The Week in Politics
On Wednesday the High Court handed down its judgement in the Katy Gallagher matter.
The Court confirmed its decision in the Matt Canavan case that, unless a foreign law precludes Members of Parliament from renouncing their dual citizenship, then they cannot sit in the Parliament if they hold dual citizenship when they nominate to stand for election.
Following this three Labor members, Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, along with the Centre Alliance member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, announced in the House of Representatives that they would resign and recontest their seats at a by-election.
Following the High Court decision Bill Shorten and Tony Burke faced a hostile media at a press conference at Parliament House.
The first question was from Mark Riley who asked the Opposition Leader: “You told the public that you could give a rolled gold guarantee that all Labor members were eligible to sit in Parliament. In light of the High Court decision don’t you feel like a goose?”
Mr Shorten responded by saying that at all times he had acted on the advice of the Labor Party’s lawyers who did not know that the High Court would radically change the law in the Gallagher decision.
This was followed by questions that pointed out that the law was unchanged from the Canavan decision.
Tony Burke disputed this saying that, in the Canavan and Joyce matters, there was no effort to renounce so the “reasonable steps to renounce” had not been litigated before.
This is true but the High Court had made it clear in the Canavan decision what it would decide if it was.
The press demanded that Mr Shorten make public the Labor Party’s legal advice but he declined to do that.
When journalists pressed him on why he had been so slow to acknowledge the ineligibility of Labor members, the Leader of the Opposition closed the press conference down.
Her replacement, David Smith, will be reluctant to sacrifice his Senate seat for her so she may have to stand for the House of Representatives or challenge his pre-selection.
The only available lower house seat is the new seat of Bean where she could get preselection because it is slated to go to a woman from the Labor left, however it’s likely to be a hard seat for Labor to win because it covers the wealthier conservative areas of Canberra.
Ms Gallagher has indicated that she’s not interested in standing for Bean which leaves the Senate, where she will have to push to get support from the left and right factions if she’s to secure the number one position on the Senate ballot.
This Week in Parliament
The government introduced its omnibus bill for cuts to personal income tax on Wednesday but the bill was not debated pending the Opposition Leader’s budget reply speech on Thursday night.
During question time Labor focused on the value of the corporate tax cuts over the ten years from 2018-19.
It was difficult to see the point of the questions other than to establish the amount of money that could be reallocated to essential services.
The government refused to be drawn into this debate and instead simply provided the value of the unlegislated cuts which they said was $34.5 billion with another $9.5 billion for an extra year of cuts.
The government’s argument was that the legislated cuts were done and dealt and were unlikely to be reversed.In the Senate, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert introduced a motion to increase Newstart by $75 a week.
This got short shrift and was voted down by the government, Labor, and most of the crossbenchers.
Undaunted the Greens propose to introduce legislation along these lines later in the year.
Former Prime Minister John Howard unexpectedly breathed new life into the campaign to increase the dole on Wednesday.
Howard, speaking at a post-budget breakfast in Melbourne, said a 24-year freeze on the Newstart rate had “probably gone on too long.”
“Yeah, I think there is an argument about that, yeah I do,” Howard said. “I was in favour of freezing it when it happened, but I think the freeze has probably gone on too long.”
Senator Siewert said the bill will be reintroduced in the second half of the year.
“It is time we stopped leaving struggling Australians behind and for Newstart to be increased to a level where job seekers can live with some dignity,” Siewert said.
“We are a kind and generous nation and to leave Australians trying to find a job languishing well below the poverty line is a national shame.”
From the Gallery • The Prime Minister started off Budget week with a press conference with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher for an announcement on rail upgrades to improve traffic around Sydney Airport. The announcement was made in Banksmeadow, NSW. • There was a Budget-eve Cabinet Meeting in Parliament House on Monday Morning. • The vote in the House of Representatives that will set up the new Home Affairs Ministry was taken Tuesday. • The Federal Budget Dinner was held at the Great Hall in Parliament House on Budget Night. • The Member for Bradfield Paul Fletcher who replaced former Liberal Leader Dr Brendan Nelson held his annual Budget night dinner in the Mural Hall in Parliament House. • The European Australia Business Council hosted a very limited few selected guests at their Budget Dinner in the Main dining room in Parliament House. • The Nationals held a doorstop to discuss the Budget in regards to rural and regional Australia on Thursday lead by Deputy Prime Minster Michael McCormack. • The 15th edition of the Canberra Science Diplomats Club was hosted by the Swiss Embassy this week. • The Treasurer Scott Morrison addressed the Higgins Budget Breakfast in Melbourne this Morning at a Liberal Party fundraiser at The Palladium at Crown Melbourne in Southbank. • The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull address the NSW Federal Budget Lunch at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney today. • Labor MP Anne Aly after being asked by Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten to confirm her citizenship with the Egyptian Embassy has released a statement confirming she isn’t an Egyptian citizen. • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton announced Mr Michael Outram APM has been appointed to the position of Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF).