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Fed: New stimulus package passes house, goes to senate

By Melissa Jenkins
13 Feb 2009 12:21 AM

CANBERRA, Feb 12 AAP - The Rudd government will have a second crack at getting its $42 billion economic stimulus package through the Senate on Friday after a new version passed the lower house late on Thursday night.

The amended package, introduced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will see cash handouts to low and middle-income earners and single-income families cut by $50, a concession won by the Australian Greens.

Single-income families and those earning less than $80,000 will now receive $900, while people on incomes of between $80,000 and $90,000 will receive $600, and those earning between $90,000 and $100,000 will get a $250 bonus.

The original package was torpedoed on Thursday after independent Senator Nick Xenophon sided with the coalition when the government refused to fast-track $3.1 billion in funds already allocated for water buy-backs and irrigation projects in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Senator Xenophon said late on Thursday that he was willing to return to the negotiating table.

"(I'm) willing to negotiate with the government in good faith and with goodwill to try and sort this out," he said.

While his amendments were "optimal", the South Australian senator said he would listen to any alternative proposals put forward by the government.

As Mr Rudd introduced the amended stimulus package, he said it was needed to support jobs and small businesses before the brunt of the global economic recession pummelled Australia.

"Every responsible government around the world must play its part to reduce the impact of this global recession and to help our people," he told parliament on Thursday night.

Almost every government in the developed world was going into deficit to stimulate their economies in the face of the global economic recession, Mr Rudd said.

"No other nation's parliament has refused a major stimulus package in the current environment of unprecedented global economic downturn," he said.

"No other country's parliament except this parliament led by this opposition."

Fighting to be heard amongst yelling and jeering in the chamber, Mr Rudd said the opposition's act of "economic sabotage" in the Senate had threatened the jobs and the livelihoods of almost 100,000 Australians.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition would not support a package that would burden the nation's children with up to $200 billion of debt.

"The reality is that the decisions we take today are going to make the futures of our children harder, their taxes higher, their services less generous," he told parliament.

"We are loading debt onto the shoulders of our children."

Treasurer Wayne Swan mocked Mr Turnbull's plea for the government to consider Australia's children.

"Why don't you think of the kiddies and the schools and gyms that you won't give them?" he said.

"You can think about the kiddies who would say something like `Daddy, why does Mr Turnbull think his job is more important than mine?'"

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard encouraged some Liberal senators to cross the floor.

"There must be some members of the Liberal Party that want to see Australians in work and want to see better schools," she said.

"We're waiting to hear from them."

The Senate will meet at 9am (AEDT) on Friday to debate the bills.