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Friday, 23 April 1999
Page: 4256

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) (2:18 PM) —In contrast to Senator Faulkner, who seemed to come in quite late, I actually thought the debate got off quite well. He misquoted me, as he often does. The general line that Senator Cook was running was would there be other amendments and would I rule out any further amendments? I said, `The amendments we have brought in reflect the consultations that the government has had. They finetune the bill and they are amendments which we think are appropriate.' As to any future amendments, I said, `I simply cannot rule that in or out. We will listen to the debate as it proceeds.'

I did ask Senator Cook whether he could rule in or rule out any other Labor amendments because, as I understood the press, there was some confusion about whether Labor were going to be moving amendments or not. What in fact happened was that we received some Labor amendments this morning. I do not dispute that—Labor are perfectly entitled to move amendments. All I am saying is that it seemed to be in contrast, Senator Cook, to what I understood was being said in the press by Labor spokesmen. Perhaps the press got that wrong.

But then I asked, `Will Labor be moving any further amendments?' and I did not receive any answer to that. I think, probably, that Senator Cook will be listening to the debate as it proceeds, and the Labor Party will then make judgments about whether they wish to move further amendments or not. That is the way debate has always proceeded in this chamber. It was a somewhat courteous question from Senator Cook. I hope that, if I did not give him entirely the comfort that he sought, it was a somewhat courteous response.

Then in comes Senator Faulkner and bangs the table, saying how hopeless the rest of the world is apart from Senator Faulkner. For the record, Senator Faulkner was the only Labor environment minister to actually lose the environment vote. I was personally very grateful to Senator Faulkner for that. I cannot say that I have an affectionate spot for Senator Faulkner, but I was grateful for that major blunder. Then, of course, we got a torrent of abuse about Senator Alston this and Senator Alston that, then a bit on Senator Kemp and a bit on the Prime Minister—blah, blah, blah—which went on for 20 minutes. If Senator Faulkner or anyone else wants to have a slanging match, we can always have one. But it seems to me we have had plenty of debates on the general issues on the bill. I think this is an important bill and, to my mind, it should be considered very seriously by this Senate chamber.

The premiers walked away from the Premiers Conference feeling very pleased with the deal they had received under the package. They were very pleased with the response that the government had made. All the premiers walked away thinking this was an historic occasion, very happy with the package that had gone through. The government was not unhappy to receive the supportive comments that Labor premiers made about the package, and rightly so. Why wouldn't we be?