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Government plays parliament recall card -

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Government plays parliament recall card

Sabra Lane reported this story on Monday, September 14, 2009 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: But we begin today in Canberra where the Federal Government has been turning up the
pressure on the Opposition this morning with a threat to recall parliament in December over the
stalled private health insurance changes.

The Government is also taunting Coalition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, on industrial relations saying
he is determined to revive the WorkChoices system that voters comprehensively denounced at the last
election.

But Opposition MPs counter that the Government is simply trying to deflect attention away from its
own problems.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: They say politics and religion don't mix; they did this morning, in parliament's great
hall.

KEVIN RUDD: Malcolm Turnbull and I have been asked to do many things in our lives. Launching a
bible has not been one of them. I know those in the political class are often assumed to be
arrogant and have a view of themselves as being something extraordinary. I have to say to you that
neither of us wrote this one.

SABRA LANE: Both Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull were on hand to launch a bible that highlights poverty and
justice. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the importance of philanthropy, emphasising that
individual's actions can be more powerful than a government's.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: When one of us makes a contribution, be it in dollars or in time, that
contribution carries with it a direct message of love, personal commitment.

SABRA LANE: On the doors of parliament, god, love and compassion were pretty much absent.
Government MPs were channelling ghouls of the political afterlife.

Labor backbenchers Craig Thomson and Senator Doug Cameron.

CRAIG THOMSON: Under Malcolm Turnbull WorkChoices is alive and well. Those of us who attended the
funeral of WorkChoices know that we were conned. There was an empty casket. The Liberals had
already taken the body out and have been busy pumping life back into it and what we now have is the
return of the zombie that was WorkChoices.

DOUG CAMERON: The community have put the stake through WorkChoices' heart but Malcolm Turnbull is
out there trying to pull it back out.

SABRA LANE: The assault against Malcolm Turnbull, stems from comments made on the weekend where the
Opposition Leader wouldn't rule out reintroducing individual contracts. The Government's
interpreted Mr Turnbull's comments as a resurrection of WorkChoices.

Employment Minister, Julia Gillard.

JULIA GILLARD: We were against them. We campaigned on it and were endorsed by the Australian
people. Now one day Mr Turnbull says WorkChoices is dead, obviously trying to represent the
Australian people. He means all of WorkChoices and then on the weekend he is there reviving the
very heart of WorkChoices.

SABRA LANE: Liberal frontbencher George Brandis describes the Government's campaign as nonsense.

GEORGE BRANDIS: That statement they claimed is a lie, the Liberal Party accepted that the 2007
election gave the Labor Government a mandate to repeal WorkChoices and when the WorkChoices
legislation, the repeal legislation came to the Senate, the Liberal Party gave it a clear passage
so this is a scare campaign. There is not a word of truth in it.

SABRA LANE: Opposition MPs say the attack is nothing more than a Government distraction from its
award modernisation process, which unions are deeply unhappy about, and Julia Gillard's school
stimulus spending.

Liberal backbenchers Jamie Briggs and Stuart Robert.

JAMIE BRIGGS: This is a bizarre, a desperate scare campaign from the Deputy Prime Minister who is
drowning in her own waste and mismanagement from the school stimulus debacle, from her promise that
no worker would be worse off when she knew that she could not make that promise. So that is why she
is out there in the last 24 hours making these claims.

STUART ROBERT: Julia Gillard made it very clear before they introduced the award modernisation that
no employer and no employee will be worse off. She refuses to give that guarantee now and all of
the indications are that both employers and employees will be worse off.

The Government is desperate for a smoke screen to cover the fact that their award modernisation is
a complete mess.

SABRA LANE: What could become an election issue is the Government's decision to means test the
private health insurance rebate. It was defeated in the Senate last week and the Government has
already sought advice on reintroducing the bill in December.

But to do that it would need to recall parliament - independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

NICK XENOPHON: It is a silly idea. The fact is this legislation isn't due to commence until July
the 1st 2010. There is no reason to bring back parliament in December at a cost of a million
dollars plus of taxpayers' money.

SABRA LANE: And Liberal backbencher Stuart Robert points out it would be a double dissolution on a
broken election promise.

STUART ROBERT: If they can't hold faith with the Australian electorate over that, I'm not too sure
what they can hold faith with.

SABRA LANE: The Government says it is examining all options, but it would need a majority support
in the Senate to recall the chamber - a big ask, given it doesn't have the numbers.

But perhaps it's more about a game of bluff, as Labor MP Craig Thomson alluded to this morning.

CRAIG THOMSON: And unless we have this threat of returning parliament, nothing happens.

SABRA LANE: Based on current polling, the Coalition wouldn't fair well in an election. Today's
Nielsen poll shows Mr Turnbull has enjoyed a slight increase in his personal approval ratings, but
the Government is still clearly ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred vote. It is at 55
per cent compared with 45 per cent.

Liberal backbencher, Wilson Tuckey, says Mr Turnbull's doing OK.

WILSON TUCKEY: I don't think it has been a disaster. I think he has suffered all the problems that
leaders do. Nevertheless and I hear you know, the Nielsen survey which I think has never had any
substance but they are carrying on this morning.

The reality was that when Bob Hawke had similar popularity ratings, he called an early election and
lost seven seats - nearly lost government.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Liberal backbencher, Wilson Tuckey, ending that report by Sabra Lane.