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Major Government legislation hangs in the bal -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government's negotiating skills are being tested. As Parliament sits for
the last week before the budget, there is still no breakthrough on key parts of the Government's
legislative agenda.

The tax increase on alcoholic drinks and the re-write of Australia's workplace laws are being held
up by cross bench senators and the Opposition.

But there is one new Government policy that all of them agree on - that is the move to cut the
number of skilled migrants entering Australia.

In Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports.

HAYDEN COOPER: For a week that is crucial for more than one piece of Government legislation, it's
surprising that proceedings have begun on a bipartisan note.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: This is a certainly a welcome move.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull agrees with the Government's step to cut
skilled migration.

The intake will be slashed by 14 per cent: so bricklayers, carpenters, welders and plumbers can no
longer be sourced from overseas.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans.

CHRIS EVANS: The changes we've made this week will ensure that only the most critical skills are
still on that list. We will still need doctors, we will still need some specific skills. And the
major way that people come in under the permanent migration program will be through the employer
nominated program.

In other words, people will only come in if they have got a job which means that people won't be
coming in to compete with Australians for jobs in areas where there is rising unemployment or
increasing competition for jobs.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, we have been calling for the Government to cut its immigration intake for
months now in light of the worsening economic situation. It is good that they have finally
recognised the gravity of the threat to jobs in Australia and acted to reduce the immigration

HAYDEN COOPER: But that's where the agreement ends.

The Senate will work like a production line over the next four days as the Government ramps up the
pressure to pass key bills before the seven-week break.

The first vote will decide whether to approve, retrospectively, the Government's tax hike on
pre-mixed alcoholic drinks.

And on that, the Opposition leader has unveiled a new position.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: We propose to validate the collection of the tax over the last 12 months. We will
oppose the collection of the tax in the future. It is not a health measure; it is a revenue raising

HAYDEN COOPER: The tax has been collected since April last year and without legislation it would
have to be refunded to manufacturers.

But Malcolm Turnbull wants to stop the tax increase in the future but without the risk of refund.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: What we will do is pass amendments that mean the tax that has been raised without
legislative authority obviously, does not have to be paid back.

There is quite a lot of money there. We don't know how much but it is in the order of $250-million
and that can be used for really effective practical measures to address the problem.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Health Minister Nicola Roxon was quick to attack Malcolm Turnbull's plan.

NICOLA ROXON: We know that he has been in the pockets of the alcopops industry right from the
beginning and all he is doing today is their bidding. This is exactly the position that they put to
the Senate Committee and we now see Malcolm Turnbull pretending that this is his new idea.

HAYDEN COOPER: So you will continue to direct your efforts towards convincing Steve Fielding, I
take it?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, we'll work with all of the Senate. We believe this is a good initiative. We can
see from the sales data that consumption is being reduced. We are determined to push ahead with
this measure.

HAYDEN COOPER: Senator Fielding seems determined to secure new restrictions on alcohol advertising.
Is that an area on which you will give ground?

NICOLA ROXON: Look, we are not prepared to take action today and tomorrow to ban advertising as Mr
Fielding, Senator Fielding wants. We are however, prepared to talk with him and others about the
sorts of measures that can be part of a package.

HAYDEN COOPER: The other great tussle for the Government is in the realm of workplace relations.

The Opposition's Senate leader Nick Minchin is still holding out on revealing his party's
intentions if the series of Liberal amendments are not met.

NICK MINCHIN: We will wait until we see what amendments the Government agrees to with the
cross-benchers: the Greens, Family First and Senator Xenophon.

HAYDEN COOPER: But some Coalition backbenchers take a stronger line. Wilson Tuckey is one who's
less than happy with the leaders of the party who've been distancing themselves from the

WILSON TUCKEY: What I mean is that the leadership was rushing in and telling people what they
thought without checking with the party room. The party room has never held the view that Julia
Gillard had the right to wreck the Australian economy through her style of union dominated
industrial relations.

And certain people that haven't been in the party, in the government or Parliament as long as
others, made comments that were not approved by the party room. It is as simple as that.

HAYDEN COOPER: It's clear that the Fair Work Bill rests with the cross benchers. Julia Gillard is
meeting them again today.

The Greens are likely to support it but Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding are holding out for
adjustments; and at this point changing the new unfair dismissal protections for small business
remains the sticking point.

ELEANOR HALL: Hayden Cooper in Canberra.