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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26285

Senator LUDWIG (10:24 AM) —We will not be opposing this motion, but let me say that the motion that has been moved by Senator Ian Campbell provided a substantive list of bills that the opposition does not agree with and moved that we should sit until their completion. I think, Senator Allison, that you were right when you said yesterday that it is not an end of session. The problem might be that an end of session turns up about every 20 days, unfortunately. But this is not one of those points in time when we would finish each job. We would not consider a list such as that, seek to complete it and then pack up our bags and go off for a recess. This is not the time of the year for that to occur. So the opposition will not be agreeing to the list that is specified in the Notice Paper that originally was in the motion put by Senator Campbell.

What we want to see today is the FTA debate continuing. I think everybody wants that—and the longer I talk the less time is available for that debate to proceed in committee. Our position is that we are prepared to continue with the US free trade agreement—I understand that the amendments are ready—and we are ready to proceed with that debate today. We will monitor the progress of that debate today before we consider any other proposals as to what bills may or may not be required to be dealt with, given the time available. It is not a case of our thinking that there should be an open-ended period of time available. We are unsure of how long the free trade agreement debate will continue. No-one wants to not ensure that everyone has a full and frank debate on the relevant amendments. I am sure everyone wants to be able to do that and, as I have said, the longer I talk the further out we get from allowing that to occur.

In respect of the matter of bills that we might deal with, much depends on how long it takes to do the free trade agreement. I am not sure. Senator Brown might be able to tell the Senate how long the process might take. But we can come back and revisit that this afternoon. There are other matters on the Notice Paper today that we need to deal with—I think there are a couple of committee reports this afternoon. After that point, maybe we can have another assessment of the program to see where we are at with the free trade agreement amendments in committee. If necessary, Senator Campbell can come back and consult with the minor parties and the opposition about how he sees progress going. That is the way the opposition sees the matter at the moment.