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New senators debut in Canberra -

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(generated from captions) Tomorrow 14 new senators will be ushered onto the red leather benches as Parliament resumes after the 6-week winter recess. While the government will have a majority of one in the Upper House, the balance of power belongs to its junior Coalition partner. And the Nationals aren't afraid to exercise their new-found power, demanding a $2 billion trust fund from the sale of Telstra and grants to regional universities to make up for the abolition of compulory student fees. Dana Robertson reports from Canberra. The night before their first day in parliament the Government's new senators joined John Howard for dinner at the Lodge. And at the end of the 6-week long winter break the Treasurer's holding out an olive branch of sorts to those worried about what the sell-off of Telstra could mean for services in the bush. He's indicated he might wear the Nationals' demand for a $2 billion trust fund to be set up to pay for future service improvements. I think Mark Vaile has put forward a policy which as I said is certainly worth considering. There are other people in the National Party that have put forward other policies but I think what Mark Vaile put forward is certainly worth considering, yes. That's won over the Nationals' senate leader. I think it will be terrific. But the fate of the Government's plans turns on the vote of each one of its senators and Queenslander Barnaby Joyce has previously said he thinks $5 billion is closer to the mark. There is a trust fund to cover the hole between the Universal Service Obligation which only covers basic telephone-on-the-wall, 56kb download speed and payphones in regional towns, now there's a hole betwen that and mobile phones and broadband and that is what the trust fund has to cover. As the Treasurer placates the Nationals over the sale of Telstra

the Government's also moving to head off the party's angst over the introduction of voluntary student unionism and its potential negative impact on services at regional universities. Rural and regional MPs are holding talks tomorrow with the Education Minister Brendan Nelson to lobby for grants to be paid to needy campuses. That is what we want and that's what we're asking, we don't care how it gets there as long as the universities have the facilities and are able to look after their sporting fields and libraries and counselling and things like that. The indications are they'll get their way. As the political deal-making heats up ahead of Parliament's return, the debate about the withdrawal of Australia's troops from Iraq has reignited,

thanks to the former chief of Defence, Peter Cosgrove. Barely a month out of the job, the retired general is at odds with the Government over the link between the presence of Australian soldiers in the Middle East and the risk of a terrorist attack. We gotta train the Iraqis as quickly as we can to a point where we take one of the focal points of terrorist motivation away and that is foreign troops. He's even suggested a timeline for withdrawal. I figure that if we could get that done by the end of 2006 that would be really good. This is clearly something the Government has to now start talking about that is setting out details of our mission in Iraq

and when that mission is going to be completed. The Prime Minister maintains no date will be set for a departure.