It’s been a big start to 2016 and there’s a lot to get through this week. Parts of it good, parts of it bad, and parts of it just plain bizarre. Here’s what happened this week in Parliament.
1. On Wednesday Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull tabledthe Closing the Gap report in Parliament. The results were mixed. The report shows Australia still has a long way to go in closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage. The life expectancy gap is still around 10 years. We are on track however to improve year 12 attainment by 2020, which greatly improves opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and has positive flow-on effects in many other areas. Bill also announced that a Shorten Labor Government will invest $9.5 million to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vision loss.
2. This week was dominated by the scandal surrounding Human Services Minister, Stuart Robert, and his breach of the ministerial code. The case is pretty clear. Stuart Robert broke the Ministerial Code of Conduct and either he goes or the code goes. By Thursday afternoon Malcolm Turnbull had still failed to take action and Bill delivered a stinging speech which government members won't forget for a very long time.
3. Bill's speech on Thursday afternoon came at the end of a long and detailed pursuit in the Parliament. All week Labor’s Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, had been interrogating ministers to get the bottom of the affair. Mark’s skills as a QC were deployed to great effect and by the end of the week the case against Stuart Robert was clear cut.
4. Tanya Plibersek committed that a Shorten Labor Government would redouble efforts to settle a permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste. Labor wants to bring to an end this unnecessary and long running stand-off between our two nations. A fair and final settlement of this issue is in our national interest and the decent thing to do.
5. These Labor MPs made their voices heard on Tuesday on the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s $80 billion cut to schools and hospitals.
1. Labor asked question after question to the Human Services Minister Stuart Robert this week and he refused to answer them. Well, I guess he sort of answered them. No matter what Labor asked he simply referred to his previous statement. His previous statement went for about two sentences and told us nothing. When Mark Dreyfus specifically asked if he was aware his previous statement didn't answer the question, Stuart Robert's reply was: "I refer to my previous statement.”
Clause 2.20 of Malcolm Turnbull’s own Ministerial Code of Conduct puts a blanket ban on ministers providing assistance to companies except as may be appropriate in their official capacity. There’s no doubt Stuart Robert broke this blanket ban. He met with company executives and a Vice Minister in the Chinese Government but claimed he was on a 'personal trip’. Nick Champion summed up the whole situation pretty well when he interjected that this ‘personal trip' sounded "like a terrible holiday.” Even government members were smiling.
3. The very first question of the week was from Bill to Malcolm Turnbull and went to the need to find a permanent outcome for asylum seekers still languishing in Nauru and Manus Island. Malcolm Turnbull's answer took a question that contained no politics and went to decency, and gave an answer which was little more than an old style political attack. If you looked away you would have sworn it was Tony Abbott talking.
4. Just when you think expanding the GST might be dead, buried and cremated, the Business Council of Australia launch a campaign to convince the Government to keep the GST on the table. The GST seems to be reliving the old Mark Twain quote: "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
5. Remember the guy who was caught out when it was revealed the official parliamentary record had been doctored? It’s the same guy who doesn’t believe in climate change and who really doesn’t like Johnny Depp’s dogs. Remember him? He just became Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister. Everyone, regardless of their political view, has an interest in the health of Malcolm Turnbull between now and the election.
So, this didn’t happen in Parliament, but this week Greg Hunt was given an award for 'best minister' by the World Government Summit for his work on climate change. I'm a bit confused about this and apparently I'm not the only one. A short while after the award was issued the sponsor started to distance itself from the decision making process. Here’s a little video to remind you of what Malcolm Turnbull thinks of Greg Hunt’s policy on climate change - or at least what he did think.
Finally, this exchange between Labor Senator Katy Gallagher and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield in Senate Estimates is priceless.
The #5and5 will be back in a fortnight.
PS: This week’s #5and5 song of the week is dedicated to Greg Hunt for his policies that saw emissions increase for the first time in a decade. Apparently he's “Simply The Best”.