Early in the week there were some moments of unity and hope. By the end of the week Malcolm Turnbull was shouting and ranting and making excuses for One Nation. The Parliament is a pretty angry, awful place at the moment, but as always there’s a lot that happened that doesn’t always make it through in the media.
Here’s the #5and5.
1. Tuesday was the day for the Closing the Gap report and speeches. Caucus commenced with ceremony led by Malarndirri McCarthy, Linda Burney and Patrick Dodson. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags now also fly in the Caucus room. The speeches that followed from all sides of politics were powerful and important. Former Labor PM Kevin Rudd was in the chamber when the Closing the Gap speeches were being given, a process which was started following the Apology. But the content of the Closing the Gap report was stark, and is detailed a bit further on in the “Worst” list.
Photo by @mearsey
2. The issues we pursued in Parliament all week are important for Australians. Bill Shorten asked about the Government threatening the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Tanya Plibersek asked about the Prime Minister’s $30 billion cuts to schools, Chris Bowen asked about the need to reform capital gains tax, Jenny Macklin asked about the Government’s cuts to families and pensioners, Anthony Albanese pursued the Government’s threats to infrastructure funding, Mark Butler asked about the national energy crisis and the list goes on. But no matter what question we asked, the answer was the same: “Labor”. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every answer was the PM or his Ministers talking about Labor. So we started to count. By the end of the week, they had referred to Labor 183 times in answer to questions we asked. Here’s a video to share with anyone who says ‘I struggle to tell the two major parties apart’.
3. As the rhetoric from the Government became increasingly hysterical, Ministers just started to make things up. One of the classics was the so-called Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg claiming Labor MP Anne Aly had said our policy of 50% renewables would cost $48 billion. What Anne Aly had said was that it would drive investment of $48 billion which is a little bit different. A small note to Liberals. Picking a fight with Anne Aly is unwise. When Anne stood up to correct the record she was calm, methodical and devastating.
4. Last week Scott Morrison bought a lump of coal into the Parliament saying “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared!” This week, the appropriately-named Tim Watts brought in a solar panel - the Coalition’s kryptonite. Tim reflected on those golden years when Malcolm Turnbull could openly believe in renewables.
“In 2009, the then opposition leader told the nation, 'I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.' In 2010, that same man said to 'effectively combat climate change' the nation 'must move to a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero emissions sources'.
In 2017, this same man, now Prime Minister, sat in impotent silence at the table of the House of Representatives while his Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister inanely brandished a hunk of coal at the chamber like naughty schoolboys on muck-up day. In 2016, the same man, now Prime Minister, tells us—against the protests of scientists, businesses, economists and even Australian energy companies themselves—that Australia's future relies on taxpayer-funded coal fired power generators.”
5. Forgive me for handing one of my top five to a Government Minister but this was an important moment for the Parliament. Ken Wyatt is the first Indigenous Minister serving in a Federal Government. On Wednesday he answered his first question as a Minister. Yes, he still had a go at Labor but no Minister was allowed to stand up this week without talking about us. We all wish him well.
1. The Closing the Gap report uses the same indicators each year. That means we can’t hide from the data and we can’t excuse the reality of what is revealed. This year, what it showed was that of the seven Closing the Gap targets, we are currently on track to meet just one. The only target Australia is on track to meeting is to close the gap in year 12 attainment. Of the targets for employment, life expectancy, school attendance, early childhood education, reading, writing and numeracy, none are on track to be met. Infant mortality, an indicator that had been on track in previous reports, has now fallen behind.
2. We started the week with Malcolm Turnbull quoting Chris Sarra,“Do things with us, not to us.” By the end of the week that was all forgotten. The Government pushed through an amendment to the Native Title Act without allowing for consultation. The views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are critical in Labor deciding whether we will support the amendment when it comes to a final vote in the Senate. Shockingly, when Linda Burney stood to speak on the issue, Christopher Pyne stood to ‘move that the member no longer be heard.’ You could hear the jaws hit the floor.
3. About 20 years ago, John Howard decreed that the Liberal Party put One Nation last on all Liberal how-to-vote cards in Australia. But now, the Government are treating One Nation like they’re just like any old political party. Arthur Sinodinos told Insiders that “The One Nation of today is a very different beast to the one it was 20 years ago”. That’s despite One Nation stating publicly the policies haven’t changed.
If anything One Nation has gotten worse. Consider the statements from One Nation that were raised in Parliament this week such as: claims that being a single parent is a lifestyle choice which leads to an increase in ugly and lazy people, the Port Arthur massacre was faked, and the 9-11 terrorist attack was a hoax.
When I asked Malcolm Turnbull about One Nation yesterday he argued it was no different to preferencing the Greens political Party. He went on to say, and yes he really said this:
“The reality is that all political parties in Australia, particularly at the federal level with compulsory preferential voting, allocate preferences in their own interests, and, when we allocate preferences, we do so for the purpose of ensuring that more Liberal and National members are elected to parliament. That is our objective.”
One Nation is not just any political party. Turning one Australian against the other with language dripping with hate is not just another political view. Every time Malcolm Turnbull tries to normalise One Nation he simply adds to their support and demonstrates what this government has become.
4. Then, in retaliation to the Libs preferencing One Nation, the Nationals gave preferences to the Greens. I’m worried it’s really getting to Barnaby. I asked him a question about it and he started speaking in tongues.
BURKE: Yesterday in question time, the Deputy Prime Minister ridiculed anyone who received preferences from the Greens political party. Given that the WA Nationals have now retaliated against the WA Liberals by cutting a deal to preference the Greens political party ahead of the Liberals, does the Deputy Prime Minister stand by the answer he gave in this place yesterday?
JOYCE: ...You are getting ready—you are lining them up. […] There are a couple of others back there—you there might come forward. The member for Whitlam never really was here, so he will go back! […] You are done and dusted…..
BURKE On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I refer to page 505 of Practice which reads: “Although there is no specific rule set down by standing order, the House follows the practice of requiring Members’ speeches to be in English.”
5. I’ve been a bit light on in this email on the chaos we saw this week on the Budget issues of family payments, pensions, taxes, disability and housing affordability. Here’s why. The Government changed its view not just every day, but every few hours. The worst part of it all was when Scott Morrison threatened the funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This question from Chris Bowen to Scott Morrison really brought it all together:
“My question is to the Treasurer. Why should Australians believe the Treasurer when he says the government is not considering changes to capital gains tax, given that, just this week, the government has claimed that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is at risk and not at risk, that tax increases are being prepared and not being prepared by the government, and that the Abbott government 'zombie measures' are being retained and also being dumped? How can this Liberal government provide economic leadership when the Treasurer contradicts himself every day?”
When you take a step back there is something very deceptive in what’s going on. You can easily start concluding the Government has no plan. And there’s a reason for this conclusion. There is in fact no plan and their proposals change every day.
But the Government’s approach doesn’t change. Every new thought bubble that dominates the headlines has the same theme. The Government will cut payments for families, pensioners and people with disability. The Government will attack Medicare and schools in every way it can find. But the Government won’t let go of its determination to provide a $50 billion handout to big business.
And that’s what happened last week, this week and every week this Government continues in office.
PS. I know I gave you a Midnight Oil song last week, but I’m pretty excited that as I’ve been typing this they’ve just announced their reunion tour. This footage was when they performed in the closing ceremony at the Sydney Olympics protesting that John Howard would not issue a national apology. Even John Howard put One Nation last. Twenty years later the rhetoric from One Nation is worse than ever and Malcolm Turnbull is making excuses for them.