#5and5 Turnbull's million dollar battlers

A lot of people have approached me over the past few weeks saying they read the email but noticed I haven’t been quite as upbeat lately. This week the debate was back on the issues we want to be talking about and the fights that prompted us to become politically active in the first place. So I’m happy again. In Opposition, so there is that, but otherwise happy.

Here’s the #5and5:




1. There aren’t too many standing ovations during Question Time but we started with one on Monday. In walked Ged Kearney - our newest MP walked into the House to be sworn in as the Member for Batman. With Ged in Parliament, women now represent 48 per cent of Labor’s Caucus.

2. I think we’ve all started to just accept that Labor will lead the policy debate. On Tuesday Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen made clear that our policy on dividend imputation won’t affect pensioners. So when Malcolm Turnbull started a scare campaign based on a war widow he had met with, Chris Bowen went and checked the facts. The war widow who the PM had referred to is covered by Labor’s Pensioner Guarantee. Once again the scare campaign blew up in Malcolm Turnbull’s face.

Chris drove the point home on who was affected when he asked the Prime Minister:

“Can the Prime Minister confirm that under the Government's policies a wealthy retiree couple will get a cash bonus from dividend imputation despite the fact that they have $2.9 million in super, have $290,000 worth of Australian shares, draw $120,000 a year in super income and receive $17,500 a year of dividend income and pay no tax? How is it fair that they will get a cash bonus from the Government of $7,500?”

At this point, Tim Watts delivered the perfect interjection calling out: “Turnbull’s battlers!”

3. And on Tuesday, Labor’s newest Senator Kristina Keneally gave her first speech. She opened with a powerful story of when she worked as a student in a factory in Ohio only a few months after another student working there had been killed at work. She paid tribute to the work the Teamsters Union did advocating for workplace safety and spoke about the work of Australian trade unionists doing the same thing here every day. There’s no way of summarising it and doing it justice so I’ve added that section of the speech to the end of this email.

There was a lighter moment when Kristina noted the Labor Senate team is 61 percent female and for NSW it is, in Kristina’s words, 75 percent female and 50 percent very strange accents. Doug Cameron heard the reference and immediately called out “Speak for yourself” only to have Kristina look at him mischievously and say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.”


4. If you can’t remember who the Deputy Prime Minister is, don’t worry. He can’t remember either. On Monday, the Speaker called for the Deputy Prime Minister to speak. No one moved. The Speaker again proclaimed “The Deputy Prime Minister”. A long silence. Not willing to give up, the Speaker called a third time for the Deputy Prime Minister, and in a moment of true bipartisanship Bill Shorten helpfully looked across the table and said “That’s you Michael”, at which point Michael McCormack the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia stood up.  For the rest of the week whenever a Government backbencher stood up and said “My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister”, Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek would immediately rescue the Government with the words “Get ready Michael, this one will be for you.”

5. Once again, the Government failed to get its legislation through to deliver it’s $65 billion handout to big business. Bill had to ask twice to get an answer from Malcolm Turnbull about whether the Government would take the policy to the next election. Eventually, the PM committed that they would. The battle lines for the election are very clearly drawn now.




1. The original Business Council letter; the best intro to this was when Tanya Plibersek seamlessly moved from the classics to reality TV. She first described it as “a tale of two letters” and said it was about as convincing as Married at First Sight.

Often what is missing from a statement tells you more than what’s included. Last week, the Business Council sent a letter to Senators signed by 11 of their more than 100 members. It was a really short letter and didn’t really commit to much at all. But on Wednesday the original draft letter emerged. The draft contained a commitment to “create more Australian jobs” which was deleted in the final letter. The draft also contained a commitment to “increase wages” which was also deleted. Even a commitment to “pay our tax” was in the draft but deleted in the final letter. Questions followed from Bill, Tanya, Chris, Brendan O’Connor and Julie Collins all leading to the same point - How can the PM keep claiming his big business handout will be passed on to workers when even big business doesn’t agree.


2. In a week where the PM made some comments about the importance of not sledging each other in sport, the sledging that came from Government Ministers in Question Time was so lame you could only smile. Greg Hunt was building up to what we thought must have been a prepared insult. You could see him building to a crescendo as he looked across the Chamber at us with disgust and said “What a bunch of...” then there was a momentary pause. We didn’t know what word was coming. We didn’t know what cutting insult the Minister for Health had prepared. And then the bombshell landed. He said “What a bunch of people these are!”

There were too many interjections in response for me to name who said what but the flavour of it went something like this: ‘Oh no, he called us a bunch of people’. ‘Did you really prepare that? - a bunch of people’. ‘If being people is an insult then what are you?’

I think the insult “a bunch of people” is right up there with Josh Frydenberg’s gem last year when he declared at the end of a speech “I end where I finish” Right.


3. I’ve mentioned previously that after I raised it in Parliament, the House Privileges Committee started an inquiry into the issues surrounding the former Liberal Member for Dunkley, Bruce Billson, being paid to represent an organisation while he was still a Member of Parliament. The Privileges Committee unanimously recommended that he be censured by the House. That resolution was moved on Tuesday by the Chair of the Privileges Committee, Ross Vasta from the Liberal Party, and seconded by the Deputy Chair Labor’s Pat Conroy. It was carried without objection. You can read the full report here. In seconding the resolution Pat Conroy said “I want to say to people outside of this chamber that censuring someone is an incredibly serious course of action [...] It's very rare for a motion of censure to originate from a recommendation of the Privileges Committee and then be adopted by the House, and I want to stress that the recommendation was from a bipartisan committee with over 150 years of parliamentary experience on it.”

4. Last week the Government completed a process started under Tony Abbott to reduce ocean protection. It’s the largest removal of area under conservation ever. No other government in the world, on land or sea, has taken as much area out of conservation as the Liberals have now done in Australia.The worst area affected is the Coral Sea. Areas that used to be Marine National Parks now allow longlining and mid-water trawl (the same fishing method used by the super-trawler).

There was a vote to disallow the Government’s new plans but it was defeated 34 to 28 when the Government forced an early vote before most Senators were across the extraordinary detail in these changes. Labor Senator Louise Pratt has put new disallowance motions in which will be debated in August.

In the Reps I used a procedure about being misrepresented to go through the series of untrue statements from Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg about the marine parks. It’s a bit long so I’ve added it at the end after Kristina’s speech. It worked well in the Chamber but I’m not sure if it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments. Anyway, scroll down and have a read at the end. This battle will keep going until it’s fixed.You can sign up to the campaign to protect our oceans here.

5. The Liberal Party and One Nation are getting closer and closer to each other. Tony Abbott launched Pauline Hanson’s new book this week in Parliament and in his speech he said: "The reality is that the only way the Coalition can win the next election is if we are able to harvest Hanson preferences.” I asked a question about this on Wednesday.

The question had a few features: first, it quoted Tony Abbott second, it asked about preference deals at the election, third it pointed to the deal between One Nation and Malcolm Turnbull on company tax, and fourth - even I have to admit - it was completely against the Standing Orders to ask it. Christopher Pyne stood up immediately objecting to the question. I stood up ready to defend it. Before calling me the Speaker went through the reasons it was out of order but said he was willing to hear me if I wanted to put a different case. As I stood there, I thought: yes, the Speaker is correct and yes, I’ve already made the point so it probably doesn’t matter. So when the Speaker asked if I wanted to say anything I replied “Nah” and sat down again.


Parliament won’t return until the Budget in May. And in all likelihood that will be the final Budget before the next federal election. I’ll be in touch in May.




P.S. Song of the week is from the album Ten. Here’s Pearl Jam with Oceans. 

Kristina Keneally’s first speech
Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (17:07): Thank you, Mr President. In the year before this chamber opened, 1987, just after I graduated from high school, I took a job on an assembly line at Johns-Manville, a fibreglass manufacturer who had two factories in my hometown of Waterville, Ohio. The work was tedious and hot. But the hourly rate was good, compared to other jobs, and it helped me save for my up-front university fees. I worked eight-hour shifts, sometimes 12 hours, on a crew of four. We wore these heavy canvas jumpsuits. When slivers of fibreglass got caught between the canvas collar and the back of our necks, or in the space between the cuff and the inside of the wrist, the itching would drive us crazy.
We operated one end of a giant machine that made these huge sheets of white fibreglass. Our job was to get the fibreglass off the machine and wrapped in plastic. Our product looked like massive paper towel rolls as we shipped them down the line. My main responsibility was to attach adhesive tape to a four-metre-long rotating spindle so it could grab the next sheet of fibreglass as it came off the machine. The spindle rotated at about three kilometres an hour. I was told to stand back three metres, holding the tape on a specially designed hook, and given a safety stop switch.
Months earlier, a young woman named Leslie Lambert had my job. She did not have the same safety equipment or practices. When Leslie was working there, the spindle rotated at about 20 kilometres an hour. There was no instruction to stand three metres back. There was no hook or safety switch. One afternoon Leslie was caught by the adhesive tape and spun around 10 times, cracking her head and back on to the machine, before she was thrown to the floor. She died. Leslie was 19.
I never met Leslie but I know from her obituary that, like me, she was putting herself through university. I also know that she, like me, was a member of the Teamsters union—a union which had been pushing for safer conditions in that very factory. Only a few months separated Leslie and me—a few months between a dangerous workplace and a safe one. And yet the difference is also 31 years—31 years in which Leslie Lambert has lain in a grave in East Swanton, Ohio, 31 years in which I have been able to raise a family, study, work, travel and simply be alive. I know that the Teamsters Union made their members' safety at work a priority. I know that they had my back as a worker—and I have never forgotten that. The importance of a safe workplace and the role that unions play in keeping workers safe is seared into my very existence. Here in the Senate, I will continue to fight alongside my colleagues in the union movement for all Australians to be paid a living wage and for all workers to be safe at work.


Government’s misrepresentations about marine parks

The Speaker: Does the member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr BURKE (Watson) (15:19): A number of times.
The SPEAKER: We will start with the first. You claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr BURKE: I do. Last week the environment minister issued a statement claiming I had welcomed a supertrawler to Australia and was not responsible for it being banned. The facts are these: when the supertrawler MV Margiris first came to Australia there was no power under environmental law to refuse it entry. I introduced amendments to the House to provide the environment minister, who was then me, with the power to ban the supertrawler. Those laws were put to the House on 13 September 2012, with the member for Kooyong and the member for Flinders voting against them. Once the laws were in place I used them, and the supertrawler left Australian waters. 
Mr Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation.
The SPEAKER: Does the Manager of Opposition Business claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr BURKE: Again, yes.
The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business may proceed.
Mr BURKE: Last week on Radio National the Minister for the Environment and Energy claimed that his government was not reducing environmental protection in the oceans, on the basis that I personally had only introduced draft management plans in 2012. This is incorrect. In 2012 final management plans for marine reserves were made legislative instruments. The minister should be aware of this, as they were subject to disallowance votes and he personally voted six times that they be disallowed. On each occasion the disallowance vote failed. 
Mr Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation.
The SPEAKER: Does the Manager of Opposition Business claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr BURKE: I do.
The SPEAKER: You may proceed.
Mr BURKE: Last week the Minister for the Environment and Energy issued a statement that I had never properly introduced management plans for marine parks because they 'didn't pass the disallowance period in the Senate in 2013'. There is no such thing as a requirement for a legislative instrument to have to pass a disallowance period in order to become operable. It is law immediately and continues to be so unless disallowed. The management plans I introduced were not disallowed. Considering the minister has registered 85 legislative instruments, I would have thought he was aware of this. 
Mr Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation.
The SPEAKER: Does the Manager of Opposition Business claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr BURKE: I do.
The SPEAKER: You may proceed.
Mr BURKE: On 22 March on a Radio National report on marine parks dealing with the consultation I had personally undertaken in 2012, the Minister for the Environment and Energy, Minister Frydenberg, claimed I made the decision 'without proper consultation', and fisherman Bruce Davey stated that I had personally made the decision 'without even consulting with any fishermen'. Any claim I did not adequately consult on marine parks is false. I undertook six rounds of consultation, held 250 stakeholder meetings personally attended by over 2,000 people, and received almost three-quarters of a million submissions, which is almost six times more submissions than the minister's process received. Even the government's own hand-picked review panel found that my consultation had been extensive, with the report saying that a common initial comment from stakeholders was: 'We've already been through this. Can't we just get on with it?'
With respect to the criticism made by the fisherman Mr Davey, not only did I consult with fishermen; on Sunday, 6 May 2012 in Cairns, I personally consulted with him to conduct a meeting about the marine parks.

Tony Burke