Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2005

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

12:57 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I notice the minister is so keen that he is gagging everything before checking whether anyone wants to speak. That demonstrates how far things have deteriorated in our 14 or 16 months since this government got control of the Senate. It is an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction House of Representatives style to move gags to every amendment.

Senator Fielding has explained the amendment he has moved. As people would have seen, Senator Fielding voted for the previous amendment moved by Senator Joyce. He can now say, ‘I tried my best, I voted for it; the vote was tied and the amendment went down.’ He can still ensure it goes through because his vote determines whether or not the motion before this chamber is successful.

The other point I want to emphasise has been made a number of times but, as I have been listening to the debate through the morning, certainly my position and the Democrats position more broadly has continually been misrepresented. I do not think anyone in this chamber opposes the small business changes and the Dawson changes. The Senate passed those changes over a year ago. They were already passed by the Senate. They have not come into operation because of the Treasurer. He is the person who has held up those changes that would help small business. The price he has insisted be paid is to assist in mergers happening more easily. That is the matter before the chamber and that is the concern the Democrats have.

As I said yesterday, we have a separate concern about the broader legislation where, despite the government’s rhetoric of choice and support for collective bargaining, it bans collective bargaining if it involves trade unions in any way, shape or form. This is not only discriminatory but against the government’s own so-called principles of supporting freedom of choice. It is totally offensive. The provision has nothing to do with the Dawson report and is a wider reason for our thinking that it is not only another problematic component of the legislation but also—as Senator Sterle indicated in his contribution earlier on today—an anti-small-business measure. So it is not just an anti-union measure; its consequences are anti-small business as well.

We need to ensure that statements made here are accurate. The Senate supported the Dawson changes relating to small business reform. It did that over 12 months ago. That is not the specific matter before us at the moment. The specific matter before us at the moment relates to mergers.


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