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  • Writer's pictureHannah Phillips

This Week in Parliament

Tanya Plibersek says it was Labor’s duty to ensure that Barnaby Joyce didn’t take decisions on controversial matters.

We are set for an interesting week in politics as the government tries to get on with business while Labor tries to create chaos by disrupting the House of Representatives over the fact that Barnaby Joyce continues to sit on the front bench while his citizenship is being disputed in the High Court.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek refused to rule out an Opposition walk out from parliament if the Deputy Prime Minister does not step down and assumes the position of acting Prime Minister when Malcolm Turnbull attends the Pacific Islands Forum on Friday, although the leader of opposition business in the reps, Tony Burke ruled out a walkout this morning.

Ms Plibersek said that the government’s survival was dependent on Barnaby Joyce’s eligibility to sit in the House of Representatives and it was Labor’s duty to ensure that he didn’t take decisions on controversial matters. It is possible Labor will introduce controversial legislation on the bank royal commission and penalty rates.

As Ms Plibersek said: “Given we are in uncharted waters I think we’d have to say that anything could happen this week in parliament.” The senate is likely to be considering the Media Reform Bills this week.

Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has come out strongly against any media reforms saying that the changes are only designed to make rich media owners richer. He has welcomed the acquisition of Channel Ten by the world’s biggest television network, CBS. He said that since the media reforms were only being undertaken to enable Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon to acquire Channel Ten they were now redundant. The future of media reform is dependent on cross-bencher Nick Xenophon.

Senator Xenophon wants to increase the diversity of the media landscape by granting tax concessions for small and medium sized media companies. The first proposal for the concessions to apply to companies with a turnover up to $30 million was rejected by the government.

Now Senator Xenophon says he is prepared to reduce the cap in order to get the bills through this week. The government is yet to indicate its response.

On Tuesday the High Court will hear the application to have the same sex postal survey struck down. The grounds for the application are twofold: that the survey goes beyond the mandate of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as expressed in the legislation and that the government cannot appropriate money for the survey without specific legislation.

The government’s case is that the Census and Statistics Act specifically authorises the ABS to collect statistics on marriage and that the funding for the survey is being financed by the general appropriation for the ABS.

In the event that the ABS runs out of money then the Minister for Finance will provide it with money from his emergency fund. Since the survey forms are due to be sent out on the twelfth of the month the High Court will have to be prepared to make a quick decision. It is open to them to reject or uphold the application and supply its reasoning later. The government hopes the decision will be made this week.

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