#5and5 The lead up to Wentworth

This was the week to find out what happens when the advertising guy is put in charge of the nation. Mess. Chaos. Madness. Call it what you want. Here’s the #5and5:

In brief:

BEST

  1. Labor’s Private Members’ Bill about Nauru

  2. Government fails to legislate to get rid of discrimination against school kids

  3. Labor’s investment in schools and preschools

  4. Stephen Jones questions who is responsible for the outage

  5. Barnaby makes a comeback

WORST

  1. White supremacist slogan

  2. Government’s treatment of former President of Kiribati

  3. Government gets it wrong on Reef Foundation

  4. Foreign policy on the run

  5. Remembering Ian Kiernan

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1. Every day the reports of a mental health crisis among children on Nauru become more serious. It’s an issue many of you who receive this email have been responding to by asking for more to be done. This week Bill Shorten and Shayne Neumann took to Caucus a proposal for a Private Members’ Bill to help these children. The bill puts the advice of medical experts at the centre of decision making. There have been too many cases of doctors recommending children be taken from Nauru for medical treatment and then nothing happening. I’ll let you know more as this progresses.




2. This goes on the best list in a sorta-kinda way. The Government committed to support Labor in removing the exceptions which say that religious schools can expel LGBTQI students. The timeline was meant to be the change to the law would go through this sitting fortnight. The problem is, after saying it would happen, the Government then didn’t introduce the legislation and the Senate isn’t on next week because it has Estimates. Labor also committed to removing the exemption that allows teachers to be sacked simply because of who they are and who they love. Scott Morrison refused to say what he thought of that.




3. In the last few weeks, Tanya Plibersek and Amanda Rishworth made important announcements that we would return the $14 billion the Government has cut from public schools and we would provide the funding to make sure three and four-year-olds can have access to early childhood education. We backed these announcements in during the week with plenty of Caucus members making speeches during the MPI after Question Time, including Matt Thistlethwaite, Susan Lamb, Tim Watts and Susan Templeman.




4. From Wednesday night through until Thursday morning the internet stopped working at Parliament House. The entire system went down. Stephen Jones remarked he suspected Queensland Liberal Stuart Robert had used up our data allowance.

 Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

5. With the National Party now building momentum for a leadership challenge, the answers the Nats gave to questions from Joel Fitzgibbon this week were off the charts. First Joel asked Michael McCormack “Is the Minister aware of a report today headed: 'PM walking all over McCormack, Nats say'. The same report revealed that, in an attempt to garner support for an ag visa, and his own position, a very well-known Nationals stakeholder has been ringing around for about three weeks in the face of ineffective representation on the ag visa. What is the Minister's response to that stakeholder? And, yes, Minister, we all know who he is!” In response, Michael McCormack (who, in case you don’t know, is this week’s Deputy Prime Minister) launched an all out attack against members of his own party who are anonymously backgrounding against him. Then on Thursday Joel used a little known Standing Order which allows a question to go to a backbencher who has a motion on the Notice Paper. Christopher Pyne tried to stop the question from being answered. The Speaker kept to the precedents and ruled the question in order, and so, for the first time in a while, Barnaby Joyce was given the call to answer a question. If you wondered whether the talk of yet another leadership challenge was real, just have a look at what Barnaby Joyce said: “I know that you find me endearing. I know that you miss me. I know that you want me back [...] You might like to ask me another question. God knows I've got a bit of spare time up here.”

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1. “It’s okay to be white” has been a slogan used by white supremacists and the KKK for years now. Pauline Hanson moved for the Senate to endorse the slogan. There was a debate where it was pointed out what the slogan really was. Then every Liberal and National MP in the Chamber moved across to vote with Pauline Hanson. There was uproar about it and both Christian Porter and Mathias Cormann backed in the decision to vote for it with statements on Twitter. Then, after realising the strength of the public reaction overnight, they apologised, blamed their staff, and claimed it was an administrative error. Think about that. Apparently Liberal and National Senators listened to the debate, knew what it was about, and no-one, not one of them did anything other than vote for the white supremacist slogan. Penny Wong and Labor then supported the vote taking place again the following day so the Government could vote against the Hanson resolution. I moved we also reject the resolution in the House of Representatives. But despite the turnaround in their position in the Senate the Government refused to have a vote on it in the Reps. I don’t think they could be sure which way some of their more extreme Members would vote.

2. “I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?” That’s what Australia’s Minister for the Environment had to say to the one of the most respected leaders in the Pacific, former President Tong of Kiribati. First the Minister denied “100%” that she had said that. When multiple people who had been present confirmed that was exactly what she had said, Mark Butler asked “Given it's been 24 hours since the Minister misled this House, will the Minister now comply with the Ministerial Standards and correct the record?”. In a really odd response, the Minister Melissa Price said she had “stumbled” into a group including the former President at a restaurant and couldn’t remember the complete conversation. Then she apologised anyway. Mark Butler said it reminded him of Peter Dutton’s ‘boom mic moment’ when Dutton was caught making jokes about sea level rises.


3. But that wasn’t the only time the Environment Minister misled the Parliament this week. Remember the almost half a billion dollar handout the Government made to the small private foundation allegedly to help the Great Barrier Reef? Well, guess how much money gets spent on administration. The Minister first told the House the answer is “a small amount”. When pressed on what a small amount might be, she answered “five per cent”. That was bad enough. $22 million isn’t small. But the actual figure is more than $80 million can be spent on administration. We demanded the Minister correct the record and the vote was 71 all. That was after the speech in defence of Melissa Price was made by Greg Hunt and he went for 10 minutes without actually defending the Minister. Eventually in the final Question Time for the week, the Minister conceded our figures are right. More than $80 million can be spent on administration.


4. Thought bubble policy is always dangerous. But this is what you get when the advertising guy is put in charge of Australia. Scott Morrison decided to ignore a full Cabinet process and make an announcement about moving Australia’s Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because he thought it might help him in tomorrow’s by-election. It’s not the way to make foreign policy.

5. Australia lost Ian Kiernan this week. He was a world leading environmentalist. Bill Shorten referred to his work in Clean Up Australia saying: “This was Ian's message: all of us are connected, all of us are involved. That's why, far from the TV cameras and the iconic beautiful beaches of Sydney, you'd find him cleaning up urban waterways, because litter dropped in suburban gutters flows into city creeks and into our oceans.” I worked with him when I was Environment Minister. I’ll miss him a lot. He was a huge supporter of the marine parks we established. The Government may have cut them in half but we are determined to save them. Click on the image above to have a look at the video he was part of when we first announced the marine parks. Or click here to watch the video.


So the media have described this as the Government’s worse week. But don’t forget, Parliament sits again next week…


I’ll be in touch then,


Tony.


PS Paul Kelly’s new album Nature is fantastic. I wanted a song about the environment and there’s a beautiful ballad called “The River Song”. It’s not actually about rivers at all. It’s more of a love song. But I loved it enough to include it anyway. Here’s the song of the week.

Tony Burke