#5and5 The week of the apology
The week began with Parliament at its best. And finished with, well, Parliament being Parliament. Here’s the #5and5:
What does Minister Steve Ciobo actually do?
The proof of “no clean hands”
Banking Royal Commission
Catherine King versus Greg Hunt
The Jerusalem announcement
The big stick
Don’t mention “Paris”
Malcolm Turnbull and the oceans conference
The Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse was a decision made by Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. It led to Monday in Parliament being set aside for a National Apology and Question Time being cancelled. I’m not sure how to summarise this. Both the PM and Bill Shorten gave important and powerful speeches. The PM said: “Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe and to provide justice. And again today we say sorry—to the children we failed, sorry; to the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry; to the whistleblowers who we did not listen to, sorry; to the spouses, partners, wives, husbands and children who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry; to generations past and present, sorry [...] As I do, I simply say: I believe you. We believe you. Your country believes you.” And Bill later followed with these words: “I say to all of you—to you here who treat this parliament with respect by gathering here, to those in the Great Hall, to those on the lawns and across the nation, to the people who couldn't be here because of illness or trauma, to people in prison or trapped in poverty and addiction, and to the family members who have a member who's passed away and who we remember—you matter to all of us. We've come too late to this day. There are wrongs that cannot be made right, but know that today Australia says sorry. Australia says: we believe you.” But beyond the speeches was the statement so many survivors and victims made simply by being there. Institutions had let them down their whole lives. To place any trust in Parliament was a huge step. Yet they were there, listening and showing their appreciation to Julia at every turn knowing that finally those in power had said “We believe you”. There’s still a long way to go now in making sure the redress scheme is set up properly.
2. I could fill a whole email with the work our Senators did this week during Senate Estimates. They worked their way through every portfolio and forced the Government to come clean on issues it would rather hide. But one of my favourites was this exchange between Labor’s Penny Wong and the Defence Department. Click here to watch the exchange.
WONG: So tell me then what does Mr Ciobo actually have responsibility for?
DEFENCE DEPARTMENT: [Long pause while consulting at the table] Senator, look, what we might do is take on notice.
The Minister at the table Marise Payne (who was on the opposite side of the leadership battles to Steve Ciobo was then overheard saying “It’s fair to say I am enjoying this.” Mike Kelly followed up in Question Time by pointing out to Steve Ciobo that even his own Department didn’t know what his job was. Albo took a point of order that perhaps the Defence Minister Christopher Pyne could answer the question instead. Labor Members roared with laughter as Steve Ciobo produced a print out from a website to prove he was in charge of something. I asked him to table the document because apparently his own Department didn’t have a copy but sadly he refused.
3. Scott Morrison has continued to claim he had nothing to do with the downfall of Malcolm Turnbull. But the record tells a very different story. It seems the only way the spill occurred in the first place was with Morrison’s two ‘numbers men’ Alex Hawke, and Stuart Robert rounding up signatures for Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership to spill. Milton Dick and Anne Aly made great 90 second speeches before Question Time on Tuesday pointing this out and quoting writing by Karen Middleton and David Speers. During Question Time we asked about Alex Hawke and Stuart Robert conspiring to get rid of Turnbull, supporting Morrison and then receiving surprise promotions. Nick Champion interjected “How does Dutton feel being outwitted by those two?!’” Nick was then asked to leave the Chamber under Standing Order 94A.
4. If you ever wanted evidence that Scott Morrison is the advertising guy who’ll say anything to close the deal consider this. When asked about him voting against the banking Royal Commission 26 times his answer was “I initiated the Royal Commission.” The whole room was in uproar. Apparently it was now all Scott Morrison’s idea and the reports of him describing it as a “populist whinge” must all be fake news. Chris Bowen stood up and asked a question to keep telling us more about how it was all his idea. And he did.
5. Sometimes I feel for Greg Hunt. In the Environment portfolio he talked about protecting the Tasmanian tiger (which is extinct) and the Antarctic walrus (which has never existed). In the ballot for Deputy Leader he only received 16 votes. And in the Health portfolio, he has become increasingly ridiculous. Time after time now he stands up wanting to claim that only his side of politics cares about life saving drugs. Catherine King hit back brilliantly with this question: “Can the Minister confirm that he in fact took a year to list hepatitis C drugs, two years to list whooping cough vaccine and five years to list a lung cancer drug, and that the Health Department's own annual report shows that one in eight medicines are not listed within the Government's own time frame of six months? How can this Government boast about PBS listings when it has, in fact, itself been delaying life-assisting drugs?” Greg Hunt is proof of the beautiful miracle that extreme self-confidence can be achieved without ability.
1.Last week, Scott Morrison indicated he would be willing to move children from Nauru to New Zealand if the ‘lifetime ban’ legislation passed the Parliament. Bill Shorten and Shayne Neumann responded this week by putting a compromise offer to the Government. The offer was flatly rejected and Peter Dutton declared there were security threats in doing exactly what Scott Morrison had suggested only a week before. We haven’t given up on trying to find a compromise here, even though the Government has preferred to fight than to talk. There was some hope in the final speech in Parliament this week when Liberal MP Julia Banks pleaded for action, acknowledging there were people on both sides wanting to fix the current situation.
2. The Government’s announcement last week about moving our Embassy to Jerusalem unravelled under questioning from Penny Wong. It turns out the Acting Chief of Defence found out after the media had already been briefed and there was no proper Cabinet process. Tanya Plibersek asked: “My question is to the Prime Minister and it relates to his Embassy announcement. Can he confirm there was no Cabinet coordination process, the Foreign Minister wasn't told until 48 hours before, the Acting Chief of the ADF found out about it after the media, and confidential messages with Indonesia and ASIO briefings were leaked? If this is what we get from the Muppet Show during a by-election, what sort of chaotic, divided and unstable performance is this Government planning for the general election?”
3. When Scott Morrison announced he had a big stick to pressure the electricity companies Mark Butler responded “Scott Morrison promised a big stick but today all he has come up with is a toothpick.” Every time they referred to this “big stick” in Question Time Mark had a toothpick ready to hold up with a look of disappointment. It became more and more bizarre by the final day when Scott Morrison not only kept talking about the magical big stick but also started gesturing as though he was holding a big stick and waving it around. Apparently the big stick is not only all powerful, it’s also invisible.
4. The Paris agreement has become so controversial within the Government that Scott Morrison is now avoiding referring to it. He has a new phrase which runs something like: ‘We met Kyoto 1, we will meet Kyoto 2, and we will also meet our commitments out to 2030.’ Labor Members started interjecting “It’s called Paris. You can say it out loud.” Chris Bowen went a step further calling out “What’s the capital of France?” “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” “Who kidnapped Helen of Troy?”
5. Who would have thought the latest civil war within the Government would be about who represents Australia at an oceans conference in Bali? Their hatred of Malcolm Turnbull has become so extreme that the idea of sending him as Australia’s envoy sent the Coalition into meltdown. Linda Burney didn’t miss when she asked: “I refer to reports that the Prime Minister has dumped Malcolm Turnbull as his envoy because he didn't help the Government. Can the Prime Minister please explain to the House how Malcolm Turnbull has been unhelpful to the Government but the Government's other envoys, the Member for New England and the Member for Warringah, have been good for Government unity?”
Now before I finish, there’s been a lot of publicity around Julia Gillard’s portrait by Vincent Fantauzzo. It’s a seriously good work of art and captures so much about Julia. My favourite part of its unveiling was that reserved seating right up the front was provided for Maria, Anna, and Luzia who all worked as cleaners in the Ministerial Wing while Julia was PM. The photo of them with Julia is my favourite of the week.
So that’s the last week for the Reps for four weeks. The Senate is sitting by itself in two weeks. When we come back for the Reps, Dr Kerryn Phelps will there as the Member for Wentworth, and the minority Government will begin.
PS As Australia moves towards a hung Parliament it’s time to pull out one of my favourite Green Day songs. It works perfectly. There’s a line for everyone. Here’s Minority.