Electoral Matters Committee - REPORT

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:12): I am pleased to enter into this debate. I can say to Senator Di Natale: be careful! This weekend he is going to get every union thug in Australia ringing him, along with the few other members that there are of the Australian Labor Party. Just earlier today—what was it?—at 1.48 pm, Mr George Wright, the National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party sent out a message, a plea, to all members. In part it talked about this particular issue that Senator Collins was speaking about. He said, 'Together we can make it clear to the Greens political party that we have concerns about these changes.' I think the Labor Party have made them aware of that without this following message. It goes on to say, 'Can you call the office of Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, and let them know you are concerned about letting Work Choices happen all over again. Click here to get phone numbers and some key facts for the call.'

So, they expect the Greens to fall for the line that all of these phone calls that are going to happen over the weekend and next week are 'concerned Australians' who just happen to have picked up the phone to ring, whereas in fact they will be from every union thug and every other person who happens to be a member of the ALP—and I suspect that is not many.

But this letter from Mr Wright follows some of the outrageous mistruths that Labor members in this debate have said: it is extinguishing the vote of over 3.3 million people—so this letter says. That is just plain wrong. It says that this will allow the coalition to end up with a majority of the seats—that is just plain wrong! And as we heard in this debate in its many forms here, Mr Anthony Green went through and said, 'Yes, the coalition could get a majority if they win a big swag of the votes in the election, and the way we are going, that is likely to happen.' But I think, as I said yesterday, it will not be at the expense of the Greens; it will be at the expense of the crossbench and the Australian Labor Party, who have shown themselves to be completely ridiculous on this particular bill.

I heard earlier today, on a bill that was introduced by the Labor Party, how the Labor Party were lauding former Senator John Faulkner on being the wise man of the Labor Party. He put forward the bill on the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and, because John Faulkner did it, it had to be good. Let me tell you some of the people who sat on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters back in 2014 when there was a unanimous decision to support it. By 'unanimous', I mean it was supported by all parties attending that committee, which were the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Labor Party, the Greens and Senator Xenophon. Let's see who the Labor Party senators were on that. Lo and behold, Senator Tillem, Senator Faulkner and Mr Alan Griffin. That was one meeting, in March. The next meeting had Senator Tillem, Senator Faulkner and Alan Griffin again. The next meeting had Tillem, Griffin and Gary Gray. The next meeting had Tillem, Gary Gray and Alan Griffin. The 7 February meeting—

Senator Lines: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that the senator is not addressing members of that committee correctly.

The PRESIDENT: I must say, I was not listening intently to that aspect of it. I just remind senators to address members of this place and the other place by their correct title. Senator Macdonald, you have the call.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am not quite sure what that means. Am I getting Tillem's name wrong, am I?

Senator Lines: Mr President, whilst former Senator Tillem is no longer in this place, he was a senator, and Gary Gray should be referred to as either the member for Brand or Mr Gary Gray, not simply—

The PRESIDENT: You are correct, Senator Lines. Senator Macdonald, I just point that out.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr President, I was so excited about trying to show to the people who might be listening to this just how hypocritical the Australian Labor Party is again on this particular issue. Senator Tillem is not a senator anymore, but, anyhow, I will do him the respect of saying that the then Senator Tillem was on it, as well as Senator Faulkner, Mr Gary Gray and Mr Alan Griffin. As the Labor Party was saying earlier today, Senator Faulkner is very good—a respected figure when it comes to processes and elections, and yet Senator Faulkner was part of the unanimous support for this particular process. So what has happened in the last couple of years? I do not know. The rest of the Labor Party wanted to go along with it and Mr Gary Gray wanted to go along with it—a guy who, I might say, was the National Secretary of the Labor Party when they had one of their best results at the federal election in the past 20 years. This is the Mr Gary Gray who understands these things. He is not afraid that this new proposal will give the coalition any advantage, because it will not, and Antony Green has proved that.

It is important for those who might be listening to this, as they drive home from work today, to know that the Labor Party are being completely hypocritical again on this electoral matters issue. Anyone listening to this might well remember that, following the 2013 election, there was spontaneous outrage across the spectrum and from every political commentator on how this country could be held to ransom by a couple of senators who were elected with less than two per cent of the vote. It was not a political thing. Anyone who was around at that time, which includes all of the Labor senators, will recall that there was spontaneous outrage across Australia. Every political commentator said the same thing—'This has to be addressed'—and every political commentator, even the left-wing ones, are now saying that the Labor Party have this wrong. It is the hypocrisy that I fear and it should be exposed. We know that the Labor Party do not stand for much. They do what they are told to do by the union movement, but this is just outrageous.

What we are trying to do with this bill and this report from the committee is make sure that the people of Australia determine who they vote for and who they give preferences to. Why does the Labor Party want to stop the ordinary people of Australia making their own decisions? If they want to vote for the Labor Party first, that is fine and, if they want to put me last, that is fine, but it is their decision. But, until now, the backroom boys in the Labor Party would register a ticket which would determine where the votes went. People who voted Labor may well have wanted a different one, and that is what this bill will do.

It is important that the process works. The government introduced a bill—I think it was passed by the lower house—which said: optional preferential above the line, but below the line would be the old system. You could vote where you liked, but you had to go from one to 115, or however many candidates there were, which was an onerous task that not many people, apart from myself and a few others, would do. The committee that met on Monday had a look at these issues and heard a lot of evidence on these issues. The committee—which had a majority, I might say, of government members—decided to recommend to parliament that the bill should be amended to include optional preferential below the line—one to 16. That is a committee of parliament having heard all the evidence saying to the government, 'Government, you actually should go back to what was recommended by the original committee back in 2014,' when Christine Milne was still the leader, by the way, Senator Collins.

Senator Jacinta Collins: I know. That was my point.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It went back to that time. The committee then said it should be optional preferential above the line and optional preferential below the line. The government brought in a bill only doing half of that. The committee met again earlier this week and said, 'No, we the committee think the government should go back to the original proposal, which was optional preferential above the line and optional preferential below the line. That is the bill that is being debated. How can the Labor Party, having supported that fully with some respected people like Senator Faulkner just a couple of years ago, now change their mind with such a hypocritical approach to what is an essential piece of legislation in our democracy? Poor old Senator Di Natale, just recall, you will have every union thug in the country ringing you this weekend and next week and telling you what the Labor Party line is. I am sure you will not be fooled by it. I seek leave to continue my remarks. (Time expired)

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