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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3452

Senator FIFIELD (Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (12:10 PM) —The opposition is more than sympathetic to Senator Hanson-Young’s amendments, because 26 weeks is indeed the opposition’s policy, but the opposition has taken the judgment that, although the government’s scheme is clearly inadequate, although it is clearly second rate, it is a step in the right direction. The opposition does not have a desire to thwart or frustrate a step at least in the right direction.

Having said that I must say it was disappointing yesterday when the Prime Minister in his doorstop in one of the courtyards of the parliament surrounded by mothers and their babies said that the Senate should—words to the effect of—’get the heck out of the way.’ I was not actually aware that the Senate was in the way of this particular piece of legislation. The Senate is, as always, merely doing its job. It is our job to review legislation. It is our job to seek to improve legislation where we can.

On this occasion the Greens and the opposition have taken a different view as to the best way forward. The Greens have taken the view that the best thing to do is to endeavour to alter this legislation. We are fully aware that we do not have the numbers in the House of Representatives and that to insist on particular amendments would frustrate the passage of this bill. That is not something that the opposition wishes to do. It is clearly our policy that a PPL scheme should be for 26 weeks. That is something that we would like to see, but we do think that something is better than nothing and for those reasons the opposition will not be supporting Senator Hanson-Young’s amendments.