• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Parliament


The government had a big win in the Senate this week and a failure when it came to corporate tax cuts.


Bill Shorten also had a setback in his attempt to cancel cash refunds as a consequence of dividend imputation when he announced that pensioners and part-pensioners would continue to get their cash refunds provided they were recipients of a pension on or prior to March 28 this year.

People who receive a pension after this date will not get a refund.

The government started the week optimistic that they would get their corporate tax cuts through the Senate however this was not to be: the government needed 9 crossbench senators to get the bill through but they ended the week having secured the votes of only 7.

Senators Derryn Hinch and Tim Storrer were still holding out. Senator Hinch wanted a grab-bag of trade-offs including depriving alleged paedophiles of legal aid and the maintenance of the clean energy supplement for pensioners and part-pensioners.

The inference was that the government’s negotiator, Senator Mathias Cormann, had refused to concede these trade-offs.

Senator Tim Storrer has told the government that he will not support the corporate tax cuts without additional tax reform.

Since the cuts will be implemented over ten years it’s entirely possible that tax reform could occur in concert with tax reductions but the processes will have to be worked out.

The government had a win when the Senate voted not to disallow Josh Frydenberg’s new regulatory regime for marine parks after the Greens and Labor brought on a motion of disallowance however, in a news conference on Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten said that the opposition would reintroduce the disallowance motion when Parliament resumes.

From the Gallery

• The Parliamentary Friends of Australian Music took over the Queen’s Terrace from 7.30pm on Tuesday. The lobby group was in Parliament to advocate for protecting creators rights, the value of copyright, the importance of local content, small business innovation in the sector. The artists who attended included Kasey Chambers, Ian Moss and John Paul Young.

• On Tuesday in the Great Hall as part of the Business Council’s (BCA) annual forum in Canberra there was a business showcase attended by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The BCA also held a sausage sizzle in the Senate courtyard with Bunnings and Coles.

• Senator Anne Ruston joined industry representatives as well as Cathy McGowan the Member for Indi and Lisa Chesters MP for the friends of prosecco event in Parliament on Tuesday night.

• Mark Coulton MP the Member for Parkes and newly appointed Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment meet with Professor Paul Wellings, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Wollongong (UoW) and Adam Gilchrist in Parliament on Tuesday. They were in Parliament to discuss the University’s international operations with Adam Gilchrist as their Global Brand Ambassador.

• Senator Michaelia Cash the Minister for Jobs and Innovation welcomed the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Australia to Parliament on Tuesday. This also was combined with an Industry Breakfast at Parliament House hosted by Leader of the Government in the Senate and Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann and German Ambassador H.E. Dr Anna Prinz.

• The Prime Minister addressed the Prime Minster’s Veterans’ Employment Program Awards Gala Dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament on Wednesday evening.

• Senator Ian MacDonald represented Australia at the InterParliamentary Union General Assembly in Geneva this week.

• The Prime Minister has closed the Parliamentary week and last sitting week until the budget by visiting the Royal Flying Doctors Service at their headquarters in Broken Hill with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

The Week in Politics

It was a week when politics was dominated by sport: the Australian cricket team was caught cheating in South Africa and the Socceroos were facing the prospect of a boycott of the World Cup.

The Prime Minister was exercised by the ball tampering incident and, in an address to the Business Council of Australia on Tuesday night, he described it as “cheating,” something that Cricket Australia was reluctant to do. He said that it had been “a shocking affront to Australia” and Cricket Australia must act “decisively and emphatically.”

“They now have to make sure that this great national game that is synonymous with fair play is once again a game that is played by champions that everybody can look up to,” he said.

“This has been a shocking affront to Australia. How many of us as children, how many of us as fathers and mothers, have had children who have looked up to the Australian team, who have looked up to their role models, their idols.

“This cheating is a disgrace. Look, we all know that. It is a terrible disgrace.”

On the other hand Bill Shorten kept his counsel and said nothing.

Cricket Australia, however, responded to the groundswell of disgust on the part of the Australian public and expelled Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft from the tour and told them that they would face significant sanctions.

James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, gave politicians a lesson in how to make a sincere and abject apology.

However, on the issue of Russian spies, there was undiluted bipartisanship with the Leader of the Opposition giving the government full support for the expulsion of two members of the embassy staff.

In an unusual event, the Russian Ambassador Grigori Lovinov held a press conference at the Russian embassy on Wednesday morning.

During the presser he denied that there were any spies among the staff at the embassy.

He alleged that Australian security agencies had maltreated Russian diplomats and that Australia had been duped into joining a conspiracy led by Britain and supported by the United States and Europe.

He said that it remained to be proved that the Russian state had been involved in the assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

No minister has escaped a doorstop or a presser without being asked whether the government should take additional punitive action – such as boycotting the football World Cup.

So far the response has been circumspect in the extreme.

This week the Coalition was confronted with its 29th losing Newspoll since Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott, partly on the grounds that the latter had lost 30 polls in a row.

Labor’s primary vote was up and it leads the Coalition 53% to 47% on a two party preferred basis.

Some indication as to why the government finds it difficult to gain traction was evident on Tuesday.

On eight occasions Malcolm Turnbull used the phrase “I want to make this perfectly clear…” followed by a diatribe of impenetrable sludge.

If this continues he may win the odd battle but he’ll lose the war.

This is evident in the way the corporate tax cuts are being handled.

The government is focused on getting the cuts through the Senate but it’s totally ignoring the need to sell it to the public.

As a consequence he’s being outplayed by Bill Shorten whose message is simple: “hand-outs to the big end of town at the expense of ordinary Aussies.”