Australia's Senate Committees provide the best opportunity for meaningful direct engagement in our democracy.
Australians can provide submissions, meet with elected officials, and present at public hearings.
In short, Australians can have their say. This is the Senate performing its role as a house of review and a house of scrutiny.
Restricting community access to the Senate Committees is a backward step for our democracy.
Motions considered by the Senate to silence Australians are very troubling. It raises further questions.
The ABC has already admitted the need for action with their own inquiry, which is not as strong as the Senate’s inquiry for three reasons.
First, the ABC’s inquiry is not independent as the ABC’s investigators will report to the ABC.
Second, Australians will be allowed to have their say at public hearings.
Third, the submissions to the Senate carry parliamentary privilege. The ABC has spent $26m on legal fees in the past four years. I don’t want people to face legal and financial barriers which -prevent them having a say.
The parliamentary privilege attached to Senate submissions means people can say what they like without the threat of expensive and protracted legal action.
It sets a terrible precedent for the Senate to close public access, especially where more than a dozen submissions have already been received as evidence.
While I am disappointed with the result, I respect the Senate’s right to do so but reserve my right to undertake additional steps. The Inquiry has already received several sensitive but critical submissions. We must not close the door on these Australians.