Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania) (Leader of the Australian Greens) (2:21 PM) -My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. I refer to Labor's promise in the run-up to the last election that, instead of the Prime Minister of the day dictating the terms of the leaders debate to suit their political interests, the format, timing and rules for any future debates would be decided by an independent election debate commission. When will the government establish that commission?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia) (Leader of the Government in the Senate) -Some senators will not be surprised that I do not have a brief on that issue so I am not able to assist the senator. Unlike some people, I am actually not focused on the next election; I think it is some time away. So the question of the leaders-
Honourable senators interjecting-
Senator CHRIS EVANS -The Prime Minister has said we will go full term. So, Senator Brown, referring to the question of the leaders debate-I presume in an election context-I will have to take that on notice and get the information for you. I do not have any information as to current planning for a leadership debate during the election period, but I will take it on notice and get the information that the senator seeks.
Honourable senators interjecting-
The SPEAKER -Order! Wait a minute, Senator Brown. I will call you, but I need silence on both sides. Conversation across the chamber is disorderly. Senator Brown is entitled to be heard in silence.
Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania) -Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the current proposals for leaders debates in the Tasmanian state election, where the Labor Premier has declined to appear on ABC TV although both other leaders, Nick McKim for the Greens and Mr Hodgman for the Liberals, have offered to go. Does the minister think that one leader refusing to debate should lead to no debate?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia) (Leader of the Government in the Senate) -Clearly the supplementary is in no way related to my responsibilities in representing the Prime Minister. What arrangements are made in Tasmania in relation to their state election and the debates there is not under any control of the federal government or the Prime Minister. I was not aware of that-I have not been following the Tasmanian election closely enough to follow that debate. I would have thought, if the Greens were debating the coalition or the Liberal Party, you would be pleased about that. In any event, Senator Brown, I cannot help you with that information. What I have said to you is that I will take on notice the question you asked about federal government responsibilities and the Prime Minister's attitude to these things, and I will get back to you on that. But, in relation to Tasmania, I cannot help you.
Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania) -Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I would be pleased if the Greens were debating the Liberals, because Mr McKim has won each of the debates held so far. The question I want to ask is about the federal commission proposed by Labor in the run to the last election. Would the minister establish from the Prime Minister what terms he intends to give to that commission, whether the press gallery will still be the arbiter of the form of the debate and what public input will be allowed for the leaders debate in the run to the next federal election?
Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia) (Leader of the Government in the Senate) -As I indicated to Senator Brown, I am happy to take on notice the questions he asked. I do not have a brief. I have not got the answers to the sort of information he is seeking. But I will take that further supplementary question on notice and see what I can get for him.