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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3250


Senator POWELL(4.53) —It is important that before the vote is taken we are clear what is happening, especially after Senator Lewis's comments. Apparently he is continuing to plead with the Government. I think that I should plead with Senator Lewis in equal futility. He knows very well that those compromise amendments which he has discussed with the Government would pass this place if they were put by the Opposition because they would be supported by the Democrats. However, he has chosen to do what Senator Macklin hoped this morning the Opposition would not do again, as it eventually did in 1985, and that is to cave in to blackmail which has come by way of a letter from the Minister to all senators.

The amendments which we are about to vote against could stand if the Opposition would stand by its amendments, as it has said publicly it would do. However, since it has chosen not to do that, the second option would be to put the alternative amendments which Senator Lewis has just talked about which would be supported by the Australian Democrats. We could have done that before lunch. Five hours ago we could have tossed those amendments back to the House of Representatives, which is still sitting, and confronted the Minister once more in the interests of the wheat growers of Australia.

The coalition has decided not to do that. The Democrats are disappointed that that is the case because we will not be able to have a successful vote on either the full range of amendments or, it seems, any alternative that ought to have been put forward today. We should not have to listen to a plea such as `The Government has a constituency out there and the Opposition has a constituency out there', as if it makes any difference. It is the Government and the Opposition together which are deregulating the domestic wheat market and along with it-this is the soft underbelly for the Government-the transport system. Let us make that quite clear before the vote is taken.