#5and5 Week ending with 50cents.
Big week. Let’s get straight into the #5and5.
1. Bill Shorten opened Question Time on Thursday with a question which brought together the real life impact of this Government’s policies. He described a worker who will be losing up to $77 a week by 2020 because the Prime Minister refused to protect penalty rates. He then asked whether Mr Turnbull really expected this worker who has had their pay cut to be thanking him for a 50 cent a week saving on their power bill in three years time.
2. Peter Dutton’s changes to citizenship laws have been defeated. The Government had to bring them on for debate by Wednesday or they would be deleted from the Notice Paper. Wednesday came and went and the Government was too scared to even start the debate. That means the unfair delay and the university-level English test have been knocked back. Everyone involved in this grassroots campaign should be proud of the difference they made. The Government will try again. They still want to stop good people who come from non-English speaking backgrounds from becoming citizens. If you know anyone who is qualified to become a citizen under current law and who wants to make a pledge to Australia, encourage them to apply now, before the Government tries to do this again. That way, once their application has gone through they can make a pledge to Australia at a citizenship ceremony and we can all say “Welcome home”.
3. The Government’s roll out of the National Broadband Network has been disastrous: - Michelle Rowland and Labor MPs gave examples of businesses and homes left stranded without their old phone and internet disconnected but nothing to replace it - of people getting connected and discovering Mr Turnbull’s NBN is slower, more expensive and less reliable than the Prime Minister promised. But the example that stopped the Parliament was Labor’s Emma McBride from the NSW Central Coast. Emma asked the Prime Minister about a local school needing to be connected to the NBN. The school has no NBN connection but the cemetery behind it has been connected. We had the Matter of Public Importance debate on Tuesday about this and the speeches from Michelle Rowland, Stephen Jones, Emma McBride, Susan Templeman and Madeleine King were devastating.
4. Mondays begin with a session called “Private Members’ Business”. It’s where any Member of Parliament can move a motion and determine what the debate will be about. The Liberals had put forward a debate about the American alliance and then didn’t provide enough speakers for the debate time they’d got. A series of Labor MPs filled the gaps. All the speeches were good but one was extraordinary. Labor’s Ed Husic from Western Sydney spoke about his deep appreciation of the United States but spoke of how he felt about the Muslim ban policy of President Trump. The speech was calm, thoughtful and powerful.
5. The screen industry came to Canberra on Wednesday to talk about the importance of telling Australian stories. Think of the movies and TV shows we’ve known all our lives. It’s no accident they’ve been produced. It’s the result of carefully developed policies and support which have allowed the brilliance of our actors, writers, directors and production teams to shine. Many of these policies go back to Gough Whitlam. And right now many of them are under direct threat. Bill Shorten led a conversation between Labor MPs and the industry. It didn’t matter whether the words came from Sigrid Thornton, Bryan Brown, Gillian Armstrong, the union, the businesses or any one of the award winning cinematographers or composers who spoke. They all had the same message. Our stories are under threat and Labor needs to help.
1. We are still waiting for more information from the Government so we can properly assess its latest energy policy. One thing is clear though, the clean energy target was abandoned because Malcolm Turnbull was under pressure from Tony Abbott. You might remember last week Tony Abbott made a speech in London claiming responsible action on climate change was like killing goats to appease volcano gods. Well the House was in uproar when Mark Butler asked this:
“The Prime Minister and the Energy Minister have apparently assured their party room that they will not put a price on carbon or allow carbon trading, but their latest energy policy certainly seems to put a price on carbon and involve carbon trading. Given it looks like a goat, walks like a goat and bleats like a goat, will the Prime Minister now accept the reality of his own policy or will he continue to pay homage to the volcano gods on his backbench?”
What then followed during the answer was a full chorus of Labor MPs calling out “Stop the goats”.
2. I looked up from my desk on Thursday with alarm. Someone had stood up in Parliament and started praising Malcolm Turnbull. This is rare. Then I realised the person praising Malcolm Turnbull was Labor’s Julian Hill. This was disastrous. Then I listened to Julian’s over the top ridicule and mockery of Malcolm Turnbull. This was really funny. 90 seconds of praise for Malcolm Turnbull that we’ll probably never hear again.
“All over the country Australians are celebrating the generosity of our compassionate and benevolent leader, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has thoughtfully offered struggling families some help with out-of-control power bills. He is giving families 50 cents a week! He is so generous, he is so loving, he is so kind! He understands his subjects. He is one of us. He is so in touch.”
3. I wish I didn’t have to write this one. On Monday, Liberal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan tried to imply there was a difference between the parties in who is more committed to opposing child abuse. It was ugly and easily one of the lowest moments I’ve seen in the Parliament. Later in the week Clare O’Neil explained to the Parliament why we are opposed to mandatory sentencing. She explained mandatory sentences make it less likely juries will convict when they know there is no discretion about the sentence. At no stage did Clare O’Neil, or Mark Dreyfus in the speech that followed, make the same allegations against the Liberals that Keenan had levelled at us. The issue is too important for political games. It didn’t receive much in the way of news coverage but if you’d heard the speeches you would have been really proud of them.
4. Holden is about to close in South Australia. The impact on the suburbs around the Elizabeth factory will be severe and the local MP Nick Champion didn’t hold back in fighting for the workers in his local area. It might have been Joe Hockey who originally dared Holden to leave Australia but Malcolm Turnbull sat around the Cabinet table when the Government made that decision.
5. The difference in pay between two TV hosts on the same show put the spotlight on gender equity in wages this week. Labor Members Susan Templeman, Jo Ryan, Andrew Leigh and Clare O’Neil made the case that there’s no equality without pay equity. And Bill Shorten said it was shameful that the gender pay gap had barely moved in 30 years “Compared to their male colleagues, Australian women effectively work the first two months of every year for free. And, of course, we know that gender inequality doesn't stop at wages.”
We’re back next week. Every day now Tony Abbott arrived late to Question Time to receive a cheer in the middle of one of Malcolm Turnbull’s answers. It’s on queue every day. As the end of the year approaches, the instability will only increase. Exactly where it lands is anyone’s guess.
But importantly remember this. Not that long ago all the analysts were saying the conservatives would easily be returned to office in New Zealand. Yesterday Jacinda Ardern won Government for NZ Labour!!! Anyone who underestimates our cause is making a terrible mistake. Congratulations New Zealand Labour.
PS. So how to combine a week of debate about energy policy with a generous nod to Malcolm Turnbull’s birthday next week??? Perfect - here’s the song “In da club (it’s your birthday) “ sung by none other than 50 Cent.