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Senator Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
Democrat leader Cheryl Kernot talks about proposed industrial relations legislation:
"Well that's a normal convention (referring bills to committees) ... it usually goes off to a legislative committee for further examination. We certainly intend to do that ... I guesswe'll need to take a couple of Fridays to examine the detail."
"What I think will happen though is that the Labor Party will take a lot of opportunities to extend the debate on it. We don't seek to delay it as Democrats but we do seek to make sure that there is adequate debating time and adequate scrutiny via a couple of Friday hearings," (from 'Meet the Press', 31/3/96)
Senator Kernot and the Democrats today have done what they said they wouldn't do.
They voted with the Opposition to send the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill to a reference committee not a legislative committee where Senator Kernot says such a bill "usually goes."
The reporting date for that committee is August 22. So much for Senator Kernot's commitment to no delays. So much for her commitment to taking "a couple of Fridays to examine the detail."
The Democrats' actions follow their unbelievable behaviour earlier this week in arguing that they needed a Senate committee to take three months to examine a Telstra Bill which they had already decided to vote against. Regardless of what that committee finds, the Democrats will still vote the bill down.
There is no justification for an extended committee hearing into this legislation, as Senator Kernot herself has acknowledged. The Coalition's Industrial Relations policy has been the subject of detailed public discussion since January of last year. Any genuine concerns about the bill could be quickly addressed by a legislation committee.
Senator Kernot tries to push the public line that the Coalition does not face a hostile Senate.
Yet the first two key pieces of Government legislation put to the Senate are referred off to committees for unnecessarily lengthy periods. If this is not obstruction, what is?
The $1 Billion Natural Heritage Trust to rescue our environment and industrial relations reforms to provide for better employment opportunities are left in limbo for 3 months while the Opposition and the minor parties posture in the Senate.
This is not a genuine attempt to use the committee system to improve legislation. It is nothing more than an attempt by the Opposition and minor parties to thwart the Government's legitimate right to implement the program it put to the people.
For further comment contact: Matt Brown, 0419 693 515