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Political play catches Liberals short

CLAIMS have emerged that petty political delaying tactics were behind the absence of Liberal Legislative Council members when the Govern-ment pushed its controversial industrial relations legislation a step closer to becoming law.

It has been alleged that the Liberals were adopting the tactic of reducing their numbers in the upper house and calling quorum, thus forcing Govern-ment members to be present when legislation was being debated.

On that night, both Liberal members left the chamber – one to answer the call of nature – and the Government took the opportunity to push through the second reading of its IR bill.

Greens WA Legislative Council member Robin Chapple said the Liberals had been using the delaying tactic and it backfired.

“If you’re playing hard ball and close to the line, sometimes you’re going to get caught,” Mr Chapple said.

“The Liberals have been running short-suited in the upper house for the two weeks leading up to that.”

Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council, Kim Chance, said the Liberals had been using the quorum tactic.

“That’s their entitlement. We’ve seen the Opposition send its members out so it can call a quorum,” Mr Chance said.

However, he admitted the quorum tactic had not been used during much of the IR debate since the second reading motion had been pushed through.

“It’s not a tactic I particularly object to. I’ve never felt the need to raise the matter with the Liberal’s leader in the Legislative Council,” Mr Chance said.

Liberal Legislative Council leader Norman Moore strenuously denied that quorum calling had been behind his party’s no-show at the crucial vote, but admitted it was a tactic it had used in the

past.

“We have used quorum calling over the past 12 months when dealing with major legislation such as gay law reform, the one-vote, one value legislation and the IR laws,” Mr Moore said.

“We’ve taken the view that Government members should be there for such important legis-lation. On some occasions the minister has been the only Gov-ernment member in the council when this sort of legislation is being discussed.

“During the first week of the IR debate Kim Chance went off to Tasmania to take part in a car rally.”

The no-show during the IR vote was only one of Opposition’s problems during the recent Legislative Council sitting period.

It also managed to alienate its small business heartland by voting against the clause that allowed the Government to set up its own version of individual contracts.

Greens WA member Dee Margetts crossed the floor to vote with the Liberals and One Nation, therefore removing EEAs from the bill.

The Government then succeeded in removing the popular Work-place Agreements legislation, leaving WA with a purely collec-tive bargaining-governed IR regime.

Coalition of Business Assoc-iations spokesman Peter Fitz-patrick said he was puzzled by the Opposition’s move.

“This has made the IR legis-lation unworkable for business,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Employment and Consumer Protection Minister John Kobelke said he would reintroduce the EEAs because they had been a crucial part of the Government’s pre-election platform.

Liberal Party labour relations spokesperson Cheryl Edwardes said if the EEAs were reinserted into the legislation the Liberals would support them.

For the first time in more than 100 years the Liberal Party finds itself both on the Opposition benches and in a minority position in WA’s upper house.

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