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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4819


Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (11:24 AM) —I rise briefly to indicate that the government does not support the Labor Party's approach. I heard what Senator Murray had to say and I thought that he made a very good distinction between what the Labor Party has in mind and what the Democrats have in mind and certainly there is a lot more plausibility about their approach. What Labor essentially has in mind is to smother this from the outset. The amendments give the commission the ability to make orders from the outset and, in doing so, to consider any relevant matter. That is a recipe for endless involvement and intrusion. Clearly, it is not necessary at that stage, as Senator Murray rightly points out. It is only if negotiations break down that you should be particularly concerned to interfere. But, as always, the Labor Party approach is to try and set the rules of the game at the outset and make it very easy to rush off to the commission and get orders that could well limit negotiations to a straitjacket which they prefer. We certainly do not think that that is the way to go. The government's approach, as outlined in the bill, is to identify those matters which we would regard as unacceptable and evidence of bargaining in bad faith, but not to go down the track of trying to specify every aspect of the matter which must be adhered to and, in the case of the amendments, spelt out in advance.