Friday 24th March: Tony Burke’s #5and5

My apologies for stealing another Tony Burke missive, but me mum has been hospitalised again with pneumonia. So things are at sixes and sevens in this household. Over to you, Tony:

[BTW, I’ve been trying to find one of those turnbull/abbott morphing pics/cartoons, but without success – so if anyone could give me a link …]

I remember saying that Malcolm Turnbull’s transformation was complete when he had gone full Tony Abbott.

Then he went full One Nation.

This was the week that One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts boasted how happy he was that the Government had started following One Nation’s lead, and Liberal Senator James Paterson said the Government’s decision to water down racial hate speech protections would help win back One Nation votes for the Liberal Party.

1. One of the very first items of business on Monday was Bill Shorten introducing his Private Members’ Bill to protect penalty rates. If this bill passes, people will have their penalty rates protected. Without it, nearly 700,000 workers are up for a pay cut. We didn’t get to vote on the Bill in the Reps but there was a vote in the Senate on protecting penalty rates. Jacqui Lambie and the Greens voted with Labor to protect penalty rates. And the Government, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, Cory Bernardi, David Leyonhjelm voted against. The Nick Xenophon Team didn’t vote. If they’d voted with Labor, we would have won.

2. The fight in the Senate to stop cuts to welfare payments resulted in some extraordinary speeches. Both Katy Gallagher and Jacqui Lambie delivered deeply personal accounts of the challenges faced by people who need the support of government payments to get by. The speeches were impassioned and powerful. When the issue came to a vote these pleas were ignored with the Liberals, Nationals, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, David Leyonhjelm, Cory Bernardi and the Nick Xenophon Team lining up together to impose the cuts.

3. One of the best things we did in Government was deliver education reforms so that every school would have the resources they needed to help every student. The Government has been tearing apart the “Gonski” reforms but the campaign to deliver the resources that schools need won’t go away. On Wednesday, the Australian Education Union brought the Gonski bus to Parliament House, with principals explaining how Labor’s reforms could change the lives of students for the better. After Question Time, Tanya Plibersek spoke about the choice between Labor’s reforms focussing on every child and the Government’s $30 billion of cuts to schools.

4. You may be surprised to read that Scott Morrison was angry this week. Thanks to Jim Chalmers and Nick Champion he became just that little bit angrier. After Scott Morrison gave an answer claiming he had a good record on debt and deficit Jim Chalmers was on his feet with this question:

“My question is to the Treasurer. If a deficit of $11 billion was a budget emergency in the 2014 budget, what does he call a deficit of $37 billion, which has more than tripled on his watch? Given this Treasurer has tripled the deficit, doesn’t this just prove that the Treasurer is completely incompetent and hopelessly out of his depth?”

As Scott Morrison wandered forward to the Despatch Box trying to think of an answer, Nick Champion called out,

“How old will Wyatt Roy be before you deliver a surplus?”

5. Despite everything that came from the Government in between, Question Time on Thursday started and finished decently and respectfully. The PM and Bill Shorten opened with speeches about the horrific attack in London and the British High Commissioner was invited into the Chamber to be with us when we all stood together in silence. Then at the end of Question Time, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs stood up and gave an answer about a program to help veterans with mental health issues. Labor’s Amanda Rishworth stood up after the answer and offered Labor’s full support for this important issue.

1. You can’t make this stuff up. Tuesday was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In every school it was Harmony Day. And in Parliament House it was the day the Government announced it wanted to change the law to give permission for more racist hate speech.

Photo credit: Andrew Meares

2. Anne Aly asked the PM what racial speech it was he wanted people to be allowed to say that they couldn’t say now. He responded with the patronising line: “The question is really this…” and then he answered a different question. Anne stood straight back up for the next question and we had this exchange:

ANNE ALY: My question is to the Prime Minister. As someone who has been subjected to racism time and time again as I was growing up and even in my life now, please give me an answer: what exactly does the Prime Minister want people to be able to say that they cannot say now?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: I understand the point the honourable member is making.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: You don’t; that’s the point.

3. No matter which way you look at the Government’s changes to the Racial Discrimination Act they guarantee there will be more racist hate speech in Australia than there is now. After all, how can it be about freedom of speech unless it is going to allow more things to be said?

I led a debate on Tuesday about how dangerous these changes are. Mark Dreyfus, Linda Burney, Anne Aly and Peter Khalil spoke and were able to draw on deeply personal accounts of the impact of racism. Linda quoted an awful message that she had received only that morning with these words:

“The previous speaker […] said that all Australians are decent people. I hope that is true. It is true in the main, but let me read you a tweet that I received this morning […]. It says: ‘@LindaBurneyMP: Why are you Abos allowed to harass people for dollars outside grocery stores? You are uneducated drug addicts and disgusting. Change it.’ She is talking about 18C. She is talking about what you people are about to try and do […] People that have never experienced racism cannot possibly stand in the shoes of those that have.”

4. Part of the Government’s strategy on the weakening of the Racial Discrimination Act has been to introduce the bill into the Senate first instead of the House of Representatives. This is a deliberate and calculated scheme to play for One Nation votes while at the same time avoiding their local MPs from having to vote on the issue. It’s an attempt for the Liberals to broadcast one message on the TV and a different message at every community event. Well we didn’t let them get away with that. On Wednesday, Bill Shorten moved a motion which included a specific commitment to keep section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in its current form. No matter what they’ve been saying in their communities, every Liberal and National MP voted against it. And to top it off, just as Bill started his speech Christopher Pyne moved that he be not allowed to speak. So much for freedom of speech.

Photo credit: Mike Bowers

5. This week in the Reps, we nearly finished the speeches debating the Government’s $50 billion handout to big business. The strangest thing is that even though Government backbenchers were standing up one after the other committing to the handout to big business, Scott Morrison wouldn’t commit to it. Now you might think, but isn’t the handout Scott Morrison’s idea? Well the answer is yes. Isn’t it his policy? Well the answer is yes. Wasn’t this the centrepiece of the last Budget and the key to their entire so-called economic plan? Well yes. Will it be in the next Budget? How dare you ask! Chris Bowen pursued this all week, and Scott Morrison found many words, in fact many angry words, but still had no answer to the question.

So next week a series of issues will come to a head. The $50 billion handout to big business should reach the Senate and there will also be debate on whether we should allow forms of racist hate speech that have been considered unlawful for 25 years. On top of these issues, the Government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission on penalty rates is due by 4pm today. None of this will make Australia fairer, but that’s the Government we have, and why we need to change it.

A final message, if you live in Sydney or if you know anyone who lives in Sydney we have the Walk for Respect opposing racism next week on Friday afternoon. It’s not an angry protest, but a celebration of modern multicultural Australia. I hope you, your friends and family can make it along.

I’ll be back in touch next week.

Tony

P.S. Chuck Berry died this week and there have been endless tributes from some of the greatest musicians in Australia and around the world. In honour of a Government without an agenda here’s Chuck Berry with “No Particular Place to Go.”

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596 thoughts on “Friday 24th March: Tony Burke’s #5and5

  1. It’s very much the George Brandis Show in the Senate this morning, and it’s woeful entertainment. Brandis, not long ago, was dithering his way through yet another explanation and sounding very confused about it. Perhaps he should have opted for an early adjournment and a good night’s sleep last night instead of filibustering and keeping the Senate sitting until midnight.

    I suppose the successful passage of his bill to amend the Racial Discrimination Act was intended to be some sort of triumphant swan song for Bookshelves, a brilliant finale to his distinguished (cough, cough) political career, something big to make sure he would be received in London as a great legal mind. Instead it’s all turning to mush. Brandis has managed to have a few amendments passed, others, including the biggie, the 18c amendment, have been ditched and Brandis has made an absolute fool of himself through the whole thing.

    There are schoolkids in the Senate gallery right now. Poor things! They must be bored witless.

  2. The Shovel –

    Michaelia Cash Insists Low Income Workers ARE Often Found In High Income Households. “Take My Cleaning Staff

    Coalition Senator Michaelia Cash has hit back at claims she can’t name any low income workers in high income households, saying her personal chef Roberto and cleaners Voula and Jennifer are three she can name just off the top of her head

    http://www.theshovel.com.au/2017/03/30/michaelia-cash-low-income-found-in-high-income-households/

    • The Senate hasn’t got to that yet. Still debating amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.

  3. Click bait headline from the SMH:

    Thousands left without power as floods cause chaos across NSW

    “… across NSW”… now that would be from roughly Cameron Corner in the North-West, down to Mildura in the South-West, across to Eden-ish in the South-East, up through Sydney to Tweed Heads in the North-East, and all areas in between, wouldn’t it?

    So how come the only areas under flood are in North-East NSW, as the actual article correctly states?

    (And speaking of click bait, who gives a stuff whether Peter Stefanovich (unknown brother of Carl Stefanovich) has his wedding ruined by a competing PR company cashing in on his brother’s extra-marital antics or not?)

    Oh, the original flood article is here….nah… it’s just clickbait

  4. Finally – the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 gets through the Senate.

    Now for the tax cuts for business aka Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016

    There will be about 17 government senators speaking for this bill plus one One Nation and one Labor – Jenny McAllister, who has already spoken, very briefly. The Senate is in for a very boring afternoon as government windbag after government windbag waffles on and on about the virtues of tax cuts for squillionaires.

    I won’t be watching.

  5. Just some trivia from the last few days.

    Pauline Hanson says she has been ‘listening’ to her supporters and because they don’t want penalty rates cut she won’t be supporting those cuts. That’s quite a backflip, considering her long-term crusade to abolish penalty rates ‘across the board’. It’s amazing what a thumping great election hiding will do for a party leader’s hearing.

    Also no longer supporting cuts to penalty rates is Hinch. He has been ‘listening’ too, taking notice of the deluge of emails and phone calls he has been getting, many of them allegedly abusive.

    Neither of these attention-seekers are at all interested the problems facing workers who face pay cuts. It’s just fear that motivates them. Hinch is afraid he could lose that Senate seat in the next federal election, he’s one of the new senators who scored only a three-year term. Hanson fears losing votes in the Queensland election after her party’s failure in WA. It’s that simple.

    • If either of those two publicity hounds actually cared a shit about low paid workers they would never have had a bar of it in the first place.

  6. Police will lay additional charges against former union boss Kathy Jackson in the coming weeks, as she fights 70 theft and deception offences, a Melbourne court has been told.

    The one-time union corruption whistleblower is accused of misappropriating more than $480,000 from the Health Services Union from 2003 to 2011.

    Police allege she spent $100,000 of the money on travel, including trips to Hong Kong and Los Angeles and a stay at the luxury Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-31/police-to-lay-more-charges-against-former-hsu-boss-kathy-jackson/8405174

    Her schade: my freude.

  7. OK I have technical problems with free to air TV, I appear to have fallen off the digital cliff when new neighbours moved into the apartment block 3 metres from my TV aerial. Any suggestions?

    For something completely flippant watch this gangnam style video

  8. And down she goes …

    Company tax cuts won’t pass parliament before the May budget after the government decided to adjourn the House of Representatives on Friday.

    The fate of the $50 billion 10-year business tax cut package remains unclear with parliament extending sitting into Friday as negotiations continue with crossbenchers on whether it should apply to companies with a $10 million or $50 million annual turnover.

    While it is possible the cuts may pass the Senate on Friday night, it will not be legislated into law due to the House of Representatives being adjourned.

    Crossbencher Derryn Hinch has confirmed he will support tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million, while Pauline Hanson’s bloc of four senators also back the government’s policy.

    Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says he may support the government’s plan, however he has indicated he will not support the full package without energy reform.

    More to come.

    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/03/31/company-tax-cuts–lie-with-xenophon-.html

    • Did the Senate knock back the company tax cuts or were they still arguing over which companies got tax cuts

  9. Sam Dastyari says the government senators have done a dirty deal with NXT. Senators will keep on filibustering until the amendment can be written.

    Sam is not happy, but we all knew NXT would cave in.

  10. So that’s hoe it rolls. The Reps can go home, the Senate does a dodgy deal to get their tax thing past the Senate then the ATO says it’s all legal and it becomes law.

    So why did they waste hours on a stupid debate, unless it was just buying time while they got Xenophon to agree to a deal?

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