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Members make their Christmas farewell speeches; Senate may not debate voluntary student unionism bill till next year because of opposition from Senator Joyce.

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Friday 9 December 2005

Members make their Christmas farewell speeches; Senate may not debate voluntary student unionism bill till next year because of opposition from Senat or Joyce


TONY EASTLEY: While many Federal Ministers can celebrate the end of the year and the passing of their legislation through Parliament, there's still no Christmas cheer for Brendan Nelson. 


The Education Minister's bill to ban compulsory student un
ionism is in limbo, still opposed by the Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce.  


The Senate will meet today for the final sitting of the year, but there's only a slim chance that VSU will even be debated. 


A special meeting of the Coalition party room last night failed to end the stand off. 


As Louise Yaxley reports, some MPs want the bill deferred until next year, arguing that the Government would do unnecessary damage to itself if it brought on the vote today and it lost. 


MP: A Merry Christmas to one and all. 


KIM BEAZLEY: I'm going home to my family for Christmas and I do thank them for all they put up with from me. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Kim Beazley was one of many MPs sending Christmas wishes and planning an escape from Parliament House yesterday. 


But Labor's Julia Gillard complained that members of the House of Representatives were kept waiting all day to know if they'd be going home last night or sitting again today. 


JULIA GILLARD: Can I just indicate, on behalf of the Opposition, the complete unacceptability of the Government being unable to indicate at quarter to six whether when we adjourn tonight we're adjourning until February or adjourning until tomorrow? 


It is completely absurd to keep this Parliament sitting for no other reason than you sorting out your internal disputation about the Voluntary Student Unionism legislation. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The delay was because some in the Government still held a slim hope that the bill would pass the Senate today and be able to be sent back to the House of Representatives. 


A special meeting of the Coalition party room was held last night, and it was split. 


The Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce is prepared to cross the floor on the bill. But some of the strong supporters of banning compulsory student unionism argued that the Government should just bring on the vote in the Senate today and put him to the test. 


Liberal Steve Ciobo says he'd be bitterly disappointed if the bill doesn't pass this year. 


STEVE CIOBO: It would be a dent in the hearts of many Liberals and indeed a number of Nationals who've toiled for this for years and sought this for years, would dearly love to get it through, if only Senator Joyce was perhaps a little more willing to listen to reason.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: Others told the party room that that their colleagues should face the fact that the bill is likely to be defeated.  


They said bringing on the vote then losing it would end what had been an extremely successful fortnight for the Government in the wrong way. 


They said it would be sensible to defer it until next year, and they were joined by a group from marginal seats who felt this bill could damage them by leaving the Government looking too hard line. 


In the end, members of the House of Representatives were told they could go home last night, making Labor's Warren Snowdon happy. 


WARREN SNOWDON: It just goes to show that the Government doesn't know what it's doing. Even when it's got the numbers in both Houses it couldn't organise it. I'm pleased to be leaving, I have to be truthful. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: But the Senate will press on today, although the Senate president Paul Calvert did have to clarify that with some. 


PAUL CALVERT: I wish you all a merry Christmas.  


Sorry, if some people thought that I was implying we won't be sitting tomorrow, I'm sorry, that's not the implication I'm trying to give. We will be sitting tomorrow, I understand. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: So, the controversial bill might be still be brought on today, especially if there's any sign from the Family First Senator Steve Fielding, who's been heavily lobbied. 


Queensland Liberal Cameron Thompson wasn't overly optimistic. 


CAMERON THOMPSON: I really don't know. I think the negotiations are still going on and it's still, I think, in limbo-land. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Thompson is with those who don't want to risk the bill being rejected by the Senate. 


CAMERON THOMPSON: I don't think it's going to help to just, you know, just throw it up for a vote. I think it's important that a negotiated outcome be resolved and that we get a sensible go forward for the students, who must be sitting there thinking: "well, you know, we don't want to have to keep paying these crazy fees." 


TONY EASTLEY: Queensland Liberal MP Cameron Thompson ending that report from Louise Yaxley.