#5and5 The Majority of One
This was the week we discovered the Government might not have a majority after all. For the first time ever, the Parliament has voted to ask the High Court whether or not we have a majority Government. And the vote in question is none other than the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce.
Now the email this week is a bit different. I’ve been told by Tanya that she is insisting on making a contribution. So in deference to our own Deputy Leader, who is in fact allowed to be in the Parliament, here’s Tanya and the #Tanya’s1+4and5
Hi everyone, I’ve pulled rank on Tony Burke and insisted on guest DJ-ing his #5and5 so I can tell you that Tony is our Number 1 star this week.
He has shone an arc light on the constitutional crisis enveloping the Government. Thursday’s speech detailing why Barnaby ‘Choyce’ should stand aside, and the Government should not accept his vote unless the High Court determines he was validly elected is a cracker: “The government only has a majority of one, and we have unanimously voted, to the High Court, that we don't know whether that majority is lawful. This is a big deal, and this doesn't require much leadership to be able to move on." - Tony Burke
On Wednesday, Tony pointed out just how crazy the Government’s conspiracy theories were in this question:
“My question is to the Prime Minister and it goes to the extraordinary conspiracy theories the government is advancing as to why Labor is to blame for the government's crisis. Which of the following are Labor's fault? Is it Labor's fault the Leader of the House moved a motion on Monday to refer the Deputy Prime Minister to the High Court? Is it Labor's fault his deputy yesterday admitted he was a citizen of a foreign power, right up until the weekend? Or is it Labor's fault that his deputy's father was born in New Zealand in 1924?” - Tony Burke
1. It’s unbelievable that more than a year on from the election, we still don’t know if we have a majority Government. The whole legitimacy of the Government is now called into question. Remember when we lost the vote to have a Royal Commission into the banks? We lost that by one vote. Remember when we were trying to stop nearly 700,000 workers from losing their penalty rates? We lost that by one vote too. Question Time on Thursday opened with Nick Champion and Emma Husar talking about how that one vote from Barnaby Joyce has had a real impact on people’s lives. Then at the end of Question Time, Bill Shorten stood up and spoke passionately about how that one vote, which may turn out to be entirely unconstitutional, has had dreadful outcomes for inequality.
2. This week, there was a period of 10 minutes when the Government managed to again lose control of the floor of the Parliament. This time a series of their most senior people, including Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce (whether his vote is legitimate or not we won’t know until the high court ruling) all forgot to turn up for a vote. I should mention Michael Keenan also forgot to turn up. He’s the one who flew to Melbourne early when we took control of the floor of House last year, and he was also one of the two Ministers who were in the Parliament last year when the Government voted to condemn itself. Maybe he’s a sleeper agent for Labor after all. Anyway the resolution that was carried 69 to 61 was moved by me and said this:
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that:
(1) the Government is failing to protect Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef by:
(a) failing to act on climate change;
(b) supporting the Liberal National Party in Queensland in blocking reef protections aimed at halting the broad scale clearing of trees and remnant vegetation; and
(c) winding back ocean protection, put in place by Labor, around Australia and specifically in the Coral Sea; and
(2) this Government cannot be trusted to protect the Great Barrier Reef and fight for Australia’s unique environment”.
Standing Orders allowed the Government to have the vote a second time and it was defeated, but for a glorious 10 minutes, Parliament got it right about the Great Barrier Reef.
3. Ok so it’s fair to say that I don’t make a habit of praising George Brandis. But this was good. And decent. And given the views of some of his colleagues, this was brave. Have a read of the responses both George Brandis and Penny Wong had to Pauline Hanson’s decision to mock people’s faith.
GEORGE BRANDIS: Senator Hanson, no, we will not be banning the burqa. Now, Senator Hanson, I am not going to pretend to ignore the stunt that you have tried to pull today by arriving in the chamber dressed in a burqa when we all know that you are not an adherent of the Islamic faith. I would caution you and counsel you, Senator Hanson, with respect, to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians. We have about half a million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith, and the vast majority of them are law-abiding, good Australians. Senator Hanson, it is absolutely consistent being a good, law-abiding Australian and being a strict-adherent Muslim.
Senator Hanson, for the last four years I have had responsibility, pre-eminently among the ministers, subject to the Prime Minister, for national security policy. And, I can tell you, Senator Hanson, that it has been the advice of each Director-General of Security with whom I have worked, and each Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police with whom I have worked that it is vital for their intelligence and law enforcement work that they work cooperatively with the Muslim community. To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do, and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done.
Penny Wong's response, although she was cut off from speaking by Senator Hanson, congratulated Brandis:
PENNY WONG: I would move to congratulate the leader of the government for that statement. And I make this point on behalf of all of us on this side of the chamber: it is one thing to wear religious dress as a sincere act of faith; it is another to wear it as a stunt here in the Senate chamber.
4. I loved this one. On Thursday, Barnaby Joyce stood to answer a question. He was interrupted when I moved that given we don’t know if he was legally in the room, he shouldn’t be allowed to speak. That was defeated on party lines. But when Barnaby Joyce stood up to give his answer there was a huge amount of noise. Anthony Albanese stood up to raise of point of order:
The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler on a point of order.
Mr Albanese: Yes, Mr Speaker. It's really consistent with the rulings that you've just made. It's normally the case that valedictories are made in silence—
The SPEAKER: The member for Grayndler will leave under 94(a).
1. So 12 months on we don’t know whether this Government has a majority. That’s right, every vote, every ministerial decision, every day in office has been based on the premise that the Government had been elected with a majority and now we don’t know if that has ever been true. The House of Representatives has never before had to ask the High Court of Australia whether or not the Government is legitimate. We’re on new ground and Malcolm Turnbull wants to pretend nothing has happened. The precedent was set when Senator Matt Canavan discovered he had a problem with Italian citizenship a few weeks ago. He stood aside from Cabinet and he stopped voting in the Senate. Barnaby Joyce has kept his job and the Government is accepting his vote.
2. But apparently the fact that Barnaby Joyce might have been a citizen of New Zealand his whole life is Labor’s fault. That’s if you accept the evil, treacherous, treasonous conspiracy theories uncovered by Julie Bishop. So according to our Foreign Minister there was a conspiracy that apparently involved the conservative Government in New Zealand, the Labour Opposition in New Zealand and the Australian Labor Party to engage in some form of international espionage to destroy the sovereignty of Australia. She was very upset with us and gave some very long death stares. If Julie Bishop is their next leader, we have much to look forward to.
3. You may have seen a story on Monday morning that Labor was planning new taxes adding up to rather large numbers and these numbers made Scott Morrison quite cranky. Poor Scott. The stories claimed the numbers had come from the Parliamentary Budget Office. Well before Question Time, the Parliamentary Budget Office had put out a statement saying the numbers in the articles weren’t its work.
4. The citizenship bill passed the House of Representatives on Monday. I can’t speak highly enough of the speeches Labor MPs made explaining how unfair these changes are and how wrong it is to say you can only become an Australian citizen if you have university-level English. The fight now moves to the Senate. We need everyone’s help to make sure we stop these changes. Sign the petition against these changes by clicking here and join the campaign. I’m convinced we can win.
5. Respect and fear. Laurie Oakes has managed to inspire both in those of us who work as your representatives. At a time when there are fewer and fewer people working in journalism, it’s a great loss to see Laurie retire. We wish him well.
Parliament won’t sit for the next two weeks. Who knows what will happen during that time. I’ll be in touch after the next sitting week.
PS The lyrics aren’t perfect but the title is irresistible. Song of the week is from New Zealand’s Lorde, here’s Liability.