The Senate, yesterday.

Senator Bartlett (Democrat, Qld):

‘Frankly, I am getting a bit tired of their continually voting for these ridiculously short reporting dates and then, when we get into the committee, they sit there and ask, ‘How the hell are we going to deal with this in such a short time frame?’ You have the power to fix the problem; we don’t. It is your responsibility. How about you take some? Another classic example—which is even worse—is the copyright legislation, which was referred to a committee before it was introduced into the parliament. We were being asked whether we supported its referral without knowing what is in it. There is a statement of reasons attached for the urgency—which was better than what we have had in the past, which was basically no reason at all—and the purpose of the bill but not the reasons for the referral. That legislation was introduced half an hour ago in the House of Representatives, and the reporting date is 10 November, three weeks away, two weeks of which are sitting weeks or estimates committees weeks. The only non-sitting week is next week, so that committee will have no opportunity to have a public hearing. I do not know whether that is a big issue but to give you half an hour to decide not just to look at the bill but to try to determine whether something is not in the bill—and then to give a ridiculously short time frame to examine it—is simply ludicrous. The process shows contempt for the Senate, but much more importantly it is contempt for the public and democracy.

Senator Ludwig (Labor, Qld):

When you look at [the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006], you see that it includes matters that go to the free trade agreement, and we understand that there is an urgent date for that to be dealt with. The government has also tacked on a range of other matters, including the fair use review. In other words, the content of this bill is sufficient to warrant an inquiry that allows people time to make submissions and for the committee to deal with them. The government is jamming the legislative program by using this tactic of referring bills to committee with a short turnaround time, without allowing time for this place to look at them. The shadow minister has not even had a brief in respect of this bill to be able to determine whether it even requires a reference to a legislation committee. This is an abuse of the process….

Indeed. Think about it:

  1. submissions by 30 October. that’s about 5 working days for people to put together their submissions. OK, we’ve had the exposure drafts for some time – but this is a very complex bill, and the language is not, everywhere, the same.
  2. report by 10 November. that’s about 8 working days for the Committee to deal with it. It’s 220 pages. It’s huge. It’s complex. And it’s in a technical, specialised area of the law.

Yup, it’s a joke.