Senate passes stimulus package

The package will now go back to parliament\’s lower house, where the government has a strong majority, before it becomes law and releases funds designed to boost the economy in the face of the global financial crisis.

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Xenophon agrees on compromise

“I believe this is the right thing to do and I am willing to support the government\’s economic stimulus package,” senator Nick Xenophon said shortly before the vote, after intense negotiations with government officials overnight.

Senator Xenophon helped to scuttle the package yesterday when he voted with the coalition opposition to vote down government legislation in the upper house.

The government rushed a new package of bills through the lower house on last night.

After talks with Treasurer Wayne Swan overnight this morning, Senator Xenophon announced he was ready to vote for the package.

“I am willing to support the government\’s economic stimulus package,” he told the Senate after outlining details of a deal with the government.

“Ultimately, I was sent here to do a job and that job is to do whatever I can to assist the hundreds of thousands of people along the (Murray-Darling) rivers.”

While the deal had not given everyone what they wanted, it may have given them what they need, he said.

“This morning, the treasurer and the water minister (Penny Wong) have agreed to a package of $900 million in spending commitments including fast-tracking spending for the Murray-Darling-Basin, for its economy over and above any previous commitments,” Senator Xenophon said.

Senator Xenophon says there will be an additional $500 million brought forward during the next three-and-a-half years for water buybacks, bringing the total spend to over two billion for that period.

There will be $200 million in grants to help local communities in water saving and planning for the future.

For the first time there will be a guaranteed 200 million for storm-water harvesting projects.

Significant changes will be made to restrictions on emergency circumstances exit grant packages so that larger properties can qualify.