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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2403

Senator PATTERSON (10.58 a.m.) —I cannot leave that unanswered. Senator Harradine is implying that we are not prepared to look at this. We believe that this issue needs further consideration in more detail before it is put into legislation. An appropriate way to do this is to ask the committee to examine the ramifications. The Australian Democrats have every opportunity to do this; there will be another social security bill. It is not an issue that was raised. The Democrats have brought this in. It is not related to the bill; it is not an amendment to a government amendment. We know that that can occur from time to time. The coalition, and I presume Senator Harradine as well, have taken the opportunity, because a bill is before the chamber, to add something out of left field or right field that is not on the topic of the bill at the time but gives them an opportunity to put an issue before the chamber. I have said over and over again that the coalition, in its policies as we came up to the last two elections, indicated the need to address the issue of hardship in rural families. We are not denying that, and never have.

  We are saying that it is not appropriate to deal with a major issue such as this without proper consultation and only one week before the end of the session. I have not checked with the shadow minister's office when the draft amendment was written; when it was circulated is one way of determining it. We have an arrangement whereby, if we have amendments ready, we will often send them to the relevant people who are dealing with the issue so that they have time to examine them. But even a week would not have been sufficient time, with the party structure we have, to examine the amendment in detail and have our backbench rural committee and community affairs committee examine the implications of that amendment.

Senator O'Chee —Finance and public administration.

Senator PATTERSON —Yes, finance and public administration. There would not have been time to have all those areas look at the implications of this amendment. The appropriate way to deal with this issue is to look at the amendment fully and consult with the rural community about its impact. That may mean that it needs some qualification so that it does not have unintended consequences. We have tried to accommodate the Democrats by sending the amendment to a committee so that that process can take place.