The #5and5 - Last Week of Parliament 2016

Triple J opened their Monday morning news with “The final week of Parliament and rare monkeys found.” This was always going to be quite a week. It was meant to be Malcolm Turnbull’s week of triumph - well, not so much.

 

Best

1. Linking arms has become a major campaign within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to send a strong message against domestic violence. Football teams, bands, remote communities, volunteers have all been sharing photos over the past few months with everyone linking arms to make clear their opposition to domestic violence. On Monday we stood at the forecourt of Parliament House for a ceremony led by Gurindji journalist Charlie King. All parties as well as independents linked arms in a commitment that domestic violence and family violence is always unacceptable.

2. The final major speech of the year was after Question Time on Thursday afternoon. Bill Shorten drew the threads of Government chaos together and compared it to Labor’s plans, policy and vision. It was great. And funny. My favourite line was about the rumours that Malcolm Turnbull will get rid of George Brandis by sending him to London as the new High Commissioner:

“For 80 years the British government sent us the prisoners they considered beyond redemption—the sweepings of their society—and, in one fell swoop, Australia will get its revenge!”

3. There’s a new Senate inquiry, and guess who is in the firing line? Guess which Government minister would have found himself in a scandal this week? Yep. George Brandis. When Bill Shorten reminded Malcolm Turnbull that a year ago he expressed his full confidence in Jamie Briggs, Mal Brough and Stuart Robert and asked whether in the same way he had full confidence in George Brandis, all the PM could do was say “Of course I do” and sit down as quickly as possible.

4. On Wednesday, new results came out showing where Australia ranks internationally for science and maths in schools. We are now behind Kazakhstan. Tanya Plibersek highlighted the hypocrisy of the Government on Gonski funding by holding up in Parliament this sign which the Coalition used at polling booths across the country at the 2013 election.

 

5. After Question Time on Thursday Scott Morrison started boasting that his deal on the backpacker tax had the support of One Nation, NXT, and the Greens political party. Anthony Albanese noticed that Morrison said he would table a letter and then hadn’t done so. Albo was quick to his feet demanding a copy of the letter. Chris Bowen then let everyone know the letter with Richard Di Natale’s signature was on the Treasurer's letterhead. Chris pointed out we now had co-Treasurers and the Government had been so desperate to not reach any sensible agreement with Labor that it had cut a deal which raised taxes and still hurt the Budget.

 

Worst

1. Remember over the weekend Nick Xenophon talked tough, saying he wouldn’t support Government legislation unless the Government committed to delivering the full 450 gigalitres for the Murray-Darling? That’s the same amount of water that Barnaby Joyce referred to in a letter to South Australia which made clear he had no intention of delivering it. Well the tough talk from Nick Xenophon didn’t end real well. Of the 450 gigalitres guess how much he got the Government to commit to before he offered his vote? None. Not a drop.

2. I’ve thought long and hard about including this photo in the email. Once you’ve seen it, the memory will live with you forever. But given I can’t repress this memory you may as well be compelled to look at it too. We’re in this together. This is George Christensen. This photo has not been photoshopped. Despite the talk, he voted with the Government against a Royal Commission into the banks and financial services industry. We lost the vote 74-75 last night.

3. Imagine a world where you can put a law through Parliament but not let the other Members of Parliament see a copy of the new law. That’s what Scott Morrison tried to get away with yesterday afternoon. He stood up to introduce a bill that wasn’t on the Notice Paper, and there were no copies for anyone to read. He thought this was fine. When I raised the hardly earth shattering point that we should be able to have a copy of what we were voting on, the Speaker ruled he had to provide copies. The whole Parliament stopped and did nothing. That’s right nothing, while we waited for copies to turn up. I presume the Hansard record of debate will just have a series of blank pages. Someone needs to tell Scott Morrison that while there are some countries in the world where you don’t have to let anyone know what laws are passing, so far, Australia isn’t one of them.

4. They did it again. Last time they forgot to vote against a Labor amendment there were only a few people in the Chamber. This time every Member of the Government was in the Chamber when an amendment was voted on that had been moved by Kate Ellis. When the Speaker asked for those against to vote no there wasn’t a sound. He tried again. He said he thought the “Ayes” had it. The Speaker decided to put the whole vote again, spelt it out for the Chamber and finally the Government MPs woke up and realised they wanted to vote no.

5. This week the Government got its ABCC bills through the Senate. Those are the bills that have rules for construction workers that are harsher than we apply to people charged with murder. The bills that went through were heavily amended and different to what the Government took to the election. Malcolm Turnbull’s desperation to get anything through and to cut any deal really said it all. This was about the instability within the Liberal Party and his battle with Tony Abbott. He needed to look like he’d had a win. As it turned out, after all the amendments and the chaos of the week, the congratulation messages never arrived.

Normally I don’t plug events in this email. But on Monday Julian Hill is hosting an event which is about this email. Completely about this email. It’s the #5and5 LIVE! and it’s in Melbourne on Monday night. Tickets are here. If you can make it, I’ll see you there. If it works it might become a regular thing. If it doesn’t, I promise to never mention it again. 

Parliament has now finished until February next year. I love that in a multicultural country we get to celebrate everything. In the coming weeks people will be celebrating Chanukah, Christmas, the Epiphany, New Year, Tet and Chinese New Year. So have a safe break. Celebrate as many different events as you can and use every celebration to remind people of the strength we have in the diversity of our nation. And on a personal note, have a happy Christmas.

I’ll be in touch in 2017, another year closer to the next Labor government.

‘til then

Tony 

SONG OF THE WEEK

PS last Sunday night I was in the crowd out the front of the Opera House for the Crowded House concert. There’s a song I’ve been playing on the guitar this week and one lyric from it that I think is the perfect refrain to remember after a year like this one. When someone tries to build a wall between us, “They won’t win”. Here’s Crowded House with “Don’t Dream it’s Over”.