BUSINESS – Rearrangement

Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (5.23 p.m.)—I wanted to put briefly the Democrats’ perspective on this issue. I think, frankly, Senator Evans has got it about right. It is not an ideal process but it is an unusual arrangement, as I think has been said in another context. This apology is not about all of us getting a say; this apology is for Indigenous Australians. Obviously it is important what is said in this chamber and what is decided by this chamber and in the other place, but what is also extremely important is the experiences of so many Indigenous Australians, particularly members of the stolen generations themselves and what they experience tomorrow in particular. The role the Senate plays in debating this motion, and I assume in passing it, is just one part of that wider experience and the wider impact it will have on them.

I think it is right to suggest that this should not become a precedent as a matter of course. These are an unusual set of circumstances but there will be, of course, opportunities for all of us to put our views before this chamber, not just about this motion but the wider issues regarding the stolen generations, as I and many in the Democrats have for many years and as others will continue to do. When we are talking about a historic, unique and formal type of process and resolution such as this, I think it is understandable to need to take into account not just our needs as a chamber but what works best particularly for the many Indigenous people who are looking to tomorrow with great anticipation. That role should not be forgotten.

I would also note that my understanding is that, whilst less than ideal, it is still somewhat better than what is being proposed in the House of Representatives, where I think it is just the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister and nobody else, neither Independents nor the National Party, who will get a guernsey at all there. What we have is a slight improvement on that and at least a recognition of the full diversity of voices who are getting an opportunity to be heard through the party representative structure. I think it is satisfactory given the context and is a unique set of circumstances. But, as all senators would appreciate, it certainly will not be the last time that the Democrats or anybody else, I imagine, hopefully, will be debating these issues, because there is a lot of other unfinished business regarding the stolen generations and the Bringing them home report and we need to be continuing to debate that in this chamber. The formal resolution tomorrow is a unique circumstance and, given the context and the other activities that are happening around here and in this house, as opposed to in this chamber, I think it is a reasonable compromise.

Question agreed to.

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