War on Iraq set to dominate parliamentary debate
Sep 16
Chelsey Martin

Federal Parliament's jammed legislative agenda is likely to be pushed even further behind schedule this week, with debate over Australia's involvement in a war on Iraq set to dominate the fortnight of sittings.

New laws allowing research on embryonic stem cells are expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives, with the controversial bill scheduled to be considered early this afternoon.

But other sensitive proposals - including laws beefing up ASIO's powers to combat terrorism and changes to media ownership laws - scheduled for later in the week may have to be deferred.

Despite Prime Minister John Howard's request that the embryonic stem-cell bill be considered without further amendment after it was split from the proposal to ban human cloning, Liberal backbencher Teresa Gambaro will be pushing to protect the right of IVF clinics to use excess embryos for training and quality control.

It remains unclear whether Ms Gambaro's amendments will be successful, but the legislation is expected to pass the lower house despite renewed controversy over evidence from the leading supporter of embryonic stem-cell research, Alan Trounson.

New workplace relations laws making unions and employer organisations more accountable are also due to be introduced late today and are expected to pass through both chambers with the support of the Labor Party.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, is due to return from New York tomorrow to address Parliament on the Iraq situation.

A debate on Australia's role in any military conflict is expected to follow, delaying other legislative business. advertisement

The Senate should also see some sparks this week, with renewed resistance from the Queensland branch of the Liberal Party to a government proposal to strengthen central party control over millions of dollars of election funding at the expense of the states.

Scheduled for debate this morning, the changes to the Electoral Act will also face amendment by the Australian Greens, who want to introduce new rules requiring political parties to hand back donations to any companies that go bust.

Other legislation before the Senate this week includes moves to outlaw pattern bargaining and to introduce secret ballots for protected action.