Federal Politics

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Gillard, Swan told to slow down or risk key policies

THE rural NSW independents have told Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan to stop rushing legislation and playing politics with key policies or risk having budget measures blocked and even the Murray-Darling Basin Plan opposed.

Fairfax Media has learned that Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor vented their concerns in a face-to-face meeting with the Prime Minister and Treasurer yesterday morning during negotiations over a $760 million savings measure that was part of last week's midyear budget update.

The measure involved unclaimed superannuation and dormant bank savings being taken by the government and put in general revenue.

The government attempted to rush the legislation through the lower house this week but the independents and the opposition argued the measure warranted more scrutiny, forcing the government to cancel debate on Wednesday.

The government tried to resume debate and bring it to the vote yesterday but Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor made the government refer the bill to a Senate committee which will report back on November 19.

This leaves just a week to secure its passage before Parliament rises for the year.


The superannuation bill was the catalyst for Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor pouring out their grievances to the government yesterday.

''It was the first shot across the bow on a range of issues,'' said a source close to the two men.

Mr Windsor complained about last week's surprise announcement about extra water being sent down the Murray to placate the South Australian government and the expectation the independents would pass the necessary legislation without proper examination.

Then yesterday, the government unveiled the final Murray-Darling Basin plan which will be put to the Parliament in the final week of this month.

Mr Windsor warned the government not to try to use the plan as a political wedge, given the divisions that exist in the Coalition, or he would oppose it.

''The issue is bigger than politics. This is about a win-win for everybody, including the river,'' he said.

When the plan is presented to Parliament, it will be in the form of regulation and must be disallowed by either House to be defeated.

Mr Oakeshott listed a series of grievances at the meeting with Mr Swan and Ms Gillard including the recent decision to shelve plans to recognise indigenous people in the Constitution.

Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott, and the Tasmanian independent, Andrew Wilkie, all believe the quest to deliver a surplus this financial year is about politics rather than sound economics and will not just rubber stamp any measure.

''At this point in time … I am not inclined to support any measures which are aimed at achieving a political outcome,'' Mr Wilkie said.

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