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Wednesday, 15 March 2000
Page: 12887

Senator WOODLEY (6:33 PM) —I would like to speak on this matter as well. I want to congratulate Senator O'Brien and Senator Forshaw. In the committee hearings, I did not participate in the process, because they handled it very well and asked exhaustive questions. I would have thought the government could have come up with some proposal on this issue. It is not good enough to say that the government received notice of this issue too late to deal with it. Let's face it: farmers have received notification and have been able to address some of these issues only in the last couple of weeks. Let me say quite clearly that the evidence given to us was that the UDV did not address this problem when it was placed before them. I know the UDV have representatives here, and so I am deliberately saying that. I could have said a lot of things in this chamber about the UDV and their campaigns. But let me say that the evidence given to the committee was that they did not assist with this issue.

I want to at least put before the committee that that was the problem that the particular people had, whether lessees or lessors. This is a serious issue, and it has been canvassed at great length by Senator O'Brien and Senator Forshaw. Senator O'Brien is very kind when he asks for some assurance from the government. I would like a little more than an assurance, although I suppose that is all we will get at this stage. It is just not good enough. This might be an example of the kind of follow-up that we are going to get from the government on the whole dairy bill. The Democrats and the Labor Party—those of us in opposition—and government members as well are taking a lot of this on faith because we do not have the regulations and we do not have the ministerial directions that we need before us to spell out the details of this legislation. To take on faith what the government is proposing in this chamber really requires the attitude of the government to be positive. Very civil, important and serious requests are being made by the opposition, by Senator Forshaw and Senator O'Brien, about a very critical issue indeed.

Let me underline the fact that Senator Harris—who has been sick, I believe—has been able to come back into this place and, although at a very late stage, propose some amendments that deal with the very issue we are discussing. I do not know whether we are going to vote for them or not, Senator Harris, because it is a problem to receive them late. We are not blaming you for that because you have very limited resources. We know that Rosemary Laing has tried to help you as much as possible and we know that there are all kinds of pressures on you, but you have come up with some amendments. If Senator Harris could do that, surely the government should have been able to come in here with some kind of assurance instead of an explanation which does not satisfy at all. It is just not helping us. We want to deal with the issue. As Senator O'Brien said, we want to expedite the legislation but we have to have an assurance at the least or, better still, some written indication that the government is taking this issue seriously. If what you have said, Parliamentary Secretary, is all the government is going to give us in terms of a response to this problem, then I am afraid it is not good enough for the Democrats and I presume it is not good enough for the Labor Party either.