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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 63

Senator MURRAY (1:42 PM) —Right from the start the Democrats took the view expressed originally by Labor's portfolio holder—firstly, that this matter was genuinely urgent and, secondly, that it was in the public interest for certainty to be delivered with respect to these matters. The question then was: what is the best route to provide that certainty? Having gone through the inquiry process and heard the evidence, the Democrats ended up with the same conclusion as Labor: that it would be cleaner and easier to validate all agreements that are currently operating. The agreements have a relatively short life and once they were over you would move to the new understanding. This is particularly so given the fact that only one specific item was identified by the High Court as being invalid and therefore it is a relatively peripheral matter for many agreements. It is not peripheral from the point of view of the union people, who attach a lot of weight to it, but it is peripheral in the scale of the full agreement.

However, the government have chosen an alternative route which has its own policy integrity and its own philosophical strength. We just think Labor is right. However, both the Labor portfolio holder and I are of the view that the matter is urgent and if the government are determined to proceed with their approach—I will not speak for the Labor portfolio holder because his counterpart in the Senate can speak for him himself, but I have seen what he has said in print and I have spoken to him—the Democrats will not insist on passing these amendments. We think these amendments are better but, because it is an urgent matter, we do not wish to see a bouncing process go on with respect to them. So we are going to vote against the amendments, although we support them, because insisting on them would just be a symbolic act. Accordingly we will vote against the amendments.