Christian Kerr writes:

Votes on immigration law changes and same-sex unions could leave the
Government looking ragged. One of John Howard’s greatest triumphs has
been to keep the Coalition singing from the same sheet most of the time.

Now, a Government dominated Senate
Committee has told the PM
his new laws on asylum seekers are unworkable, in breach of Australia’s
international obligations and an “inappropriate response” to pressure
from Indonesia.
The Immigration Department has also – yet again – come under criticism
from the
Committee, this time for failing
to make “crucial information” on key aspects of the laws available. The
Senators say it is impossible to conclude how the new system would
work, how
women and children would be treated and whether legal assistance would

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has met dissidents to discuss their
this morning. This one could be particularly
messy. If the legislation goes ahead in its current form, the likes of Petro
Georgiou, Bruce Baird, Judi Moylan and Russell Broadbent are likely to oppose
the measures in the Reps – never a good look – before they get defeated in the Senate.
Stand by for amendments?

Of more immediate concern to the Government
are Labor, Green and Democrat moves to prevent the Government from overturning
the ACT Assembly’s same-sex union laws.

The Territory’s Civil Unions Act was
formally disallowed yesterday when Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and
Territories Minister Jim Lloyd met Governor-General Michael Jeffery.

A motion opposing this will be introduced
today, with all the focus on ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries.
The former ACT chief minister has not ruled our crossing the floor on the
issue. Matters are complicated, however, by the
presence of Family First Senator Steve Fielding. He’s unlikely to support the
ACT laws. Humphries alone can’t change things. Will
anyone else from the Government break ranks? Unlikely.

Democrat Senator Andrew Murray has told
Crikey: “Three times since Queensland voters decided to give the Coalition control of the Senate from
July 2005 I have moved to end discrimination in superannuation. Three times the
Coalition voted en bloc to keep on discriminating against gay and lesbian
Australians, and against my amendments which hinge on an interdependency
definition already negotiated into one law. Few as they are in number, it would
only take a couple of liberal Liberals in the Senate to stand up on this issue
to get change. I’m not confident they will do so. We’ve been waiting for a
decade so far for them to stand up and literally be counted, so forgive us if
we don’t hold our breath.”

Keep an eye on Canberra’s finest news service The Riot Act for more details on this story as they emerge.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey