#5and5 Turnbull Government in a shambles
This week was a real show of Turnbull’s failure to lead his party. Shambles doesn't even begin to describe it. Here’s the #5and5:
1. Yesterday Bill Shorten delivered a great Labor speech. Many people have been wrestling with the question of whether to boycott Malcolm Turnbull’s postal survey on marriage equality or whether to participate and campaign. Bill explained how unfair the process is, and how the Parliament could vote immediately without this survey. He explained how there would be an awful hate campaign that would leave many young people isolated. When people feel isolated he will not look the other way, he will not let anyone believe they are alone. You can watch the full speech here.
2. While Bill’s speech was met with sustained applause, in the Senate Penny Wong silenced the Chamber. The Government had argued the postal survey would be a unifying moment. Penny responded saying:
“Have a read of some of the things that are said about us and our families and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment.”
3. Peter Dutton’s changes to citizenship laws finally came on for debate this week. I was the first speaker, so my job was to outline Labor’s reasons for voting no to the changes. The line-up of speakers from the Labor Party that followed delivered the most compelling attack from the Labor Party on a Government Bill I’ve seen in a long time. Maria Vamvakinou, Peter Khalil and Tanya Plibersek spoke about how under these laws their own families would never have been allowed to become Australian citizens. Tim Watts and Julie Owens spoke of individuals in their electorates who have had their lives turned upside down as the Government tells them that even though Australia had encouraged them here as highly skilled migrants they were now being told they weren’t really welcome. Anne Aly explained the grammatical errors many Government speakers had made and why they would be given fail marks in the new university-level English test. And Joanne Ryan turned up with copies of tweets from Peter Dutton complete with her corrections to the grammar. We can win this but we don’t yet have a majority in the Senate. To join the campaign, add your name to the nearly 30,000 people who have already signed the petition.
4. A few weeks ago the ABC’s 4 Corners program aired explosive allegations of water theft and corruption within the Murray-Darling Basin. Penny Wong managed to gather the support of the crossbench to have a resolution pass the Senate demanding a judicial inquiry through COAG to get to the bottom of the allegations. The resolution carried an extra clause requesting “the concurrence of the House of Representatives”. This guaranteed a vote in the House of Reps, something the Government had been keen to avoid.
5. The Bankstown Poetry Slam is now the biggest poetry slam in Australia. It’s a diverse group of young Australians from the part of Sydney Jason Clare, Anne Stanley and I represent. On Tuesday night they travelled to Parliament House and took over the Caucus Room for the night. Talk about making an impression. They were sharp, fearless, incisive, and confronting. The next day Linda Burney paid tribute to them in the Parliament saying :
“It was one of the most uplifting, inspiring events I have been to. There were young people from Bankstown, from very many different cultural backgrounds, speaking in poetry, all of it written by them, about what it means to them to be in Australia—what it means for them and their family to have Australian citizenship. There was one young Muslim woman who spoke about being cedar—as in the tree—in amongst eucalyptus. That was just one of the most beautiful images. She spoke strongly of her love for this country. “
1. I wish our predictions had been wrong. Whenever I heard anyone say the plebiscite or postal survey would unleash an ugly campaign I always hoped if we couldn’t stop it, then maybe, just maybe, the debate would be more respectful than we feared. It only took one day before people were being told not to vote on the issue but to vote on political correctness, and one Liberal even linking the debate to the killing of children. People having different views is nothing new. Turning this into a debate where people are being judged by their neighbours in this way is awful.
2. Inequality is getting worse in Australia. Scott Morrison’s argument was unexpected. I thought maybe he’d pretend the Government had a plan to deal with it. He might even have claimed wealth would magically trickle down from multinational corporations and find its way to the rest of Australia. But I’ll confess I didn’t expect him to just deny the data and claim inequality was already getting better. At a time when wages have flat lined and bills are going through the roof, the Government’s response is to cut payments to pensioners and support cuts to wages while giving tax cuts to millionaires and the biggest businesses. Chris Bowen brought the arguments together and explained the need for a crackdown on discretionary trusts on Tuesday. There were also some great speeches on Thursday led by Joel Fitzgibbon over the way energy prices have gone up and up.
3. You know Malcolm Turnbull is under leadership pressure when he needs to tell you he is a strong leader. Instead of showing he had strength by maybe even occasionally doing something consistent with what he used to claim to believe, Malcolm Turnbull decided he would just keep acting weak but telling us he was strong, very, very strong. As the sketch writer James Jeffrey wrote “The first rule of Strong Leaders Club is: You do not talk about Strong Leaders Club.” And that quote appeared under the heading “I am strong, I am invincible, I am Malcolm.” The PM continued his obsession with Bill by saying in Question Time “You haven’t got what it takes to be Jeremy Corbyn.” Instantly Tanya Plibersek called back, “You haven’t got what it takes to be Malcolm Turnbull.”
4. If I reported every offensive speech Pauline Hanson delivered this email would become the #5and50. But there was something special about what happened this week. The next speaker was Doug Cameron. He had prepared a speech on homelessness but when he heard the hatred spoken by Pauline Hanson he threw his notes away and stood up firmly against hatred, racism and bigotry.
5. I mentioned earlier that the resolution from the Senate for a judicial inquiry through COAG into allegations of water theft and corruption had to be sent to the House of Representatives. When it arrived there were two votes to determine whether we would have a chance to agree with it. If these had been carried we were well on the way to a judicial inquiry. Every single Liberal and National MP voted to prevent a judicial inquiry into the issue. While the result was disappointing, the arguments offered by the Government for not having a judicial inquiry were bizarre. Luke Hartsuyker from the National Party told us we had to put an allegation of a billion litres of water being stolen into context. He then went on to explain that there was a lot of other water in the Murray-Darling Basin. It’s like saying we shouldn’t worry about a stolen car because it came from a big car park. But then it got weirder. Tony Pasin the Liberal MP for Barker in South Australia referred to the health of fish stocks in the Coorong. Instead of arguing for more water for the environment he said the best way to save the fish was to kill the seals because the native seals keep eating the fish! Yes. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.
Parliament is back next week and the citizenship legislation will be back on.
PS We started the week acknowledging the death of one of Australia’s greatest ever musicians, singers and songwriters Dr G Yunupingu. His music touched the nation in a way that went far beyond words. Normally the song of the week is based on the politics of the week. This week it’s simply in honour of a man who we have lost, and whose music will live with us forever. His family have requested that his full name, voice and image not be used so instead this week I would like you to have a listen to a song from a wonderful young Australian artist who I’ve seen perform live a few times. He’s brilliant. Have a listen to Yirrmal performing Spirit of Place at Garma a few days ago.