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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5087

Senator CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Sport, Territories and Local Government)(4.27 p.m.) —I want to respond to a couple of points as quickly as I can. Firstly, the debate focused on the CFM sale bill. I remind the Senate, including Senator Brown and Senator Margetts in particular, that the announcement of this sale and the process was in May, which is something like five months ago. You have had something like five months to consult with the union. As Senator Sherry said by way of interjection, if this motion proceeds, you still have the balance of today, all day tomorrow and half of Thursday to get in contact with the union, if you feel the need to do so.

Senator Brown —They are your priorities. We have other things to deal with.

Senator CAMPBELL —I am sure that you do. We are all very busy. I have been an opposition senator. I have not been an independent senator, and I do not intend being one. I understand the pressures. I know that there is a lot of legislation and that it is hard to get across it.

These matters are not complex. I understand from advisers that you have been consulted in relation to the CFM sale bill on a number of occasions. I understand that the Assistant Treasurer has spoken to you about it. No concerns have been raised. It is fair enough to say that you are not enough across the issue to know what the concerns may or may not be; that is a legitimate argument. However, you have had since May, which is five months. The legislation itself was introduced in September, which is more than two months ago.

Senator Brown —Six weeks.

Senator CAMPBELL —You have had six weeks to look at any concerns. No other concerns have been raised about this matter. As I understand it, the union is quite happy. The staff, who I presume the union would represent, are very keen for this legislation to be dealt with as quickly as possible. If it is not dealt with in this manner, it goes out past Christmas. There is uncertainty for those staff. They are the people whom the union repre sents. If it is possible for you to get in contact with the union and anyone else you have to, I plead with you to do so prior to Thursday.

I did not deal with the social security legislation. Again, this is a matter which we will be seeking to exempt from the provisions of the cut-off to provide certainty to social security recipients. The notes I have been given—I will not go through them—say it is basically tidying up to overcome some errors in the legislation. The effect of that is to provide certainty to social security recipients who have not been getting the payments they are entitled to under the social security legislation we are looking at and who need to be given certainty about those payments. They are either going to be paid by way of ex gratia payments or special advances. Failure to deal with this legislation will put those people in a place of uncertainty, particularly in relation to payments which they would depend on for their livelihoods.

We will be seeking to have those matters dealt with as non-controversial and we do seek the Senate's support to do that. I am advised that the record of the Greens while we have been in government and when we have gone to them to say we would like to deal with minor and non-controversial bills—you have to determine whether they are—has been that you have not agreed to any bills being fast-tracked through on a Thursday. That may not be totally right. The ones that you have agreed to—

Senator Margetts —The only bills we've dealt with in the Senate have been by agreement.

Senator CAMPBELL —No, Senator Margetts, you are right. But my advice is that basically you have come kicking and screaming to any agreement to have anything dealt with on a Thursday, which makes it—

Senator Margetts —We have to. We have to be able to consider them.

Senator CAMPBELL —Senator Margetts, as with this debate this time last week, you have had some of the bills for periods of months and months and months. You can bleat as much as you want about lack of potential to consider the legislation because you do not have enough time. You actually do have to work quite hard. Being a senator is not a nine to five job. You actually have to put in some time. I am not reflecting on your lack of ability to do that work but, when you have had before you for five or six months a minor bill that is going to help social security recipients and staff and we finally come to you and say we would like to deal with it, we just seek some cooperation.

The Labor Party in opposition have shown cooperation in these matters. All you are saying is that you do not have time to look at it—that you have all this work to do. All I am saying is that, when you have five or six months, as you have had with the CFM Sale Bill, I am sure the staff at CFM would ask the question: how many months do you need to give these matters consideration? It is not a complicated matter. The minister has been to see you. In relation to both of these matters we are seeking your cooperation on, you have not raised a single matter of controversy or debate. In all of the briefings and discussions, which have been a number in relation to the social security legislation and at least one or two on the CFM Sale Bill, not a single matter of controversy has been raised. So we wonder why they cannot be exempted and why they cannot be dealt with on a non-controversial basis.

Question resolved in the affirmative.