#5and5 They clocked off early again

Remember last week I hinted that this week could be even worse than last week?

Here’s the #5and5

BEST

  1. Nauru

  2. Live exports

  3. Putting issues beyond politics

  4. The empty suit

  5. Christmas carols

WORST

  1. PM clocks off at 5

  2. Scott Morrison’s handling of national security

  3. Privatisation and the “big stick”

  4. Discrimination against school children

  5. Craig Kelly

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  Photo: Mike Bowers

Photo: Mike Bowers

1. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes for a while now trying to build a majority in each House of Parliament to deal with need to transfer children needing medical care from Nauru. This week we finally had a majority in each House and it was scheduled to all come to a head on Thursday. It began with extraordinary work on legislation in the Senate. The legislation was scheduled to pass through the Senate just before Question Time on Thursday. It would then be dealt with in the Reps straight after Question Time. The fact the majority was there and the legislation passed the Senate is why this is in the best list. How the Government handled it is part of the worst list.

2. We started the week with a message being sent to the Reps from the Senate urging the phase-out of live sheep exports. Once again, the Government Members who had claimed they wanted to stop this trade decided to keep their frontbench jobs and every Liberal and Nat voted to keep the trade going.

3. Before Parliament sat, there were some disgraceful comments from the PM and others in his Government trying to destroy bipartisanship on national security. Anthony Byrne, who is one of Labor’s reps on the intelligence committee, didn’t hold back in describing why putting these issues beyond party politics is important.

4. When he first came to Parliament, there was a lot of hype about Angus Taylor. Since he became a Cabinet Minister you don’t hear so much hype. He occasionally shouts, which must make the PM* rather proud, but other than that it’s been quite a let down. At the start of the week when he wandered to the despatch box, Albo interjected ‘Here he is, the empty suit!’. The interjections of ‘the empty suit’ have since started to catch on.

5. At the end of each year there is usually a Christmas carol challenge between choirs formed by the politicians from both sides and their staff, versus members of the Press Gallery. Yes, our workplace is that ridiculous that we even turn Christmas carols into a competition. This year, the Press Gallery didn’t organise a choir. Normally if there’s only one team you don’t refer to it as a competition. But in our workplace we decided this meant we had defeated the Press Gallery. Many thanks to Terri Butler for organising us all and to Julie Owens who rushed between my keyboard, the Parliament’s grand piano and her own harpsichord. I played guitar on a couple of carols. The final one was a little less traditional. See video below.

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  Photo: Mike Bowers

Photo: Mike Bowers

1. There’s been a lot of criticism of the PM running a part-time Parliament with only 10 sitting days next year. But what he did in clocking off work for the year at 5pm on Thursday this week was worse than just wanting to go home. He was desperate to hide from the Parliament. After all his talk of insisting that national security laws be passed this week, he then shut down the Parliament before they had been legislated. This was because he was desperate to prevent the House resolving to force Peter Dutton to have to listen to medical advice for children on Nauru. For all his talk about caring about national security he was willing to put it all at risk and go home because he was so scared of the Parliament. If you can’t face the Parliament, you can’t govern.


2. This is really a continuation of the previous point but it’s all connected. We had a unanimous report from the intelligence committee calling for amendments to the Government’s security bill. It recommended a series of amendments. The Government introduced more than 170 amendments to try to match these unanimous recommendations. The problem was the amendments didn’t quite match the recommendations of the report. Some were close, some were right, some were missing and some were wrong. But for this Government it’s all a game. After all the bluster, the Senate was ready to carry the correct amendments and the Government sent the House of Reps home. This made it impossible for the full list of amendments to be enacted this year. Eventually the Government agreed it would allow the full amendments to be added when Parliament returns in February and only once that was guaranteed, Labor supported the bill.

  Photo: Dom Lorrimer

Photo: Dom Lorrimer

3. You might have heard the Government shouting that it has a “big stick” to deal with electricity prices. It turns out the legislation can be used to get states to privatise their electricity assets. Justine Keay asked about the privatisation of Tassie’s electricity assets and Anne Aly asked about privatisation of WA electricity assets. When I insisted the Minister had to defend every clause of the bill, they decided to not debate it at all for the rest of the year.

4. Before the Wentworth by-election, the PM claimed he would deal with the fact that religious schools have a right at law to discriminate against children and fix it within a couple of weeks. It still hasn’t been fixed. There was further debate in the Senate and the only thing the PM has tried so far is to abolish the current rule that allows discrimination against children and replace it with a new rule that allows discrimination against children.

5. Craig Kelly. Oh dear. So after the Prime Minister failed to intervene to protect the preselection of former Lib Assistant Minister Jane Prentice, and failed to intervene to protect marginal seat holder Ann Sudmalis, he decided the one person who he would use his full authority to protect was Craig Kelly. As Chris Bowen interjected ‘You can have merit or you can have Craig Kelly. Can’t have both!’

Before I go I need to tell you. I bought Christopher Pyne a Christmas present. At the Salamanca Markets in Tassie earlier in the year I saw a tea towel from a business called Red Parka. On the tea towel is a list of collective nouns. Yes really. You know: a school of fish, a constellation of starfish, a parliament of owls, and my favourite “a coalition of cheetahs”. In return I am now the owner of a medallion which has Christopher’s name on it and the word “perseverance”.

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There are many celebrations at this time of year: Hanukkah, Mawlid, Deepavali. The one that has always been central for me is Christmas. So however you celebrate I certainly wish you all the peace and joy of Christmas.

It’s a big year next year. Stay safe over summer and let’s change the nation for the better by changing to a Shorten Labor Government next year.

‘til then

Tony.


PS the Government couldn’t wait to call it quits this week, here is ‘We gotta get out of this place’ by the Animals.

*Currently Scott Morrison

Tony Burke