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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20086

Senator NEWMAN (Minster for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (10:44 AM) —I am sorry to disappoint the Senate, but the government opposes this amendment. It is a perplexing amendment. The opposition amendment would change a provision that Labor itself put into the legislation when it was in government in 1995. If Labor had found that it had had a significant downside and needed to be put back to where it was, I could understand it, but the recent court decisions have confirmed that the provision does operate as it was intended. It is for Senator Evans to make clearer to the Senate why we should go back to the situation prior to 1995. I do not think he has done that. He is busy as I speak, but I will give him the chance to make it clearer.

The amendment does not substantially alter the language used. It has not been made clear why Labor want to amend the existing provision. It is also unclear what the consequences will be. The clause has been in place since 1995 and it has been through the courts. The interpretation of it is quite clear, and there does not seem to be a downside to it. All we are getting is an amendment that creates uncertainty where certainty has reigned for the last five years. The ALP government was the author of the amendment in 1995 that has been tested and has produced that certainty. It is a mystery why the opposition would want to change it when we have certainty. It has been tested. It does not substantially alter the language, but it does put uncertainty in place of the certainty that has been there for the last five years. The government is not prepared to swap certainty for uncertainty without evidence that it is needed.