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Monday, 19 April 1999
Page: 3732

Senator LEES (3:58 PM) —I support this suspension and I will give leave for the substantive motion to be moved. However, we do have problems with the substantive motion. It was not discussed with us. We understood today that it was decided with the Labor Party before we heard—

Senator Faulkner —Hang on! That is not right. We were consulted. That was all.

Senator LEES —And you agreed well before anybody else—

Senator Faulkner —That's not true.

Senator LEES —We were simply informed, Senator, that this was the motion to be brought in, and the Labor Party would be supporting it—end of story.

Senator Ian Campbell —We asked for your opinion.

Senator Faulkner —We were asked our opinion.

Senator LEES —While it might be convenient for the two major parties, who do not have the rest of their members with us—

Senator Faulkner —When you don't understand what you are talking about, you should not—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Faulkner!

Senator LEES —I do understand, Senator Faulkner. I can count, thank you very much.

Senator Faulkner —You don't know what you are talking about. It is nonsense.

Senator LEES —I can count, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Faulkner —You believe we are in a fix with the government about it. We are not.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Faulkner, order, please! Senator Lees, address the chair.

Senator LEES —As Senator Faulkner is so sensitive, I will simply rephrase what I am saying. By the time we knew anything of this motion it had already been agreed by the Labor Party that they would support it. Therefore, I say to the government: if you want some cooperation in this debate, which is already going to be highly complex—I understand we have even more bills in the package today; we now have over 30—handing something to us as fait accompli is not the way to start.

If we want more time at some stage during this debate, we are only too happy to sit down with you. But let us look at the time we already have, including two Fridays—this week and next week—to make up for the fact that we have two public holidays. During the debate you wanted six full weeks. We assured you of six full weeks. But every Democrat senator is committed from 8.30 tomorrow morning until 2 o'clock at question time. While I understand you are not going to be requiring us to be in this place or to vote, we do not want the debate going on behind our backs.

We are only too happy to discuss this tomorrow night when all of us do not have commitments, but all of us have commitments with meetings tomorrow morning until question time, which I think is a perfectly natural course of action, given that we thought we had negotiated with the government the actual program for these six weeks. I say to the government that there is no point in wasting time now deciding whether or not we are going to vote on it. We have a tax report that is extremely important and that we hope we can discuss immediately after this motion is finished. We do not wish to delay time. Therefore, bring on the motion, but I say to you very clearly: this is not the way to get cooperation as we head into what is going to be a very complex and long debate.