not get the same say as a member of the Labor Party, who have two or three times as many senators as he has in this chamber.

I can understand why Senator McKim is going around the chamber trying to get some support to get me taken off chairmanship of the committee. I treat that as a badge of honour. He would not want to get rid of me if I was not an effective and fair chairman, and I will continue to be an effective and fair chairman. I will not be bullied by the likes of Senator McKim and one other senator. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question is that the amendment moved by Senator McGrath be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The question now is that the amended motion that the report be adopted be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

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