#5and5 The power and the passion
It was a big week so let's get straight into it. Here's the #5and5
1. Malcolm Turnbull really thought he had us in a corner. During Monday’s Question Time he pushed again and again demanding Bill Shorten prove he wasn’t a secret citizen of the United Kingdom by releasing documents. What he didn’t realise was that the whole time, Bill had the document sitting on the table about a metre from where Malcolm Turnbull was standing. The moment Question Time was over Bill stood up and tabled the document saying: “This silly distraction has to end. The circus has to stop. The country does not have time for it. So, in order to put this matter to rest once and for all, I seek leave to table a copy of correspondence from the UK Home Office confirming that I successfully renounced my United Kingdom citizenship prior to my election to parliament in 2007”. Labor then went back to demanding the PM now table the Solicitor-General’s advice they keep relying on to defend Barnaby. Bill might have been willing to present his document to the Australian people but Malcolm Turnbull remains determined to keep the advice of the Solicitor-General secret.
2. The Government was desperate to stop Barnaby Joyce from being an issue. They tried all week to talk about energy prices instead. It’s a bit odd when the distraction the Government wanted was to talk about the fact that energy prices have never been higher than they are under the Libs and Nats, but there you have it. On Thursday, Bill opened by referring to energy prices and the Government benches roared thinking we were no longer talking about Barnaby. By the time the question finished they weren’t making a sound. Bill revealed the Government has still not acted on the new powers it has to put downward pressure on gas prices, and guess which Minister is legally in charge of taking that action? Yep, Barnaby Joyce. So Bill asked whether the reason for the delay was because of the legal risk of the decision being made by someone who might not be lawfully in office.
3. The Government might be claiming it is supremely confident that Barnaby will win in the High Court but it turns out he’s started campaigning for a New England by-election anyway. Anthony Albanese revealed on Wednesday that the Government has suddenly started to take action on a series of road projects in Barnaby’s electorate in recent weeks. These projects were funded years ago, but by a miraculous coincidence the Government has only decided to do something about them now.
4. The WA Liberal Party is special. Very special. On the weekend they voted to start investigating leaving Australia. This didn’t happen when Labor was in office. Back then the WA Liberals were quite happy with Australia. They were generally angry with the world, but reasonably happy about being Australian. It seems that a Turnbull Government is too much even for them and now is the time to secede from the nation. On Tuesday all our West Australian MPs made speeches in a debate about WAxit. There were some really funny moments and it’s worth watching.
5. On Tuesday just before Question Time started Susan Templeman stood up to talk about the importance of rape crisis and counselling services. Often you can wonder whether the people who need to hear these important speeches are listening. Because it was just before Question Time, everyone, including the Prime Minister was there. Susan made sure everyone heard.
1. This week provided the last chance for the Government to do the right thing and stand Barnaby Joyce aside. Let’s not underestimate how significant this one is. The Government has a majority of one. The House of Representatives has unanimously voted that we don’t know whether or not Barnaby Joyce is legally allowed to be a Member of Parliament. So on Monday I moved a very simple motion that only had one point: The Deputy Prime Minister should stand aside. Every member of the crossbench voted with Labor and the motion failed by one vote. That’s right, Barnaby Joyce’s personal vote that he should not have to stand aside is the reason the motion was defeated: 73-74.
2. Jenny Macklin and Linda Burney did any extraordinary job explaining why Labor is opposed to the Government’s determination to start forcing drug testing onto welfare recipients. All the expert advice says it won’t work. It’s all about claiming people who need help are lazy drug cheats. There were many speeches that were powerful on this but I want to share with you the words of Julian Hill. It was a really personal and powerful speech and it said it all. I’ve put a long excerpt from Julian’s speech at the end of the email. I strongly recommend it. Click here to watch the speech.
3. The Government’s changes to citizenship are every bit as bad as we first thought. This week, the report from the Senate inquiry came out after some fantastic work by Labor Senators Louise Pratt, Murray Watt and Sue Lines. It made clear these changes will cause many people to have to wait more than a decade before they can make an official pledge to Australia. It also confirmed the Government will be demanding new citizens have university level English, but you won’t have to pass the English language test if you come from the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada or Ireland. On Wednesday we had a major debate in the Reps demanding the Government withdraw its legislation. If you haven’t yet signed the petition to be part of the campaign on this, you can add your name here.
4. One of the final things to happen this week was the postal survey costing $122 million was confirmed as going ahead. Bill Shorten asked Malcolm Turnbull whether he was willing to sign a joint letter with Bill advocating a yes vote. The week ended exactly how it began, with this Government incapable of rising above politics on any issue. That’s right. Even signing a letter about something Malcolm Turnbull claims to be passionate about was too much to ask.
5. Doug Cameron. Yes I’m putting Doug Cameron on the worst list for this quote: “Can I just congratulate Senator Brandis for that valiant effort. Well done.” Last time I emailed you I said I would not again praise George Brandis which makes Doug’s comment a clear contender for the worst list.
Now Doug may well defend himself on the basis that George Brandis had lost his voice and the Senate is, well, somewhat more polite than the House of Reps. Penny Wong had agreed to not ask Brandis any questions, and when the President of the Senate forced him to whisper a few words, Doug Cameron then stood up to congratulate Brandis. But rules are rules and anyone who wants to praise George Brandis in the future should consider themselves warned.
That’s the #5and5 for this week but I do want to add one final point.
Unlike the United States, the staff of members of Parliament in Australia tend to be anonymous. We focus our attention and criticism on the people who are elected and I really believe that our democracy is better for it. But we shouldn’t let that cause us to ever underestimate how important those who work with elected MPs and Senators are. Just as we need to always thank and honour volunteers, we also have a deep gratitude to people who dedicate their professional life and skills to our cause. This week, without warning, Clara Jordan-Baird dear friend and former staff member for Tim Watts MP, died unexpectedly aged 28. Speeches were made in Parliament paying tribute to a young woman, with a bright future and big heart, who had given her all to making sure Labor helped the people who need us most. Click image below to see Tim's speech.
The #5and5 will be back next week.
PS during the break three great new Australian albums came out from Paul Kelly with Life is Fine, Gordi with Reservoir and Gang of Youths with Go Farther in Lightness. I’ve been playing the three of them pretty constantly lately. Every time I've found a song that is perfect for the song of the week I end up with a language warning at some point which is a shame because they are all great albums. Song of the week is dedicated to George Brandis. On the Paul Kelly album there's a song about man flu. It's sung by Vika Bull. The lyrics are very funny and there's one line you might prefer to censor: here's My Man’s Got a Cold.
PPS Please see below an excerpt from Julian Hill’s speech. Click here or scroll down to watch it in full.
I was reflecting on why I felt so strongly. It is because addiction has touched my family story for my entire life in ways that I have never talked about and cannot fully talk about publicly as they are not my stories to tell. I can say that my father died when I was four. He was a doctor. He battled alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs. My mum loved and lived with this, and talked to me when I was an adult. My mum went back and did a Year 12 subject, because she never finished high school, and studied psychology. She actually topped the state and won the prize. She beat all the VCE and mature-age students. She did her research on addiction. It made sense, I suppose, of parts of her own life but it also showed the genetic predisposition, which always made me a little scared. I've actually got this weird little totem, or homage, to self-protection in the form of a little Valium tablet that a doctor gave me 15 years ago for something. I never took it and I still have it in the cupboard, knowing perhaps that I have bad genes and hoping that my refusal to ever take a Valium will somehow protect me.
My extended family and friendship group, though, has also been touched by addiction through my entire adult life. I have supported people close to me to recovery over the decades and been there through the relapses. I've pulled needles out of the arms of overdosed victims. I've resuscitated people I love. I've called ambulances. I've also attended funerals of people who had lost their battles. I wish I could truly share my experiences and speak from the heart but, as I said, they are not all my stories to tell—perhaps one day.
From 2000 to 2002, I also led a large inner-city community in Melbourne as mayor at the height of the then heroin epidemic. People were literally dying in front yards, dying in shop doorways and dying in laneways. I was deeply engaged in the policy and advocacy work with the then state government to battle the heroin epidemic. I recall one moment I was particularly proud of where I was interviewed by Derryn Hinch when he was a broadcaster. He was ranting, in his particularly' ranty' mode, about how we should just let them all die. I was very proud of my self-restraint, because what I didn't share was that I'd just been punched in the head and wrestled to the ground in the Bourke Street Mall by someone I loved because I wouldn't give them money.
These experiences have given me at deep conviction, a firm belief, that addiction is a health issue—a health issue, a health issue, a health issue—which must be treated as a health issue like other health issues. Making it a moral issue simply does not help and criminalising addiction does not help. It's a health issue, a health issue, a health issue. I firmly believe that as a community we must do much more to help people battling addiction. I detest what heroin addiction does to people. It takes prisoner their conscience and makes them do awful things while they have to watch, chained inside the box in their head. It does not destroy their morality. I detest what ice addiction does to people. It drives them crazy with irrational rage, hurting themselves and everyone around them, and does lasting damage. I despair at the impact on my community. I heard stories while doorknocking. The particularly hard ones are from the mothers, begging, wishing, that society would understand this is a health issue and provide more help.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre said:
There is no evidence that any of these measures will directly achieve outcomes associated with reductions in alcohol or other drug use or harm, and indeed have the potential to create greater levels of harm, including increased stigma, marginalisation and poverty.
Or the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, which said:
This proposal does not have an evidence base and is likely to engender greater harm to the community.