#5and5 I end where I finish
Malcolm Turnbull was angry. Then Scott Morrison was angry. Barnaby Joyce was next to be angry. Josh Frydenberg then became very angry. And in his final answer for the week Malcolm Turnbull spoke about love. Truly. And in keeping to the theme, as he spoke about love, he became very angry.
Here’s the #5and5.
1. The best moments are often when one speech completely changes the mood and dynamic of an entire debate. Power prices had dominated the week. And it got to the absurd stage where the Government actually argued that power prices have been going down. Really.
We woke up on Thursday to discover Josh Frydenberg had put a motion on the Notice Paper to have a go at Labor for saying power prices have gone up. Usually motions like this are moved by Oppositions, not Governments. The fact it was moved by a Cabinet Minister is a really clear signal of a Government under pressure. Josh Frydenberg strutted his way into the Chamber around midday to move his motion. He delivered a speech that probably would have been a better fit for a Young Liberal Conference than the House of Reps. And then Mark Butler stood up. You know Mark - calm, even handed and softly spoken. Not this time. He went straight on the attack exposing how ridiculous it was that the Government was claiming that electricity prices had been falling, and challenged the Liberals to go to Penrith and argue that power prices were going down in Sydney. But here’s the proof of how devastating Mark Butler’s speech was: I stood up next and said that “If the Government think this debate's going well for them, they'll keep it going.” Right on cue Christopher Pyne stood up and moved “The question be now put” to shut the debate down.
All week Labor pointed out there were two things the Government could do now to act on energy prices: pull the trigger to reserve gas for Australian use, and decide on a clean energy target. Jason Clare made clear they haven’t pulled the gas trigger because the Minister in charge is Barnaby Joyce and they don’t know if he’s legally there. And Bill Shorten repeatedly pointed out they won’t make a decision on a clean energy target because Tony Abbott is still running the show.
But of course, if you’re the Government and you believe prices have fallen, I guess you can convince yourself that nothing has to be done.
2. Thursday was the second anniversary of Malcolm Turnbull deposing Tony Abbott. Bill Shorten didn’t miss with this question reminding Malcolm Turnbull of the sort of leadership he claimed he would provide: “Can the Prime Minister confirm that he promised Australians economic leadership but has delivered flat wages growth, falling living standards and higher power prices; he promised intelligent debate but delivers two-word slogans, instead of three-word slogans; and he promised a national style of leadership but has sold out the national interest for self-interest? Prime Minister, after two years of failure and disappointment, what's really changed? How are you any better than the Member for Warringah?”. The PM’s answer finished with something we all now know to be true - Abbott and Turnbull are the same: “Above all, it's been two years since I became Prime Minister, building on the outstanding work of the Member for Warringah.”
Probably the most ridiculous moment was when Malcolm Turnbull decided it wasn’t enough to criticise Labor’s policies today he also wanted to ridicule the policies we had in Government. While he was talking, Tanya Plibersek leant over to me and pointed out he was now criticising the exact policy he had claimed to support and personally voted for back in 2010.
So the next question went to Tanya with this:
“My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister used to say, ‘I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.’ Has the Prime Minister forgotten that when Labor was in Government, not only did he support the policies he just ridiculed, he crossed the floor to vote for them? What happened to the Member for Wentworth people used to know?”
3. Bill Shorten closed out the week with Thursday’s Matter of Public Importance debate. He opened reminding us all of what we had just witnessed in Question Time - how Malcolm Turnbull has gradually morphed into Tony Abbott: “It is my sad authority to inform the Australian people that the transformation is complete: the Member for Wentworth has now become the Member for Warringah.”
Of course Malcolm Turnbull isn’t the only one shifting his position every day. Tony Abbott is now railing against the Paris Agreement which he himself had agreed to, and the same Scott Morrison who only a few months ago was lovingly holding a lump of coal in the Parliament was reported to have told a private function at Wombat Hollow that 'the era of cheap, coal-fire power is coming to an end and anyone claiming it is the sole solution to the nation’s energy dilemma is propagating a myth.' In response Chris Bowen asked the Treasurer “Does the Treasurer stand by his Wombat Hollow Declaration, or do his views change depending on whether he’s carrying his pet rock?”
4. Thursday was R U OK Day but all week around the Parliament, we had events and speeches to raise awareness of mental health and the need to support people who might be struggling. In the Reps, we had some great speeches from both sides. Emma McBride told powerful stories of how the suicide crisis has affected people from her electorate and paid tribute to those who are on the frontline caring for people and trying to raise awareness. Moments like these are a stark reminder of why we are in this place. We have lots of work to do to end the national suicide crisis. Seven Australians, on average, take their life every day. This statistic is awful and there are ways we can help. We were urged to remind everyone, if you notice someone who might be struggling, start a conversation.
5. The Maritime Union of Australia has been in Parliament lately reminding MPs about how Australia has been losing its shipping fleet to foreign-flagged vessels and the Government doesn’t seem to care. The Government had promised to consult on the changes it wants to make to the industry, but instead, introduced legislation without warning on Wednesday. Albo moved the legislation be put off until the consultation happened, and in his speech he listed off the names of the 14 vessels, Australia has lost on this Government’s watch and then said “This is a government that has been prepared to destroy the Australian shipping industry because, rather than having Australian workers who are members of unions, it prefers to have foreign workers being paid foreign wages on foreign-flagged ships around our coasts.”
1. Almost all week, the House was debating the Government’s legislation to cut billions of dollars from universities. Tanya Plibersek kept pointing out how Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal MPs want students to pay higher uni fees, get into more debt, and repay that debt sooner – all for a poorer quality education. Government MPs like to claim these changes are necessary to balance the Budget. But the next bill listed for debate in the Reps was the Government’s company tax giveaway. So it goes like this, $4 billion for universities - can’t afford that, $65 billion for big business - no problem at all.
2. This is extraordinary. Think of all the times the Government has claimed the ABCC is the great law enforcer, protecting the universe from evil trade unions. This week it turned out the head of the ABCC admitted that he had breached the Fair Work Act by failing to accurately reflect the law in Fair Work materials regarding right of entry. But things got even more serious when it emerged in the Senate – in response to a question from Senator Cameron – that the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, first found out about the allegations in October 2016, two months before appointing him to lead the re-legislated ABCC. I reckon you can already imagine what Doug Cameron said, but I’ll share it with you anyway:
CAMERON: Well, wasn't it an uncharacteristically subdued performance from Senator Cash today, when she had to answer questions without prepared bile being flung against the trade union movement? Minister Cash knew about allegations against Mr Hadgkiss [...] Minister Cash had a responsibility to inquire as to whether there was any validity to the allegations that were being made against a very senior Commonwealth officer. Minister Cash failed to do this.
3. As the House of Reps finished on Thursday, the Senate was still debating the Government’s changes to media laws. The deals the Government has cut with Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson mean there are two outcomes on the way: less diversity and further attacks on the ABC and SBS. The debate in the Senate went off the rails when Labor’s Deb O’Neill asked the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield a question about how the media package would work. He didn’t know the answer and then got the cross bench to answer the question for him. Deb responded:
“That's a little breathtaking, what just happened there. Because the Minister couldn't answer the question, he has outsourced it.”
4. Remember when Malcolm Turnbull ridiculed Labor for saying there would be a rise in hate speech if the postal ballot happened? Well, we are only a couple of weeks in and even the Government has acknowledged they need to increase the legislative protections. The best way to avoid the increase in hate speech would have been to not have the survey at all. Now that it is happening it was important to support the protections that this legislation included. The debate was pretty quick because everyone agreed. Penny Wong delivered a calm and powerful speech in the Senate reminding us that the most hurtful material isn’t always the loud angry abuse. Sometimes cruel hatred can be delivered with a chillingly polite tone. She recalled the story of her father who as an immigrant to Australia would be allowed to share cups of tea with polite society but as Penny said ‘They didn’t want him to date their daughters.’
5. Josh Frydenberg has a particularly high opinion of Josh Frydenberg. He’s always quick to quote any Member of the Labor Party if any of us has ever phrased something the wrong way. Sometimes in his answers in Question Time, he spends as much time quoting other people as he does saying anything. (Although this is an odd approach, it’s still somewhat better than Malcolm Turnbull’s habit of quoting his favourite lines from the greatest speeches of Malcolm Turnbull). Anyway, under pressure from Mark Butler on Thursday, Josh came out with a new key phrase, which none of us had heard before and which I suspect won’t catch on: “I end, where I finish.” Huh?
Parliament is now off until Monday 16 October. It’s a particularly significant date given the High Court is considering whether Barnaby Joyce is eligible to be a Member of Parliament from the 10th to the 12th of October. Interesting times.
I’ll email you again at the end of the next parliamentary week.
PS This week’s song of the week was suggested by Catherine King. It’s dedicated to Malcolm Turnbull PM two years on. Here’s Gotye with Now Your Just Somebody that I used to know. By the way, Gotye also plays in a band called The Basics. I saw them in Melbourne at the Espy a couple of years ago. Have a listen when you get the chance.