#5&5 The first week of Morrison's minority government
Will we ever get to the worst possible week for this Government? There’s an old Hopkins poem “No worst, there is none.” It’s a bit like that in Canberra. Every time you think they’ve had the worst week possible they manage to go that one step further. Welcome to what was, so far, the Government’s worst week. Here’s the #5and5:
Government loses the seat of Wentworth with Kerryn Phelps being sworn in
Government loses the seat of Chisholm
Government could lose the seat of Hughes
Liberals lose in a brand new way
Bill speaks about the chaos gripping the country
The Muppet Show continues
Government votes against increased penalties for the most serious white collar crime
Scott Morrison’s part-time Parliament
Josh Frydenberg the cinematographer
A former Liberal PM asks the current Liberal PM a question
1. When the bells rang at 10am on Monday, Kerryn Phelps was waiting at the doors ready to be sworn in. For the first time in the history of the Liberal Party the seat of Wentworth is not held by them. The Government now had 74 votes on the floor and was a minority Government.
2. The next day, while Scott Morrison was in the middle of a press conference, the Member for Chisholm, Julia Banks, announced she was leaving the Liberal Party. Her description of the extremists in the Liberal Party was scathing: “The reactionary and regressive right wing, who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people”. The Government now had 73 votes on the floor. When the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O’Dwyer said “We believe in smaller Government” Tanya Plibersek interjected back “You sure do, you’re getting smaller every day.”
3. The next day it was reported the Liberal Party might soon lose the seat of Hughes. That’s because one of the people who is often cited as being one of the extremists in the Liberal Party is deciding whether the Liberal Party isn’t extreme enough for him. Craig Kelly is one the key Libs who has been arguing that now the Liberal Party has finished privatising coal-fired power stations, it should now use taxpayers’ money to start building them again.
4. On Monday the Liberals lost a vote in a brand new way. They realised we had a majority of the House of Representatives who supported a motion calling for a National Integrity Commission. To avoid the embarrassment of losing a vote, they voted for it. And then in Question Time the PM* started giving all the reasons he was opposed to a National Integrity Commission. Bill Shorten responded with this question: “My question is to the Prime Minister. Given that the Government has voted today to support the establishment of a National Integrity Commission, does the Government actually support a National Integrity Commission? Yes or no?” The PM refused to say if he agreed with his own vote.
By Thursday we’d all had enough. In fairness that was probably also a fair description of how we felt on Monday afternoon. Bill stood up and delivered an extraordinary speech mocking the chaos that is currently gripping our country because of this Government. You can watch the full speech here. My favourite part is when he went through the Government claims after losses in by-elections and state elections:
“'Don't worry,' they say, 'Batman isn't the real Australia; Perth isn't the real Australia; Fremantle isn't the real Australia; Mayo isn't the real Australia; Braddon isn't the real Australia; Longman isn't the real Australia; Wentworth isn't the real Australia; and Victoria isn't the real Australia.' Rather than face up to their failures of policy, change their out-of-touch attitudes and take responsibility for the cuts and chaos, they prefer to engage in conspiracy theories.”
When the Speaker asked if the motion was seconded I stood up and so did the PM. I indicated I was happy for him to second the motion if he wanted but he sat down and looked just a little grumpy. In my response I dealt with the claim that somehow we are confident about how we’ll go against the Morrison Government at the next election saying “We don’t even know if we’ll be up against the Morrison Government.
1. Maybe we’ve failed. Maybe our comments don’t have the cut through we hoped. But it’s almost impossible to get a criticism of the government into newspaper articles when you are competing with all the Liberal and National MPs and Senators who want to get stuck into each other. And truth be told, they’re really good at it. It was Morrison himself who said they were a “Muppet Show”, a Liberal Senator who described the Environment Minister as being on L-plates. It was the Liberal Treasurer who mocked Christopher Pyne as “a legend in his own lunch time”, and it was the Liberal Minister for Women who this week adopted the phrase “homophobic, anti-women, climate change deniers”.
2. On Wednesday night, Clare O’Neil moved amendments to a Government bill so that the penalties for the most serious white collar crime would increase from 10 to 15 years. We lost the vote when the Government voted against the amendments. Clare asked the first question on Thursday pointing out the lengths the Liberals and Nationals have gone to in order to stick up for the big banks and the top end of town.
3. The parliamentary sitting calendar for next year has been released. It’s unbelievable. The Government’s plan will have Parliament sitting for only 10 days in eight months. It’s a part-time Parliament.
4. Chris Bowen asked Josh Frydenberg about the fact the Treasurer had cancelled attending the G20 gathering of finance ministers at the last minute. Anne Aly asked “Given the Treasurer's recent success as a cinematographer, has the Treasurer considered sending a video message to the G20 instead?” If you haven’t seen what Anne was referring to you can watch it here. But be warned, it’s hard to watch.
5. After we’d voted on Bill’s suspension motion on Thursday, the PM insisted on one more question. It was from Tony Abbott. There was a wait for a few minutes while everyone returned to their seats and Tony Abbott stood, stock still, immovable, waiting to ask his question. The interjections filled the void. Mark Butler interjected “It looks like you’re being interviewed by Mark Riley!”. Albo called out “He wants to ask if they can knock off Malcolm again.”
So that was the worst week the Government has had. Parliament sits next week.
PS The Gang of Youths tour has been selling out all around Australia. I went last night. Just fantastic. The support act is the brilliant Charlie Collins. In honour of the confused expressions we see on Government Members every time we ask “Why isn’t Malcolm Turnbull still the Prime Minister of Australia?” Here’s Charlie Collins with “Wish you were here”.
Currently Scott Morrison