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Potential Senate control to give Govt clear p -

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Potential Senate control to give Govt clear path to pass its laws

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

TONY JONES: In the modern political era, Australians have become used to their government not
controlling the Senate, but all that may be about to change.

The Howard Government's potential control of both houses would allow it to pass laws like never
before.

Changes to industrial relations, cross-media laws and the full privatisation of Telstra are all
very likely.

Stephen McDonell reports on the changed political landscape in the Senate and what it may bring.

STEPHEN McDONELL: The new Howard Government will control the Senate, either with Family First or in
its own right if the Nationals beat the Greens in Queensland.

This will give the Coalition political power beyond their wildest dreams.

PROFESSOR JOHN WARHURST, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The Government now has a free field,
really, a free go as far as its legislative program is concerned.

It may even begin to think of things that were just not possible over the past nine years.

STEPHEN McDONELL: The Government has wanted to change unfair dismissal laws and fully privatise
Telstra, but senators have blocked the moves.

Now with effective control of the Senate, there will be nothing to stop these changes going
through.

The Coalition will also be able to change cross-media laws, possibly allowing the Packer family to
buy Fairfax newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Financial Review.

And an unimpeded Senate will also allow the Coalition to reach for new horizons.

Organisations like the Centre for Independent Studies have plenty of changes they'd like to get
through.

PETER SAUNDERS, CENTRE FOR INDEPENDENT STUDIES: It would be a very lively and passionate
government, that after eight or nine years in power, other than the things that have currently
log-jammed in the Senate, that had a whole string of other radical proposals that it wants to get
through that it hadn't tried to get through already in the last eight or nine years.

STEPHEN McDONELL: Peter Saunders wants the Government to use its historic power to overhaul
disability pensions, compulsory voting and even look at radical changes to education where
government schools would lose direct funding and parents would instead receive vouchers to pay the
schools of their choice.

Do you think there will be some pressure on the Prime Minister to not waste this opportunity?

PETER SAUNDERS, CENTRE FOR INDEPENDENT STUDIES: Ah, yes, and organisations like mine doubtless will
be adding to that pressure.

I mean, everybody has their own ideas of what should be done and it is, as you say, it's quite an
unusual opportunity when you can get your legislation through both houses.

Um, but equally, I think that the temptation just to go hell for leather and do a three-year big
bang should be resisted and I don't think the Government will be thinking along those lines.

STEPHEN McDONELL: Another by-product of the weekend result is that the Government can block all
Senate inquiries that may cause embarrassment.

The Coalition could also use its power to get rid of proportional representation in the Senate,
effectively smashing the smaller parties forever.

If the Howard Government has to rely on Family First to pass its legislation, it will be Labor
that's handed them control of the Senate.

In Victoria, the ALP gave preferences to Family First before the Greens.

This means Family First, a Liberal ally with just 1.9 per cent of the vote, will get a Victorian
senator.

The Greens will miss out and the Government has virtual control of the Senate.

Stephen McDonell, Lateline.