#5and5 Week ending 26 May
Attacks in Manchester and Jakarta loomed over Parliament the same way they loomed over the nation this week. There's nothing I can add to Bill’s words Tuesday.
"My eldest two are teenagers, they go to concerts, like so many here and so many elsewhere. When you see that shaky iPhone footage on that relentless 24-hour coverage, you see so many young people. They're dressed to go out to a concert, to dance, to listen to music.
I can only begin to imagine the pain of parents wondering where their kids are when the first reports come out and the first texts and they realise that their family, their kids are at this concert. And I can only begin to dimly imagine the parents whose calls are being unanswered and the messages going through to voicemail.
And then I also think today, how do I explain this to my own kids? How do we make sense of this to our own children? I will say that it would appear that this has been done by evil people. I will say that we do everything we can in this country to make you safe.
And I will say to them - of course you can still keep going to concerts."
Understandably the news focussed on international events and responses. So you won't have heard much about the other issues we pursued in Parliament this week. Here's the #5and5:
1. This week marked the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 referendum to remove a series of racist provisions in our Constitution, including a provision which had excluded Aboriginal Australians from being counted in the Census. The House of Reps on Tuesday began with elders such as Bonita and Gail Mabo, Charles Passi, Dr Gordon Briscoe AO, Aunty Dulcie Flower sitting in the chamber with us as the Prime Minister spoke and Bill Shorten followed. Both speeches were good, but it’s not unreasonable to say that Bill’s was extraordinary and well worth watching if you get a chance.
My favourite part of these speeches was something that largely went unnoticed. For the speeches to start the Prime Minister has to seek leave and it’s normally my job to stand up and say “leave is granted”. For this part of the morning though, Linda Burney sat where I usually do and took control of the formalities. When the Prime Minister asked the House for permission to speak on the anniversary of the referendum, it was Linda Burney who stood up and gave permission on behalf of us all for the Prime Minister to proceed. Linda herself was not counted in the Census until she was 10 years old and this referendum was passed. So the Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Opposition were allowed to speak because a Wiradjuri woman who wasn’t counted in the Census as Australian until she had turned 10 stood up and said “leave is granted”.
2. There were plenty of high points in Question Time but these two from Luke Gosling and Sharon Bird were my favourites. Luke represents the seat of Solomon in the Northern Territory and asked the PM:
"Lauriston Girls' School in Melbourne, with fees for primary school of up to $27,000 per year, gets seven times the funding increase of Anula Primary School in Darwin? How is that fair to the kids at public schools like Anula Primary?"
Sharon represents large parts of the Illawarra and drew attention to an extraordinary interview Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis had given the day before.
"My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, this week the member for Gilmore said about the reaction of school principals to the government's funding: 'They have certainty of funding going forward—for as far as they know, four years. There is guesstimate there for 10, but no government can absolutely commit to that.' Is the member for Gilmore correct? Isn’t the only certainty for schools a $22 billion cut?"
3. The Government is spreading endless misinformation about the NDIS. Bill stood up before Question Time on Wednesday and made clear: the NDIS was always fully funded, Labor’s proposal on the Medicare levy and Budget repair levy actually raises more money than what the Government brought down in the Budget, the real difference is under the Liberal’s proposal millionaires get a tax cut and people on modest incomes have a tax hike.
“In 2007 Prime Minister Rudd appointed me parliamentary secretary for disabilities. I thought I had seen unfairness in workplaces as a union rep, but nothing prepared me for this second-class deal that Australians with disability and their carers were receiving. Jenny Macklin, Bruce Bonyhady and I, and thousands of people with disability and their carers, designed and campaigned for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But I never ran into the member for Wentworth in the meetings that we were campaigning at, and now the government is seeking to rewrite history and frighten Australians with disability and their carers. Labor has a better, fairer plan for the budget, which raises $4½ billion more. We reject the notion that the only way to protect the NDIS is to increase the taxes on working-class and middle-class Australians. Today I offer the government a fairer, better way: do not give millionaires a $19½ billion tax cut, do not give large corporations a $65 billion tax cut and remove the concessions for property investors worth $37 billion. If you want to try and raise taxes on 10 million ordinary Australians, you will have to come through us. You will have to come through Labor. The last bloke who sat in that chair thought he could, and look where it got him.”
4. Full credit to the Australian Public Service. It takes a high degree of professionalism to respond calmly and respectfully to Pauline Hanson when she asks whether cattle are alive before they are killed. Normally I would try to add some words of my own after referring to Pauline Hanson but how can I add to that. Yes it’s true, animals are alive before they are dead.
5. And it kept getting better. When Pauline Hanson tried to continue her attacks on Australian Muslims and the head of ASIO didn't give the answers she wanted at all. It's great when you can sit there watching bigotry be smashed apart by facts.
1. No matter how many times Malcolm Turnbull tries to claim he’s delivering more money for schools, never forget what his benchmark is. He is offering more than Tony Abbott did. That’s it. It still represents a $22 billion cut to schools. And how do we know that for sure? Malcolm Turnbull’s office put out a briefing document explaining exactly that. Tanya Plibersek brought a copy of the briefing note into Parliament and Tanya and Bill pressed the Prime Minister repeatedly over the week:
Tanya: "My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree with this statement in relation to his schools policy: 'Compared to Labor's arrangements, this represents a saving of $22.3 billion over 10 years'? If not, why did the Prime Minister's office distribute this document to journalists stating that his schools policy was a $22.3 billion saving compared to Labor's policy? He was prepared to put it in writing. Why won't he say it out loud?"
Bill: “My question is to the Prime Minister. I have a document from the Prime Minister's own office which states that the government's schools policy is a $22 billion cut compared to Labor's policy. Does the Prime Minister deny that his own office knew it was a $22 billion cut, wrote that it was a $22 billion cut, told journalists it was a $22 billion cut? When will the Prime Minister stop misleading the Australian people and finally say aloud that his schools policy is a $22 billion cut?”
2. If only we had started the education reforms 40 years ago: our nation’s Treasurer struggled with both math and literacy during Question Time. Scott Morrison decided to eddikate us all - and this eddikachun happened even before they cut funding to schools. Here’s how Scott Morrison began one of his arrogant and condescending answers on Wednesday:
"My attempt, albeit vain, was to try to eddikate the shadow Treasurer."
There are few things sillier than having the Treasurer of Australia be condescending as he tries to eddikate the room.
3. It only took two weeks for a black hole to appear in Scott Morrison’s Budget. And it’s not small. There’s a $2 billion shortfall between what Scott Morrison said would be raised from the banks and what's been declared to the ASX. That $2 billion can only be made up three different ways: either bringing back cuts like the 2014 Budget did, increasing tax, or adding to the debt which the Budget papers already show is heading to three-quarters of a trillion dollars.
4. So do you reckon this is a coincidence? For obvious reasons Government websites are not meant to be party political in any way. In Senate Estimates it was revealed that one Government Department’s website had a link taking you directly to the website of the Liberal Party. Guess which Department? Yep, Peter Dutton’s.
5. The Turnbull Government is increasingly treating One Nation like a formal coalition partner. As more scandals engulf One Nation, including over allegations involving inflated invoices, Mark Dreyfus asked the PM on Monday if he had referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police. Impressively, the PM told the House he would seek advice from the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police over the next day. It wasn’t until Thursday in Senate Estimates that Murray Watt asked the Commissioner about this, only to uncover that no one from the Government had discussed the matter with the AFP.
The House of Reps is back on Monday and Senate Estimates continues. So I'll be back in touch next week.
PS There is so much great music from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders it was particularly hard to choose a song this week. I thought I'd share a song from an artist you might not know yet but who I've seen play four times and I’m confident he’ll keep going from strength to strength. Here's Yirrmal with Back to Culture (featuring Archie Roach).