I wish to use my time today to reflect on the arrogance and bullying tactics of the Rann government regarding upper house amendments to the recent real estate industry legislation
I am very keen to put on the record my thoughts on how the government handled this bill at that time. We had a very lively and detailed debate during the committee stage of the bill. I can best describe it as democracy at work, just as the committee stage of the Statutes Amendment (Affordable Housing) Bill was also handled. I would like to quote my colleague The Hon. Sandra Kanck. who, at the completion of a particular debate, said:
“I think it epitomises what the Legislative Council stands for. Whereas in the lower house a bill can be rammed through and it does not matter what anyone other than the government thinks, what we have done here is to take issues of quite deep social consequence and discuss them and tease them out. We have all been acting from a position of principle and cooperation and it really has been the Legislative Council producing the best results it can.”
I think the Hon. Sandra Kanck’s words about how effective the Legislative Council can be were absolutely spot on. In this place, we have a vital role to play in the legislative process. That is why it was disappointing to read in the media at that time that the Minister for Consumer Affairs had attacked members of the Legislative Council for simply standing up for what they felt was right. While I did not agree with everything the Hon. Nick Xenophon said—and I am sure he did not always agree with all that I had to say—he was slammed by the Minister for Consumer Affairs for having the courage to make amendments to the government’s real estate legislation. Perhaps minister Rankine’s treatment of the Hon. Nick Xenophon was part of the reason why he has decided to leave us—who knows?
The Hon Nick Xenophon cooperated with and assisted the Liberal party and, quite rightly, had concerns at that time for the small operators in the real estate industry. He moved sensible amendments regarding this legislation, sensible amendments that the Liberal party was happy and very keen to support. The minister had unfairly targeted our colleague, stating to the media:
“I would have thought that those who commonly portrayed themselves as sticking up for the underdogs in society would want to stop people being ripped off by money hungry real estate agents.”
It was a wonder that she did not say ‘burglars’. The minister also came out punching about the role that Family First had played in this legislation, and she reserved her best criticism for the Liberal Party which had evidently ‘tried to tamper’ with the legislation, to borrow the minister’s very own words. However, I think we all know this issue was about much more than the legislation. This was just another chance for Rann government ministers to question the role of this place as part of their agenda to have us shut down.
The Attorney-General’s media release in March, which accused the upper house ‘meddling’ as jeopardising real estate reform, was the first attack when this arrogant Rann government saw the writing on the wall that it may not get its own way with this legislation. This is a government that is accustomed to getting its own way and plays nasty or ignores you when it does not. One need only look at the refusal of the Premier and the Treasurer to go on the morning program with David Bevan and Matthew Abraham on ABC Radio. Something these presenters have said must have sorely upset the Premier and the Treasurer, and it appears that they plan to never head back into the studio again. Only an arrogant government—a government full of its own self-importance—conducts itself in this way.
In the meantime, we had the Leader of the Government in this place accusing non-government members of breaching the council’s conventions and of holding up government legislation by introducing private members’ legislation. As I just mentioned, this is an arrogant government that likes getting its own way and spits the dummy when it does not. So, I use my limited time today to say to this government: get a thicker skin, focus on your job and get on with it. As I said before, at the last election the public voted for a number of Independent members of this place, and these members have the right to introduce bills they believe are helpful to the state. We also have a right in this council to review government legislation and make the amendments we see fit to improve it when we believe the government has not got it quite right. The real estate legislation was a perfect example of this.
The Rann Labor government may not always appreciate our help, Mr President, but I am sure the good people of South Australia do.