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Senator Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
Coalition Senate Leader Robert Hill says the Coalition will work with the minor parties in the Senate but has warned them not to ignore the clear mandate given to the Coalition by the people of Australia.
Senator Hill says the election result was an overwhelming endorsement of the Coalition's policy package, a package which included the partial sale of Telstra.
"We have been upfront with the people of Australia about our plans. We told them clearly that we would be selling one third of Telstra with the funds being used to retire Government debt and to fund our environment program.
"It is an alternative program which has been embraced by the people. The Democrats have no mandate to derail it in the Senate.
"Senator Kernot has tried to claim the Democrats have a mandate to block the partial Telstra sale. She must be pretending!
"The Democrats went into this election with 7 senators and at this stage look like coming out with 7 senators.
Several Democrat Senators at this election will only be returned on the flow- on of surplus votes from unfilled Coalition Senate quotas - voters who put the Coalition first but whose preferences will get the Democrats across the line.
"The increase in the Democrat Senate vote is no more than core Democrat voters returning to the fold after deserting the party to go to the ALP in 1993.
"The Coalition Senate vote is currently running at about 4 to 1 to the Democrat vote and we have increased our numbers in the Senate. In Queensland, Senator Kernot's home state, the Liberal Senate team gained a record high vote.
"There is absolutely no evidence what- so- ever to support Senator Kernot's claim of a mandate to block the partial sale of Telstra."
Senator Hill says the Coalition will also be keeping Senator Kernot honest.
"Senator Kernot voted for Labor tax increases in 1993 - tax increases for which Labor had NO mandate.
"Her rationalisation then of her failure to "keep the bastards honest" was that the 'government has a right to govern'. (Kernot media release 12/10/93)
"She said that even though she disagreed with Labor's priorities 'beyond that we respect the Government's right to govern and to make the tough decisions on how the budget shapes up.' (The Age 11/10/93)
"I expect the Democrats to disagree with our priorities from time to time but, if Senator Kernot can be taken on her word, I also expect the Democrats to respect our right to govern and to implement the policies which we have put up front to the electorate.
"How can Senator Kernot justify voting for tax increases for which Labor had NO mandate but against the Coalition's Telstra and Environment policies which have been given an overwhelming mandate?
"Her media posturing on this issue is riddled with glaring inconsistencies and is clearly no longer sustainable."
Senator Hill says Senator Kernot should also be asked to explain her comments of 1993 in regard to the setting of economic directions.
"The Age newspaper of October 8 said '(Senator Kernot) said the government, not the Senate, ultimately had the right to dictate the direction of economic policy.'
"The Coalition has laid out in clear detail the economic direction we will take in office - that economic direction includes the partial sale of Telstra with major benefits from reducing government debt and the restoration and protection of our environment.
"And I agree with Senator Kernot that the Howard Government and not the minor parties in the Senate, has the right to set and implement that direction."
For further information contact Matt Brown on 015 396 773.