This week Malcolm Turnbull made clear he was disappointed in Labor. He couldn’t understand why we weren't asking him the questions he would ask of himself.
He said he wants to have a conversation, but didn’t seem to realise that meant other people would talk too. So Malcolm Turnbull just kept talking.
Here’s some of what happened in Parliament House this week.
1. The art of letter writing is not lost. All MPs and Senators received a letter from the hospitality industry lobby telling us how penalty rates should be cut on Sundays. They argued there were changing community expectations around weekends and encouraged MPs to call them. Kelvin Thomson did just that and wrote back to them on Monday saying: “I rang last Saturday, and again on Sunday, but there was no answer. Perhaps there is still some magic left in Saturdays and Sundays after all.”
2. I’ve written to you a few times about the cuts the Abbott-Turnbull Government has made to the wages of the cleaners of Government offices including Parliament House. Well, yesterday Bill Shorten announced that a Labor Government will restore the Cleaning Services Guidelines which protects cleaners' pay.
3. Bill Shorten, Jenny Macklin and Chris Bowen announced Labor will fight Malcolm Turnbull’s unfair cuts to family payments. These cuts go directly to single parent families and households where a grandparent has taken on the role of being the primary carer. The hits to end of year supplements are harsher than what had been proposed by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in the 2014 Budget.
4. It wasn’t just in Question Time. Day after day Labor members exposed the Government’s so called “conversation” on tax policy for what it really is, a one way conversation about pushing up prices for everyone and hurting those who can least afford it, rather than taxing people who can afford to contribute more. Watch nine Labor MPs in 90 seconds on the GST.
5. A GST debate always goes to the cost of grocery bills going up and up. When Malcolm Turnbull started talking about grocery bills Ed Husic interjected: “price check on truffles!” Unlike the old days, Ed wasn’t kicked out.
1. It seems Malcolm Turnbull has forgotten only two weeks ago he said: “It’s clearly a possibility now that changes to the GST could be made.” The new PM talks a lot about wanting to have a conversation about the tax system in Australia, and he says the conversation should include the GST. Yet, this week, each day in Question Time Labor asked Malcolm Turnbull about the impacts of increasing or expanding the rate and base of the GST. He refused to answer any of them. The only conversation Malcolm Turnbull is interested in having, is with Malcolm Turnbull.
2. My last comment is a little unfair. We know Malcolm wants to have a conversation about the GST because plans on how to spend it keep appearing in the media. The articles often refer to ‘Government sources’. So there is a conversation happening, but no one knows who’s talking to whom or who's saying what. What we do know, is so far the GST is supposed to pay for cuts to income tax, cuts to company tax, reducing the deficit, paying for hospitals, and paying for a compensation package for an increase in the GST. The reality is the GST is never going to be able to do all of these things.
3. Have I mentioned the GST? Every day this week Labor questioned the Abbott-Turnbull Government about its plans to increase the GST and every day the Government stonewalled. We know from modelling done by Curtin University that families will be forced to pay up to an extra $4,000 per year if the GST is increased to 15% and extended to fresh food and other expenses. Labor’s campaign against increasing the GST is not going away. Add your voice to the campaign at www.noincreasetothegst.com.au
4. Remember the hysteria when Barnaby Joyce was claiming pricing carbon would mean a leg of lamb would cost $100? On Monday his words came back to haunt him when Joel Fitzgibbon gently enquired how much a leg of lamb would cost with a 15% GST on fresh food.
5. This week marked the first week of the new Constituency Questions without Notice from Government MPs. It was dreadful. In what were meant to be “spontaneous questions,” ministers stood up with carefully scripted answers which they read aloud. After receiving criticism for all the notes, Ministers started to hide them. The Minister for Major Projects, Paul Fletcher, folded his notes carefully in the palm of his hand and once at the dispatch box started to unfold his pre-prepared answer. Ed Husic interjected: “It’s an origami answer”. This time, just like old times, Ed was kicked out.
No interjection or speech can be as soul destroying as a well delivered withering look. Terri Butler and Clare O’Neill ensured Malcolm Turnbull knew exactly what they thought of his answers as he went on and on and on.
The Parliament doesn’t sit next week and then it will be back for a fortnight.
PS: The #5and5 song is in honour of Malcolm Turnbull’s condescending frustration that in a conversation more than one person gets to speak. Here is Iggy Pop “I’m Bored”.