I rise to make a contribution to this debate and in particular I focus my comments on the proposed standing committee. I have looked at the proposal in every way possible, I think, and the only description I can give it is of a group of people attempting to flex some political muscle and ignoring the basic tenets of proportional representation when it comes to a standing committee of this house.
It is quite unfortunate and it does the other parties some disservice that they are relying on a proportional representation arrangement that is, firstly, not used at a federal level — yesterday we heard about the Senate — but it is rarely used, in fact it is never used unless it is for some particular ulterior purpose. That is what we have here today, where the minor parties have created an alliance that delivers the flexing of political muscle to a committee with a blank cheque, where there are no terms of reference, no time lines — —
Mr D. Davis — Your party supported self-referencing committees.
Ms TIERNEY— We will get to that. It is a system that is based on, ‘Give us a wink, give us a bit of a shove on the elbow. Trust us, we will be able to go with the flow’.
But of course that will not be the case, particularly when you look at a scenario where 50 per cent of members less one would be considered in anyone’s view as an appropriate bottom line for a functioning standing committee and would be the basis of some sort of compromise so that all political parties in this house could move forward, but unfortunately we do not have that sort of situation.
In fact, if the other parties in this chamber were really serious about accountability, investigation and examination, then they would need to stand up and demonstrate that integrity. Unfortunately the proposal before us tonight does none of that. The opposition parties are more interested in banding together to stage-manage the operation of this house. I think everyone, regardless of their political party, supports appropriate fiscal behaviour and proper checks and balances. But this proposition gives the minority parties, the minor parties, an absolutely unfair leg-up.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms TIERNEY— The opposition talked about support for scrutiny, but the government cannot even get close to 50 per cent membership of a standing committee of the upper house. The government is barely given the status of a minor party under this proposal. You need to wonder why this proposition is before us tonight.
I really have had a think about it, when you look at the political heritage that each political party on the opposition side of the chamber comes from, because there are a range of different histories there. I am particularly interested in how the Greens have arrived at this proposal, because it bears no resemblance to having any moral commitment to proportional representation.
When you think about why this proposition is before us, the only things I can think of is that somehow people just want to strut their stuff, that somehow they want to get some fix on some opiate, or that they are starting to think in their own minds that they can smell some sort of level of power. Is it because they want to try to get some media headlines because they cannot do it any other way? Is it because we have just got rampant testosterone running around in certain minor parties? I do not know. I do know that I really think it is about political parties that have their own little internal disputes and whose members can get up and say what they like, carry on and try to be heroes about what they are doing. At the end of the day it is their business.
I do not know what this really is about and, to be quite frank, I do not care.
What I care about is that political parties might want to think about the sorts of changes that are being brought to this house, or indeed governments that might want to contemplate the restructuring of their upper houses, their houses of
review. They will be pointing to this situation and telling students, whether they be in kindergarten, primary school, secondary school or be students of politics at universities, ‘Do not do it, because it does not deliver proper functioning democracy in any house of review’. That is what I am very concerned about.
When you see this proposal and witness this type of opportunistic manoeuvring, you can only shake your head in disgust, to be quite frank. In November 2006, when members of the Victorian population went to the polls, they did know a few things. They knew that the Bracks government at that time was bringing about a change in the upper house. They knew about it and were supportive of proportional representation. They also believed then and continue to believe that it is very important to have a very vigorous regime of scrutiny. They also know that the Labor government was the government that was elected, regardless of whether they had voted for the ALP or not.
Those three things are fact, and they continue to be with us today.
I would challenge any fair Victorian tonight who knew about what was before us to say whether they would consider it to be a fair situation for the elected government to be reduced to two people out of seven on the major standing committee of this house. I am sure they would not agree to that. I am sure they would not consider that to be giving the government a fair go. I think it is absolutely disgusting that those on the other side cannot even come to terms with the amendment that is before them tonight.
I call on all members of this house to actively reject this proposal. I believe it completely undermines the very flavour and the intent of the upper house reforms. Let us not throw sand in the eyes of those people who actually came up with proposals, people who were brave enough to modernise and democratise this place.
If this motion is passed tonight it will only reinforce my developing view that political maturity of political parties needs to be a prerequisite before there is upper house reform so that we cannot be subjected to manipulation by those with opportunistic intent and scant regard for democracy.