Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke takes us through the highs and lows of this parliamentary week.
Imagine a nation where George Christensen and Eric Abetz can dictate policy to the Prime Minister and Treasurer. Welcome to Turnbull’s Australia. Here’s the #5and5
Who would have thought there would be a national debate about whether it was appropriate for members of parliament to vote on a change to the law? Voting on whether the law should be changed sounds suspiciously like the definition of our jobs. That’s what is at the heart of the plebiscite debate. Bill Shorten introduced his bill to deal with marriage equality on Monday.
There has been a fair bit of media coverage about one first speech in the Senate that I’ll deal with at the end. But there has been precious little coverage of the extraordinary first speech in the Senate from Malarndirri McCarthy. I’ll send out a compilation of some key moments from the Labor first speeches once we get through them all, but I’ve taken the view that the first speeches from Linda Burney, Patrick Dodson, and Malarndirri McCarthy shouldn’t wait.
Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen all led Matter of Public Importance (MPI) debates this week (An MPI is the debate which happens straight after question time). Some of the comments provided a perfect summary of the entire week. Here’s Chris Bowen talking about Malcolm Turnbull’s lack of economic leadership over the past 12 months. Later, you will hear from Tanya Plibersek on just how disappointing the last year has been.
The negotiations led by Chris Bowen have delivered on Labor’s commitment to budget repair that is fair. Chris was able to steer through $6 billion worth of improvements to the budget bottom line and still protect the most vulnerable Australians.
The Renewables Sector has been under constant attack from the Liberal and Nationals. In a spectacular piece of misleading rhetoric Scott Morrison claimed he was implementing Labor policy by withdrawing funding from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) but pretending he could ignore the new investments in renewables which Labor had promised at the same time. The same negotiation I just referred to allowed Mark Butler to guarantee Labor had saved ARENA from the Government’s cuts and provided a future for renewables in Australia. Thanks also to the members of LEAN (Labor Environmental Action Network) who have been so engaged on this issue.
So the last time Parliament sat, the Government became the first in half a century to lose control of the House of Representatives. This wasn’t because anyone crossed the floor. It was simply because Government MPs decided to go home early. This week instead of just having his own MPs stay at work, Christopher Pyne decided to change the rules so each day would finish early. This is the school with a truancy problem that decides the answer is to abolish school. The debate on changing these rules took up most of Tuesday afternoon, with Albo and myself pointing out how ludicrous the rule change was and every member of the cross bench voting with Labor.
The rule change wasn’t the only aftershock from the previous Thursday. Christopher Pyne was also reported as telling a meeting of Government staffers that there would now be a member of staff posted at each of the eight exits to Parliament House to serve as sentries preventing Liberal and National MPs from leaving early. Stephen Jones interjected it was “Pyne’s Border Force”.
Usually filibusters are used to delay votes, but this week we saw Government Senators filibustering because they had nothing to vote on, and nothing else to do.
LNP Senator James McGrath spoke at length about his favourite TV show.
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie tried to fill time by memorialising colleagues who didn’t get elected on July 2nd. And then she forgot their names. “Andrew, Andrew… it will come to me,” she said.
It was James Anderson.
When his turn came, Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos told the almost empty chamber, “In government you can get things done.”
Is that so?
There was a moment when I was pretty happy thinking the Parliament was about to have a discussion about Arts policy. Tanya Plibersek started talking about an artist in her electorate. But the discussion was going to be about one very specific work of art. The Fizza poster. It was great to hear Tanya quote Paul Keating’s description: “a bit like a big red bunger on cracker night, you light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing,”
Too much has been made of Pauline Hanson’s first speech. Let’s not pretend there was a huge vote for One Nation. 95% of Australians didn’t vote for One Nation. Back in 2001, without Turnbull’s double dissolution and under the old counting rules, the One Nation vote was higher and the party returned no Senators. Their support has gone down but the last election means their volume has been turned up. There have long been voices of division in Australia and over time the voices of inclusion prevail. Better values will prevail again.
Congrats to Tim Hammond who has been promoted to the Shadow Ministry and Deb O’Neil who has been asked by Bill to serve as his Parliamentary Secretary.
As I type this Stephen Conroy has announced his resignation. He’s been a friend since before he entered parliament and will always be the person who had the privilege to be the Minister who started the National Broadband Network. Not many people leave a mark like that and I wish him well.
Not only does the Reps now finish early, we don’t sit very often anymore so the #5and5 won’t be back until October. Talk then.
P.S. Given the similarities between Pauline Hanson’s first speech and the one she delivered twenty years ago, song of the week is number four from the ARIA charts in 1996: OMC’s How Bizarre