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Thursday, 6 March 2003
Page: 9391


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (12:46 PM) —by leave—I thank honourable senators, or most of them anyway, for their contribution to this debate. I indicate at the outset that the very effective senator for the Northern Territory, Senator Nigel Scullion, wished to take part in this debate but, given the time constraints on this matter and the importance of getting the legislation through, he has very kindly and in a most considerate way agreed not to speak. But I think it is appropriate that his support and close following of this legislation be noted and acknowledged.

I thank Senator O'Brien for his contribution on behalf of the opposition. This is an important piece of legislation. Time is of the essence so, other than the comments about the short notice, can I say that I agree with Senator O'Brien on why this legislation has been brought into the chamber now. I accept that the legislation has been brought into the chamber at very short notice. I accept that it is undesirable when that happens, but unfortunately it does happen on occasions.

As I understand it, the treaty was submitted to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in June, which then reported in November. As a result, complex legislation had to be drafted. As I indicated before, 12 pieces of legislation required amendment. Complex negotiations also had to take place with East Timor on a range of issues following the signature of the treaty, including the production sharing contract for the Bayu-Undan field, which needs to be issued to the contractor when the treaty comes into force. It is a matter of regret that we do not have as much time as we would otherwise like to have to debate this measure. We will be opposing the Australian Democrats' second reading amendment. I complete by remarks by again thanking most honourable senators for their cooperation in this debate.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Stott Despoja's) be agreed to.