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Thursday, 27 June 2002
Page: 2836

Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (1:49 PM) — I would like to thank the relevant stakeholders from the disability sector and the transport sector who have worked together cooperatively and willingly to achieve a practical, effective outcome in relation to the granting of appropriate temporary exemptions from the disability standards for accessible public transport. Unfortunately, this is in contrast to the conduct of some members of the opposing political parties. Passage of this extremely important legislation, the Disability Discrimination Amendment Bill 2002, has been hampered by non-government political incompetence and indecision.

In March this year, the government sought to expedite the passage of the bill through the House of Representatives as non-controversial legislation. Although the shadow Attorney-General's office agreed to this, the debate did not occur until these sittings because it appears that the opposition whip did not receive the message to list the bill as non-controversial. Senator Allison also recently criticised the government for delaying the passage of this bill. The Democrats were first approached on 11 March to list the bill in the Senate as non-controversial to ensure its passage in these sittings. The Democrats finally changed their mind and agreed just this week. The government then acted to make sure that debate proceeded swiftly.

This bill is an important precursor to the formulation of disability standards for accessible public transportation services and facilities. Now that we have finally got the bill to the Senate, I would like to commend the bill to the Senate. It is an essential part of ensuring that the standards will operate in a fair, balanced and effective way for people with disabilities and for public transport operators and providers. Once the bill is passed, the Attorney-General will be able to formulate and table the standards. I am very pleased to commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.