#5and5 First week of the 46th Parliament
If we’d won I was going to stop calling the email the #5and5 and turn it into the #6and4 because more good things happen under a Labor Government. But as you know we fell short. So we are back fighting for a win in three years time. Here’s the 5 best and 5 worst things that happened in Parliament this week.
Welcome to Country
Speeches remembering Bob Hawke
New MPs and Senators
MPI on reconciliation
Election of Speaker
State of the economy
Morrison is incapable of answering a question
Morrison endorses the penalty rate cuts
Labor amendments fail on the tax bills
1. Until Anthony Albanese mentioned it in his speech during the Welcome to Country, I’d completely forgotten. When I was first elected, there was no Welcome to Country at the official opening of Parliament after an election. We didn’t even acknowledge Country in any way when parliament sat each day. None of this happened until Labor won in 2007. Now it is impossible to imagine that we wouldn’t start this way. Albo reflected on how it was the same with the Apology, all the arguments that some politicians made against it disappeared once it had happened. And then in his first speech for the resumption of parliament Albo connected these issues to the need to respond to the Uluru Statement from the Heart which calls for a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
It is more than a decade since the Apology; it is time to go further in reconciliation. The Parliament should show its respect for the strength and determination of First Nations peoples by working with you, to progress the agenda of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to establish a Voice, to recognise First Nations people in our Constitution, and to close the gap which remains so vast across so many categories. We have to acknowledge the patience and persistence of First Nations people and their wishes, including the nature of future agreements with them that was made clear in the Uluru Statement. The Parliament should do more than hear an Aboriginal welcome. The Parliament should also hear an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. That would be significant change for our country. We would all be stronger for it. And once done, we would wonder, just like the Apology, just like this Welcome to Country, why we hadn't done it before. - Anthony Albanese
2. Wednesday was dedicated to Bob Hawke. At our request, and in keeping with recent tradition, there was nothing else that day. No Question Time. No statements. No legislation. Just a day dedicated to Labor’s longest serving Prime Minister. At the end of the email I’ve put some links to speeches that were made. Take the time to read some of them. They’re all really different. Some people had never met Bob, a number of us had become his friends, and Warren Snowden had served as a Member of Parliament in the Hawke government. There are some beautiful reflections and some really funny anecdotes. We’ll miss him.
3. Labor’s new MPs and Senators have all arrived and been sworn in as members of parliament. So watch out for these names. You’ll be hearing them a lot more in the years ahead:
Josh Burns, Member for Macnamara VIC
Libby Coker, Member for Corangamite VIC
Peta Murphy, Member for Dunkley VIC
Daniel Mulino, Member for Fraser VIC
Alicia Payne, Member for Canberra ACT
Fiona Phillips, Member for Gilmore NSW
David Smith, Member for Bean ACT
Kate Thwaites, Member for Jagajaga VIC
Anika Wells, Member for Lilley QLD
Tim Ayres, Senator for NSW
Nita Green, Senator for QLD
Tony Sheldon, Senator for NSW
Marielle Smith, Senator for SA
Jess Walsh, Senator for VIC
4. The MPI is the debate after question time and it’s the only debate on the notice paper that is usually determined by the Opposition. Because Tuesday was ceremonial and Wednesday was dedicated to Bob Hawke, Thursday became the only day where we had a Question Time and an MPI debate. The debate was led by Linda Burney and it was on reconciliation. Chris Bowen spoke about his recent work on Indigenous Health Policy and Warren Snowden drew on his deep experience over many years in the Northern Territory.
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
5. If you’ve been receiving my emails for a while you’ll remember the early ones used to go on and on about the Speaker. Back then the Speaker was Bronwyn Bishop and some of the battles were pretty fiery. Her replacement back then was Tony Smith. And since then I haven’t referred to the Speaker much. While Tony Smith and I will disagree on endless policy issues, his work as Speaker has been hard to fault. That’s why, for the first time, instead of being nominated by two government members, this time Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou seconded his nomination. Way back in Federation the first speaker Frederick Holder was never challenged and was elected three times unopposed. That record had never been equalled until this week when Tony Smith was elected unopposed for the third time.
So yes, if I lived in his seat I still wouldn’t vote for him, but he has been a good Speaker and that should be acknowledged. In congratulating the Speaker, new Deputy Leader Richard Marles told this story from when they were at uni together:
“I remember you bounced into my office, as I was the president of the SRC at the time. You bounced into my office and you said 'Mate, I'm going to be running for the president of the Liberal club this afternoon.' 'That's good.' You said, 'So this meeting isn't happening.' I said, 'Sure.' And you said, 'Mate, if you ever tell anybody about this, I'm going to deny it'! 'Yeah, no worries.' 'But mate, you're a Labor guy. Tell me how to do the numbers!' I can assure you that the Speaker did go on to become the president of the Liberal club that afternoon. Given the oath that you've just taken, Mr Speaker, which of course prevents you from misleading this House, you will not be able to deny this story going forward!”
1. On Tuesday, the word from the Reserve Bank came that interest rates were being pushed even lower. They are now one third of the emergency levels we saw during the Global Financial Crisis. If you wanted evidence that the economy is weak under this government, it’s hard to see a stronger indicator than that.
2. If you watched anything in politics this week you would have seen how much the election result has puffed up Scott Morrison’s ego. It’s really over the top and he spent his fair share of question time boasting of the win. It reminds me of 2004 when I was first elected and people were writing that John Howard was invincible. We won the next election.
3. Thursday’s question time was a straight head to head between Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison. All of our questions were from Albo. All of them were directed to Morrison. When Morrison tried his usual game of ignoring the question and just sledging Labor, Albo was quick to the point of order explaining it was a brief question, containing very few issues and he needed to be relevant. The Speaker called Morrison to come back to the question. When Morrison didn’t he was sat down. That was question one. This is going to be an interesting term.
4. The brief questions left Scott Morrison a bit rattled. He was repeatedly misspeaking words and occasionally inventing new ones. He also said things we haven’t heard him say out loud before, including in response to this question from Albo:
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (14:11): My question is again addressed to the Prime Minister. Would the tax cut of just over $1,000 a year for a pharmacy worker in my electorate have more of a positive impact if the penalty rate cut the Prime Minister supports wasn't taking more than $5,000 a year off the same worker?
Mr MORRISON (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (14:11): The government endorses the industrial arrangements put in place by the Fair Work Commission, which were introduced by those opposite...
Where Morrison finally admitted that his government “endorses” the cuts to penalty rates.
5. There’s been a fair bit of misrepresentation on the tax bill that went through Parliament this week. Labor moved amendments in both the House of Reps and the Senate to change the bill in two ways: first to bring some of the tax cuts slated for three years time forward so they can help stimulate the economy now (known as stage 2). Secondly to remove from the bill the tax cuts that don’t take place for five years given we have no idea whether they are affordable or what it would mean for budget cuts when they are so many years into the future (known as stage 3). We lost those votes in both the Reps and the Senate.There are other parts of the debate where, the way the procedure of the Parliament works, you have to vote simultaneously on measures you oppose and measures you support. So be in no doubt there was clear vote on stage 3 in both the reps and the senate and each time we voted to remove it from the bill. Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers made clear:
What we tried to do was to do the right, responsible and constructive thing and say, 'You've made a mess of the economy, and we're going to help you try to turn things around.' But what they always do is they always put a higher premium on having a barney with the Labor Party than on doing the right thing by the economy. If they genuinely wanted to do the right thing by the economy, they'd bring forward their own stage 2 tax cuts—or part of them—into the current year. They wouldn't be holding stages 1 and 2 hostage to stage 3. They wouldn't be saying that it's more important that we get a tax cut in 261 weeks time than it is that we get a tax cut this week out of this parliament this term. The first vote of those opposite in this place was to vote against tax relief. That will be on their heads. The economy's slowing; they need to do something about it. Stop pretending that there's nothing wrong in the economy on your watch.
So that’s a quick summary of the first week back. Of course I wish I could be sending you a very different email. But our cause has always been a struggle and we don’t stop fighting for it.
Parliament returns on Monday 12 July.
P.S. There’s only one contender for song of the week this time. And yes, I reckon one of my favourite all time artists. Here’s Solidarity Forever, sung by Bob Hawke.