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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8034

Senator MURRAY (11:35 PM) —I have listened to the debate with some interest. The opposition's amendment (2) differs from the government's bill in two ways. Firstly, the period is six months and not 12. That is an easy one to understand. A more difficult concept before us is the qualifier at the end, which says, `unless a shorter period is specified in an award or certified agreement.' My fairly long experience in workplace relations makes me ask what that means. One question that I would ask straight away, of course, is: what is the lower floor? Could a shorter period be one day? I am inclined to think that, in matters of small business, without being too rude to the sector, they are better off with as precise and clear a statement as possible.

Having listened to the debate, Minister, I am inclined to support the opposition's amendment, which will give them the numbers. If I did that, it would go down to the House and you would have to deal with it and bring it back. It would be easier from all perspectives—and I do not know what authority or riding instructions you are under from the cabinet in this matter—if you simply amended the opposition's amendment to knock off that last line. I would then accept the amendment as it is and down it would go and that would be the end of it.

If it came back here without that last line, I would accept it or amend it myself. I would be inclined to insist if it came back. You ought to know that. That is not a threat; it is just that this is the kind of the day when you tell people what you are going to do. Otherwise, we will be in here for eternity. What I am saying to you is that you could have a simple change from 12 to six and leave it at that with that being the only thing that changes in your bill, or we can have the bounce back situation.