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Friday, 10 November 2000
Page: 19674

Senator ALLISON (9:47 AM) —I find it extraordinary that the minister would be talking about the Senate delaying the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Bill 2000. This bill has been around since 1997, but none of us in this place knew what the implications were until quite recently. The Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education Legislation Committee dealt with this bill very quickly as soon as it was referred. We conducted hearings and reported in early October—I cannot remember the exact date. We could have dealt with this bill weeks ago. In fact, we could have dealt with this bill at the beginning of the year if the government had had a mind to put the legislation forward, but of course it did not want to do that. It wanted to hold on to this bill until it became almost too late to deal with it in a proper manner.

I take great exception to the suggestion by the minister that the Senate has been in any way delaying this legislation. The Democrats have been prepared and willing to debate the bill at any stage. There has been no suggestion that we are not ready. If the minister cannot cope with our amendments—given that he has had them for more than 24 hours and that there have been public statements by me about the sort of direction in which we will be heading—then it is a poor show. It needs to be put on the record that the Senate has always been willing to deal with this legislation. We could have had it at the beginning of the year. We probably could have had it halfway through last year.

It would be interesting to find out from the minister how long ago the bill was drafted. Why did it take from 1997 and even midway through last year, when I understood the final model was agreed; why did it take more than 12 months to draft the document? With all the resources available to the government through the department, I would have thought this would be a relatively simple bill to draft. For the minister to come in here and suggest that the opposition parties are in some way delaying passage of the bill is a complete nonsense.