#5and5 Apparently they're not gonna take it
You don’t need inside information from me to know how this week was marked by division within the Government over how to respond to climate change. Remember they used to argue we couldn’t act on climate change because prices would go up and energy would be less secure? Well the Finkel report, which the Government asked the Chief Scientist to write, came back recommending a Clean Energy Target saying it will put downward pressure on prices and increase energy security.
But the hard right of the Liberal and National Parties weren’t going to let evidence get in the way of an internal brawl. Here’s the #5and5:
1. When we first assembled on Tuesday morning there were statements from both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten about national security and specifically in respect of the Australians who had lost their lives in attacks in recent days.
2. Bill Shorten opened Question Time with this:
“My question is to the Prime Minister. Under this Liberal Government, wholesale electricity prices have doubled, pollution is up and jobs in renewable energy are down, so will the Government commit to working with Labor through the Finkel report to address this massive policy failure?”
Interpreting Malcolm Turnbull’s waffle is never easy but I think his response was “No”. The questions continued from Tanya Plibersek, Mark Butler, and Jenny Macklin asking why the Government wouldn’t commit to a policy which it’s own Chief Scientist had confirmed would act on climate, put downward pressure on prices and improve energy security.
3. On Tuesday, Albo followed up on how disastrous the Budget was for infrastructure with questions aimed directly at the PM:
“My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that under the so-called National Rail Program, not a single dollar is available in this entire term of Parliament? Nothing this year, nothing next year and nothing the year after that. Isn't the National Rail Program in fact the new NAIF - the No Actual Infrastructure Fund?”
4. I know the current session of Parliament still has a week to go but I’m ready to declare Matt Keogh as the winner of the entertaining question prize.
Matt Keogh to Julie Bishop “My question is also to the Foreign Minister. What are the consequences for Australia's standing on the world stage of one of the Liberal Party's biggest donors [...] establishing a company called Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation? (LAUGHTER) Does the Minister seriously expect the House to believe that a Liberal donor who she knows well set up a company in her name—the Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation—but never raised it with her on the many occasions that they met? (APPLAUSE)”
5. Melbourne Liberal Tim Wilson is, well, let’s say confident of his own importance. In a speech on Wednesday he accidently let us know what the internal Coalition brawl is really about. He told the House about how the Environment Minister is focussed on putting downward pressure on Prime Ministers. When everyone laughed, he corrected himself to say prices, but I suspect the first statement was the accurate one.
1. Half a trillion dollars, that’s what Australia’s debt reaches today. And what’s the Government’s response? To throw a massive tax cut at millionaires and multinational companies.
2. Before Question Time on Tuesday, Brendan O’Connor and I moved a motion to bring on a Bill which had passed the Senate which would stop workers having their penalty rates cut on 1 July. The Government fell very quickly into chaos. David Gillespie, who owns a shopping centre, and Craig Laundy, from the family hotel chain, were the two Assistant Ministers at the table. They didn’t know whether to stop Brendan and me from speaking or what to do. They were rushing back and forth to their advisers trying to receive instructions from someone. Eventually it was their turn to talk and they both forgot to stand up. Labor’s Lisa Chesters stood up and got the call while the Assistant Ministers sat mute. Craig Laundy kept complaining he wanted to speak too. There were three minutes left. Again, Craig Laundy didn’t stand up and David Gillespie took the final few minutes explaining why he believed a pay cut was a good thing.
3. Peter Dutton introduced his changes to the citizenship laws. I’ll have a lot more to say on this next week after Caucus has met but just consider this. Both Dutton and Turnbull claimed this week the changes were all about national security. So which national security agency recommended these changes? Australian Federal Police? No. ASIO? No. Defence? No. These changes are a response to a report from Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. So, is it national security? No.
4. On Wednesday, we had a complete contradiction from the Government on whether gas prices are going up or down. And guess which Government Ministers couldn’t agree with each other? Well it was Malcolm Turnbull who was unable to agree with, yes, Malcolm Turnbull. First he said in answer to a question from Bill Shorten “we have seen a fall in wholesale gas prices on the east coast.” Then a few minutes later in answer to a question from Tanya Plibersek he said “the wholesale price of gas has risen dramatically”. The second answer was the accurate one. There has been a massive increase in the price of gas, and during the term of the Coalition Government wholesale power prices have more than doubled.
5. Yesterday afternoon we were again within a whisker of having the Parliament vote for a Commission of Inquiry into the banks. The Senate had passed a Bill with the support of Labor and the crossbench for a Commission of Inquiry to go ahead. There had been a fair bit of speculation about whether George Christensen would cross the floor which would have caused us to win 71 votes to 69. During Question Time, as Government Members realised the vote may well get over the line you could watch them walking up to sit next to George Christensen one after the other to “gently persuade” him to not stand up against the banks. One after the other, Christopher Pyne, Warren Entsch, Damien Drum, Barnaby Joyce, Scott Morrison, were seen in animated talks with George Christensen. Eventually we came to the first vote, he didn’t cross the floor and it was 70 votes all. The Speaker then used his casting vote against our motion. Oh and the reason the Government ended up with 70 votes instead of 71 was this: Julie Bishop missed the vote. Glorious.
Next week is the final week of Parliament before the winter break. There’s no doubt climate change, energy security and energy prices will be a big part of the week. Don’t forget though, next week will also be the final week when Parliament can stop millionaires from getting a tax cut at the same time working Australians are given a pay cut with the penalty rates decision.
I’ll be in touch at the end of the week.
P.S. Here’s one from the ‘80s. As I watched Members of the Liberal Party including Tony Abbott break ranks and go out to the media demanding they would not accept action on climate change, I decided we needed to give the hard line right wingers a song of their own as they show their frustration. Here’s Twisted Sister with “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. And it’s worth watching the video. You can pick which character best fits as Tony Abbott.