#5and5 Week ending 23 June

As everyone heads home at the end of the parliamentary session the changes that are going to be hitting Australians are real. This was the final week to stop the cuts to penalty rates and the last chance to stop the tax cuts to millionaires. Here is the 5 and 5.

1. The Government pushed through its legislation to cut billions of dollars of funding to schools. Sometimes no matter how often you repeat the size of the cut it’s the individual example that says it all. Tanya Plibersek held up a photo in Question Time of Malcolm Turnbull at a school in the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. The photo was used in this year’s Closing the Gap report. The school is set to receive a $100,000 funding cut next year compared to the actual funding it received in 2015. Tanya asked

“Why use these kids for a photo opportunity and then cut funding to their school?”

2. Massive credit goes to Labor’s Senate team who went through marathon sittings arguing the case for education while the crossbench votes went back and forth. Special credit goes to Senators Deborah O’Neill and Jacinta Collins who were relentless in arguing every detail to show exactly how bad the cuts were that the Government was locking in.

3. This week was the last chance to protect penalty rates before the cuts kick in. Bill Shorten kept pointing out the unfairness of workers getting their penalty rates cut, on the same day that millionaires will get a tax cut. I reckon this question summarises the priorities of the Turnbull Government.

“Isn't it now clear that, because of this Government's policies, when the Parliament adjourns, millionaires will win, parents with children at the King’s School will win, but pensioners will lose, people with rising electricity prices will lose, weekend workers will lose, children at public and Catholic schools will lose? Why does this Prime Minister only ever look after the big end of town and punish everybody else?”

Photo: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

Photo: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

4. We’ve been trying relentlessly to stop the cuts to penalty rates from coming into force. We’ve had a Bill go through the Senate that the Government refused to debate in the House of Reps and the Government has refused at every turn to bring to a vote Bill Shorten’s Private Members’ Bill which would stop the pay cut. On Tuesday, Brendan O’Connor tried something different. Instead of trying to introduce our own Bill he took a piece of legislation that the Government was already debating and moved the entirety of Labor’s Private Members’ Bill as an amendment. Christopher Pyne lost it. He took points of order arguing that the amendment shouldn’t be allowed to be voted on at all, only to be overruled by the Speaker and it went to a vote. On this vote George Christensen abstained. So Brendan O’Connor moved a different amendment which would also have had the effect of stopping the pay cut. This amendment was exactly the same as a Private Members’ Bill that had been put forward by George Christensen. The bells started ringing, George Christensen arrived in the chamber, crossed the floor and sat with crossbench MPs to vote in favour of the amendment.  Unfortunately we still lost by one vote. This was the last chance we had to stop the pay cut in eight days’ time.

5. You hear lots of good speeches in Parliament but this one was priceless. Michelle Rowland proved you don't have to deliver a long speech to have a devastating impact. Michelle was speaking about media diversity and Malcolm Turnbull’s hopeless approach to the NBN (National Broadband Network). Have a read of what she said or watch the video below…

“This is Groundhog Day! When I was eight months pregnant, we were here moving this exact same amendment to extract the two-out-of-three rule repeal from this. My daughter is now six months old. She is meeting all of her developmental milestones. Yet, this Government in four years—a big, fat nothing has been achieved in this space. I will not take lectures from those opposite wanting to talk about Labor being stuck in the past with a 1980s mentality when we have those opposite building a 19th-century copper broadband network.”


1. Every few months Pauline Hanson calls for another group of Australians to be segregated. First she did it on race, then religion and this week it was on disability. Bill Shorten was straight into the Parliament condemning her words and reading an email from the mother of a child with autism. Emma Husar, Labor MP for Lindsay in Western Sydney made an impassioned statement out the front of Parliament on Thursday morning where she spoke directly to parents like her who have children with autism and people with autism themselves.

"Even on the days that are hard – when you’re frustrated, and your disability makes you angry – you are still better than she is on her best day." - Emma Husar

The video only takes a moment to watch but I can pretty much guarantee once you’ve seen it you will remember these words for a very long time.


2. You would have hoped that when someone calls for segregation of children, both sides of politics would stand up and repudiate the comments without qualification. But the Liberal Party was so desperate to get Pauline Hanson’s vote for their school cuts that they tried to dodge the question at every turn. In the Senate, Labor asked the Education Minister eight times to repudiate Pauline Hanson’s remarks, and eight times he refused. Don't forget the Education Minister Simon Birmingham is meant to be one of the Liberal moderates. If even the moderates won’t call Pauline Hanson out you can imagine how close to her the hard right of the Liberal Party have become.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

3. When the week started, Peter Dutton was desperate to talk about his changes to citizenship laws. By Thursday when he stood up in Question Time, he didn't mention it once. That’s because on Tuesday, Labor’s Caucus voted unanimously to oppose these changes and we have been taking every opportunity to show how ridiculous they are. The English language test that he has been talking about is at the same level that a whole lot of universities demand for entrance. Labor supports people having conversational English. It’s an important skill that helps people make their way in Australia. But demanding university level English is a bizarre act of snobbery from Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton. It doesn't  just send a message to a whole lot of immigrants who are already living here permanently that they will never get to pledge allegiance to Australia, it also tells a whole lot of Australians who were born here that if Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton had their way they would prefer if you weren’t here.

4. Labor members pounced on the fact that plenty of the people who would fail the English language test for citizenship are Liberal and National Party Members of Parliament. Anthony Albanese said

“Some of the Cabinet wouldn’t pass this English test. I mean Barnaby Joyce would be deported. Have you heard him in Question Time? I don’t know what language it is, but it isn’t English”

Ed Husic made clear in an interview that if Dutton’s rules had been in place his parents wouldn’t have been able to be citizens and wouldn’t be here now. Click here to watch some of the interview. 

Anne Aly was fired up during Question Time whenever Barnaby Joyce stood up. Instead of the normal interjections you hear, Anne would announce as he stood up “It’s time to take the test.” She then called out his score while he was answering. 

“Barnaby's IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score: Sentence fragment minus 1 point, Repetition minus 2 points, Incorrect use of the past, passive tense minus 3 points. Total score = 4.5/5. No citizenship for you. One year.”

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

5. There's a slightly odd formal part of the Parliament which often occurs at the end of Question Time where a Member can stand up and explain that they have been misrepresented. It’s all very formal but when it’s done well can be a brutal way of exposing when a Minister has lied. This week we had three of the best I’ve seen from Andrew Giles, Chris Bowen and Michelle Rowland. I’ll give you the full text with all the formality.

MICHELLE ROWLAND: Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The SPEAKER: Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented? ROWLAND: I do. The SPEAKER: The member may proceed. ROWLAND: On Thursday, 15 June, in question time, the Minister representing the Minister for Communications referred to a media statement I issued on 14 June, and stated in relation to me: She criticised Senator Fifield, the minister, for referring to the fact that 1,400 jobs at Network Ten are at risk. And: It is about 1,400 jobs at Network Ten that are at risk. The minister's statements are false. My media release referred to the 1,400 job losses at Telstra, which were announced by the company on the 14 June. I also expressly stated that the minister was not responsible for these job losses at Telstra. My media release stated: Today it was also announced that 1,400 Telstra workers would lose their jobs as a result of decisions by the company. You don't see Labor blaming the Communications Minister for this outcome. I realise that the two entities both start with a T, but they are two different things.
ANDREW GILES: Mr Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation. The SPEAKER: Does the member claim to have been misrepresented? GILES: I do. The SPEAKER: The member for Scullin may proceed. GILES: In question time on Thursday, the immigration minister made reference to a statement he said I had tweeted in respect of the citizenship changes: 'This is a shameful abdication of responsibility.' I did no such thing. The tweet I imagine he was referring to related, in fact, to parole, and also quoted comments of our Prime Minister as reported by a journalist. I am not sure which is more troubling: that the minister is so concerned that he spends so much time in my Twitter feed that he cannot accurately report it or that he does not know the difference between parole and citizenship 
CHRIS BOWEN: Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The SPEAKER: Does the member claim to have been misrepresented? BOWEN: I do, by the Prime Minister. During question time today, the Prime Minister claimed that I had said his policy on gas exports was a 'sovereign risk'. Actually, it is on the contrary. I pointed out that the Prime Minister, the minister for resources, other government members and official Liberal Party policy had claimed that Labor's policy, announced during the election campaign by myself and the member for Port Adelaide, to ensure that gas exports are in the national interest was 'protectionist, sovereign risk and would kill investment'. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister is, as usual, playing desperate catch-up with Labor.

After a week like this, the Government will spend a lot of time congratulating itself for supposedly getting things done. The problem for them is that the things they have done all help the top end of town and hurt the rest. No doubt they will be going back to their electorates feeling terribly self-righteous and elitist. But when we reach the 1st of July and power bills go up, wages go down, and people realise the cuts that are coming to their local school, it will be a very different story. Parliament won’t sit again until August and I’ll write to you then.

Til then, 
Tony Burke

PS. There’s a Liberal National Party Senator called Ian Macdonald who is strangely obsessed with constantly interrupting Labor’s Penny Wong when she is speaking in the Senate. Of all the things you can do in life, arrogantly bumbling your way into an argument with Penny Wong would have to be one of the dumbest. When Penny mentioned his strange obsession of constantly interrupting her he responded “You’re not my type”. Without missing a beat Penny dismissed him with the words “Don’t worry mate, you’re not my type either”. Click here to watch the exchange. Song of the week for this week is dedicated to Penny’s put downs of arrogant Coalition Senators. 

Tony Burke