Since obtaining a majority in the Senate, the Howard Government has consistently and irresponsibly acted to turn the Senate from a house of debate into a rubber stamp.
Sitting days are lower than ever, and the amount or complexity of legislation to be considered has not decreased
Very few amendments from other parties have been accepted. The Government refuses to debate, let alone alter its proposed legislation (20 since July 2005, compared to 215 in 2004).
The majority that Howard promised to use responsibly has consistently been used to push controversial legislation through without debate. Examples include the full privitisation of Telstra, work choices, the Northern Territory intervention, harsh immigration laws, and over-broad and redundant anti-terrorism laws.
I don't like the content of a lot of these laws, but I am even more concerned about the process.
Democracy needs reasoned debate. Howard's government has become too scared to put its policies through any form of democratic debate. The Howard Government's persistent refusal to even consider amendments to its proposed legislation is pure arrogance and myopia.
Howard's majority was not a mandate to push any conceivable piece of legislation through both houses of parliament. Our system has historically placed the Senate in a very important role in examining potential legislation and working with the government of the day to create better laws for Australia.
I'm voting for the Australian Democrats and Andrew Bartlett in the upcoming election to help restore an independent Senate. The Democrats have a fine history of examining proposed legislation without getting caught up in party politics, and this is what I believe Australia needs most right now.
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