derryn hinch senate

Senator Pauline Hanson didn’t appear on Sunrise on Monday for our weekly Channel Seven breakfast TV stoush. She was replaced by Senator Jacqui Lambie. No disrespect for Lambie, but I was disappointed.

I had a doozy of a “please explain” for Senator Hanson, which had prompted this tweet:

Betrayal. Pauline Hansen trying to spin way out of no vote to cut red tape for medicinal cannabis. They betrayed sick kids and terminally ill.”

The political background to it was a Senate vote last Thursday on a disallowance motion put by Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale which, if passed, would have cut red tape to make the importation of medical cannabis easier and more available to desperate parents and cancer patients.

The division was tied 32-32 and a tie means the no vote wins. Senate law. President Stephen Parry does not have a casting vote, unlike Mr. Speaker in “the other place”.

In the lead-up to the vote, Di Natale had a roller-coaster ride. At the last minute, Labor decided to support The Greens. I think (and who’s a cynic?) they did the 11th-hour jump because they had done their sums and knew it would fail.

The person who hadn’t done his sums was Di Natale. He assumed (definition: an ass out of you and me) that One Nation would cast their four votes in his favour. After all, Pauline Hanson’s face had beamed out of posters in the July election extolling the virtues of medicinal marijuana.

I was sitting next to Di Natale and saw the look of disbelief when a redhead appeared in the no seats. The Xenophon team of three also voted no.

It really saddened me because that Senate vote physically hurt vulnerable, suffering Australians, young and old. Spasming babies and terminally ill adult cancer patients.

To make it worse, I was at MardiGrass in Nimbin the weekend before, talking to parents of little kids who have had 900 epileptic spasms made smoother by the use of medicinal cannabis oil. I took part in a medical cannabis debate up there. I met a man who spent 10 months in jail last year for supplying cannabis oil to a family friend to ease their baby’s pain.

PHON and the X team succumbed to bullshit lobbying from Attorney-General George Brandis’ office, and Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office. Senator James McGrath interrupted my Senate speech supporting The Greens to table a two-page letter from Hunt that convinced Senator Xenophon to back the government.

They also tried to sway me before the vote by claiming their opposition was solely to protect local growers! Why not allow the imports until local growers meet demand and then change the law again?

This is the same government that blocked a genuine plan to grow medicinal marijuana on Norfolk Island the way Tasmania grows policed opium poppies.

There was also a claim that imported hemp would bring in a dangerous fungus which, I’ve since been told, is the same one sometimes seen on rock melons in the local greengrocers.

This fight has just begun. Within six months, I pledge to bring back a private member’s bill and I hope, by then, at least one of Hanson or Xenophon’s teams will have found the spine to support us.

***

What’s in a name? In recent days, I’ve been travelling around the country as a member of the National Integrity Commission Senate committee inquiry. Holding public hearings in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and hosting private meetings with the Crime and Corruption Commission, Independent Commission Against Corruption, and Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, and parliamentary overseeing committees, in all three cities, as we head for an August deadline on a national ICAC report.

I don’t intend to canvass committee business here but it’s no secret that witnesses have been suggesting names. NICAC (National Independent Anti-Corruption Commission). FICAC (Federal Independent Anti-corruption Commission). Or, simply, NIC (National Integrity Commission).

It brought back two memories. When Victoria was forming its commission to oversee integrity issues in Victoria Police they came within a whisker of calling it the Police Integrity Group. Until somebody twigged on the acronym PIG. Think about it.

And when I was New York Bureau Chief for Fairfax, the GM sent me a memo advising that we were about to launch a new national weekly and did I have any suggestions for a name.

I remember responding: “Dear Mr Falkingham. I suggest you call the new national weekly The National Weekly’.” They called it The National Times.

And when Kerry Packer decided to change the Women’s Weekly to a monthly mag I suggested it should be called The Women’s Monthly. After all, it is a periodical.

Peter Fray

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