I am pleased that Coalition Senators have agreed there should be a Senate Inquiry into the proposed Traveston Dam. I am even more pleased that the terms of reference for the Inquiry will require other options for water supply and demand to be considered. It will provide a chance for more of the facts to come out in the open, for the public to have more of a say and require feasible alternatives to have to be put forward.
I am grumpy that the Coalition party room decides amongst themselves they can set up a Senate Inquiry when they see an opportunity to score some political points, and don’t bother consulting with any other parties on the terms of reference, despite the fact that we have said we supported the idea of an inquiry into this topic. I am even more grumpy about the fact that, while they’ve initiated this Inquiry which suits their political agenda, they have blocked a multitude of other equally worthy Senate Inquiries, including proposals to examine:
- the proposed takeover of Qantas by a private equity consortium
- the impact and effectiveness of the so-called ‘Welfare to Work’ changes
- the progress of mental health funding pledges
- impact of climate change on primary producers
- adequacy of Australia’s aviation safety regime
- processes for assisting the settlement of refugees
- CSIRO’s roles and responsibilities
- temporary business long-stay visas
Just yesterday, an attempt to refer a group of 5 Bills amending the Tax Act for examination was also blocked by the Coalition. In effect, the Treasurer is deciding whether or not a Senate Committee is allowed to examine his proposed law changes.
It even took three attempts to get agreement to set up an Inquiry into the Commonwealth, State-Territory Disability Agreement. When a Committee was finally given the opportunity to examine the issue, it produced a comprehensive, unanimous report with a range of positive recommendations.
Given that the government has now taken over the chairing of all Committees and also given themselves a majority on all of them, it is hard to know what they have to fear from a Senate Inquiry. The ones that do go ahead have been shown to work effectively and constructively. It seems like they are blocking them just because they can. In one sense, it means less work for people like me, but unfortunately, it means the public and the parliament is the loser.