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Thursday, 22 June 2000
Page: 15474

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) (1:19 PM) —I thank Senator Mackay for her comments and her support for this bill. It was part of what we thought was a fairly technical and unexciting omnibus bill to correct a few anomalies in various bits of legislation for which the Department of Transport and Regional Services has responsibility. A couple of parts of it were time critical. Regrettably, and I think I made this apology last time—again, it was not Mr Anderson's fault, but due to some administrative oversights thatoccasionally happen—there were some elements of this which were not advised to the opposition at the appropriate time. I think I have made that apology before, and I repeat it. I take on board again what Senator Mackay has said about consultation and involvement.

As a government, we always want to make sure that both the opposition and, particularly, the Democrats, who we understand have limited resources, are fully briefed on issues that come before the chamber so that, even if they do not agree with the legislation, they do at least understand it. A couple of bills I have had through here, I have to say, with the greatest of respect to the Democrats, I feel at times they have not understood and have simply taken the easy way out and said, `We will follow the Labor Party because perhaps at times their philosophical approach is closer to ours.'

I also should mention that where the omnibus bill really got into trouble was when we found an amendment attached to it which started dealing with mandatory sentencing in the Northern Territory. Whilst an omnibus bill is very broad and wide and while it covers a lot of different bills and pieces of legislation, I have to say, again with the greatest of respect to the Democrats, that it is not really the avenue for dealing with mandatory sentencing. It is an important issue but it should not be dealt with here.

Where we are left now, of course, is that we still have the other bill halfway through this chamber. There are a couple of pieces of that that have raised some opposition. I am not sure whether it is opposition directly or otherwise; I have not quite caught up with the industrial relations element of that bill. That still has to come back along the line. Whether it is to be passed or not passed will depend upon the will of this chamber, but we still have to deal with that. Certainly the mandatory sentencing did not help with that bill. Hence, we have taken the appropriate way to get this time critical bill through—and that is what we are doing here today. I appreciate the support from Senator Mackay.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate. ยท