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Thursday, 25 November 2010
Page: 2288

Senator BIRMINGHAM (6:48 PM) —I do not know what is going on here, but there is a challenge to Senator Lundy and to the government. This chamber is meant to be going to a recess at 7 pm, in about 12 minutes time. We would like to see these amendments from the opposition dealt with by 7 pm. So I am not going to say terribly much here, Senator Lundy. We do not know what is happening in the chaos of the government ranks. We have seen Senator Evans and Senator Ludwig zoom in and out of the chamber at different times. Senator Conroy just had his arm around Senator Fielding—who has just disappeared. Senator Wong is up in the corner with Senator Xenophon. We have had all sorts of little huddles and groups happening. I do not know what sort of chaos is going on. I do not know whether your deal with one of the crossbenchers is somehow falling apart. But your opportunity is here. If you want to move this on, if you want to end the government filibuster, you can get on with the job now and resolve the question on these amendments. Let it go to a vote so that we can move on to the next amendments.

There are pages of these amendments to get through, as you know. You have put in place a gag to apply tomorrow morning. We would like to see all of these amendments appropriately debated and not all rushed through at the end of the gag. So why not cooperate in the chamber and allow us to get on with this? Is there some reason that tax laws amendments are being circulated in the chamber? Why is it that that is happening at present? Has the government authorised circulation of amendments in the chamber because it is planning to change the agenda? What is going on here? Please tell us: what are you planning to do? What are you planning with a bill that is not before us at present?

Senator Lundy, you keep saying that you do not understand what the opposition’s case is on these amendments. You understand it very well. You know very well that there is a very clear and distinct matter of principle and difference between the government and the opposition. We do not think you should be negotiating with Telstra with a gun pointed at their head. That is the firm principle here. We think that, when it comes to their HFC cables and their right to bid for spectrum, they should maintain that right. If you want to get a deal with them, you should get a fair-dinkum deal with them on fair-dinkum terms, not by using ministerial discretion to take away other key parts of their business.

It is that simple: we disagree. You know that; I know that. That is not unusual between the government and the opposition. We disagree. We have established that. We have established that you do not like our amendments. That is okay—do not vote for them. But put them to a vote and do it before 7 pm.