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  • Writer's pictureHannah Phillips

The Week in Parliament

Despite the preoccupation with citizenship in Parliament this week, the government proceeded with a crowded programme of legislation.

Making their way into and through the Parliament are bills on media reforms, the increase in the Medicare levy to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the bill to extend the cashless welfare card and amendments to the national security and terrorism legislation.

The media law was expected to pass the Senate this week but at the time of Inside Canberra going to press this hadn’t happened.

There was a predisposition on the part of the crossbench to pass the changes to the media laws and allow media organisations to own television, radio and newspapers in the same market however, to quote Wayne Swan, there’s also a concern that media organisations have a tendency to “merge and purge.”

Nick Xenophon wants to fix this problem by having tax concessions for small media companies to enable them to hire more journalists and photographers.

At the same time he’s opposed to Pauline Hanson’s proposal that the ABC and SBS should be obliged to operate in an environment of competitive neutrality vis-à-vis the commercial media organisations.

The crossbench also appears to be disposed to accept the increase in the Medicare levy starting lower than the $87,000 proposed by Labor but how much lower is not yet clear.

Since the levy doesn’t have to be in place until 2020 there is plenty of time to negotiate a compromise.

The Greens are opposed to the cashless welfare card but the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge told Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast yesterday that it was supported by the aboriginal communities where it is being introduced.

It appears to have the support of opposition Human Services spokesperson Jenny Macklin.

There also appears to be bipartisan support for the National Security changes.

However the opposition is unlikely to allow easy passage of any legislation, preferring to make the government look chaotic.

From the Gallery • On Thursday the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, The Hon Tony Smith MP, unveiled the latest major acquisitions by the Parliament House art collection, The Messenger. It’s a collaborative work by Michael Nelson Jagamara and Imants Tillers.

• The Labor Party through National Secretary Noah Carroll has said it has conducted an extensive and exhaustive process for ensuring that every candidate satisfies all Constitutional requirements before they were nominated, including section 44. They have claimed no Labor MP will face any dual citizenship questions.

• The Independent Brewers met with Small Business Minister Michael McCormack on Monday. They were discussing the independent brewing industry in Australia.

• The Parliamentary Friends of AFL is an annual event that occurs in the Mural Hall of Parliament House. The event attracts many occupants of the building from Press Gallery, Staffers to Members of Parliament. This year the AFL CEO addressed the event in addition to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader in support of AFL.

• Prime Minister Turnbull’s former Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Communications Department, Drew Clarke was on Tuesday appointed to the NBN Co board. He was appointed by both the Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormannn and Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield as a non-executive Director of the Board for a term of three years, commencing on 22 August 2017.

• The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has appointed 30 year veteran of the Industry John Hart as its new head of Tourism. Mr Hart has recently stepped down after 18 years as Chief Executive of the Restaurant and Catering Australia.

• The Prime Minister wrote to the Indian community in Australia on Wednesday for Indian Independence Day. The PM said relations with India have never been stronger with Two-way trade exceeding $20 billion in 2016.

• The Senate had a public hearing into the effect of market consolidation on the red meat procession sector on Wednesday afternoon.

• The Lowy institute hosted a discussion at the National Press Club of Australia on the role of industry, society and government in ending modern slavery in Australia and overseas. The discussion was held with Senator Linda Reynolds and Senator Lisa Singh.

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