This Week in Parliament
While this week in Parliament will be enlivened by the election of a new leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister and the movement of Barnaby Joyce to the back bench, there are also likely to be newsworthy stories emerging from Senate estimates.
Kristina Keneally, the newly sworn in Senator from NSW, has said that she intends to ask a number of surprise questions.
It’s also likely that another NSW Senator, former General Jim Molan, will be prominent when defence matters come before estimates.
Malcolm Turnbull faces a tough week in Parliament. A
Sky News/Reachtel Poll published yesterday showed the government trailing Labor by 54 to 46 in the two party preferred with the Coalition primary vote falling to 33%.
It’s clear that the Barnaby Joyce saga has produced a backlash, erasing any rebound that the Prime Minister achieved at the start of the year.
The problems are not over yet with questions likely to be asked in Senate estimates about jobs that were created for Mr Joyce’s partner Vicki Campion.
There are also the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Joyce, brought by prominent Western Australian woman Catherine Marriott.
Ms Marriott wrote to the Federal Executive of the National Party on February 20 about an incident that allegedly occurred in 2011.
She has made it clear through her lawyers that she wants the National Party to establish a mechanism to deal with complaints such as hers and that she wants that mechanism to deal with her complaint.
In the meantime Michael McCormack was elected as the Nats’ leader in a contest with George Christensen who appears to have put his hand up at the eleventh hour after the other contenders, David Gillespie and David Littleproud, withdrew from the race yesterday because they didn’t have the numbers.
This signals a seamless transition in the National’s leadership with the Coalition agreement unlikely to depart much from the one negotiated by Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr McCormack is a journalist who, at 27, became the youngest editor of the Wagga Wagga newspaper, ‘The Daily Advertiser’.
He replaced Kay Hull as the Member for Riverina having worked as her campaign manager in the lead up to a number of elections.
Mr McCormack is renowned as a calm and composed politician of the new breed.
He barely drinks alcohol and prefers to serve his constituents through effective public administration rather than chasing publicity.
He first came to national attention with his handling of the bungled 2016 national census when, as Minister for Small Business, he was given the responsibility for moving the census online.
While the process for collecting the data ran into trouble the actual outcome of the census was satisfactory.
He is currently Minister for Veteran Affairs which is always a very difficult portfolio.
At the moment there are issues around Australian ex-servicemen who, as part of the occupation forces in Japan, went into areas that were contaminated from the atomic bombs.
These ex-servicemen are trying to get the medical gold card that is available to people who have fought in conflict.
The question will be whether he reshuffles his front bench and demotes some of ministers who were recently promoted by Barnaby Joyce.
Darren Chester, in particular, may be looking forward to a return to the ministry.
Senator Bridget McKenzie will continue as Deputy Leader.
In a ceremony at Government House this morning, McCormack was sworn is as the 18th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.