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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 3606

Senator O’BRIEN (10:34 AM) —I wish to respond to Senator Fifield’s comments about Senator Xenophon’s position in relation to these amendments. He suggested that there was some confusion yesterday about the position. Can I say, on behalf of the government—and as someone who was involved in the pairing arrangements, given that Senator Xenophon was absent ill yesterday—that there was absolutely no confusion on our part in relation to those pairing arrangements. As far as I am concerned, we had an unequivocal, clear-cut statement in writing, via Senator Xenophon’s staff, that he wished to oppose the opposition amendments. We then paired him on that basis.

We now have in writing a statement saying that Senator Xenophon wants to support these particular amendments. Senator Xenophon is entitled to change his position. He is entitled to clarify his position. His staff certainly approached this matter in what I would describe as a professional way.

But, lest it be inferred that somehow the government made some error in its pairing arrangements yesterday, I put on the record now, absolutely and unequivocally: we were under the clear understanding, as delivered to us in writing by email, that Senator Xenophon was opposing the opposition amendments. He was therefore paired in that way. He will be paired in any division, if there is one, on this matter in accordance with his now-advised instruction that he wishes to support the opposition’s amendments.