• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Parliament


Most of the excitement in Parliament this week was found in Senate Estimates.


It started when some media accused Senators Kristina Keneally and Kimberley Kitching of asking questions drafted for them by the former Foreign Minister Bob Carr who’s currently an academic at the University of Technology Sydney.

The import of the questions was intended to expose the role of former journalist, John Garnaut, in the development of China policy.

The ‘Fairfax’ journalists seemed to be insinuating that two senior female politicians were incapable of formulating some questions after a normal backgrounding by an expert.

In any event Professor Carr denied writing any questions.

The Labor Party went after Employment and Innovation Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, on Wednesday after she was served with a subpoena which required her to attend court to testify in the case in which the Australian Workers’ Union is seeking an order to stop an investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission.

The Press Gallery went into a tizz over this with media claiming that a subpoena issued by a federal Court judge was a very serious matter.

The reality is that a subpoena is issued as of right to a party to litigation.

A third party witness can then move to have it set aside.

There is no judgement made of the evidence which the witness might give in the case.

More interesting in this matter is the fact that Senator Cash is being called as a witness by the AWU.

This means that she could be asked to give her version of how an Australian Federal Police raid was instigated but she could not be cross examined on her evidence by lawyers for the AWU because she’s their witness.

It could be argued that she could be treated as a hostile witness but this can only be deduced from her testimony so it’s unlikely to be supported by the judge.

In the circumstances it’s difficult to see what probative value there is in Senator Cash’s testimony and the issue of the subpoena seems like a stunt.

John McDonnell

The Week in Politics

Malcolm Turnbull is in trouble for the super Saturday by-elections.

While Labor is out in front with Bill Shorten campaigning his socks off in each of the five seats and the local members already well established with all the necessary infrastructure, the Coalition is yet to get its message together and the candidates are floundering.

Take Longman as an example: Labor has a truck driving around Caboolture telling voters that the government intends to cut funding to Caboolture Hospital.

This is untrue but Malcolm Turnbull’s response, during an answer to a question in the House of Representatives, was nothing more than an observation that the billboard is a lie.

As a political gambit this is useless. For every 500 Longman electors who were getting a message from the truck there would be zero who were listening to question time.

On the other hand Bill Shorten is a master at using question time for electoral purposes.

For example, on Wednesday he asked the Prime Minister whether he would match Labor’s offer to establish a cancer clinic in Caboolture so that people who needed chemotherapy would not have to travel to Brisbane for treatment.

Malcolm Turnbull responded with a long winded answer about increased funding for local area health networks.

The Labor take out from this will be that the government is refusing to fund a cancer clinic but Bill Shorten will.

In the meantime the Coalition is tearing itself apart over pre-selections.

On media on Tuesday afternoon, Tony Abbott declared war on the moderate faction when he announced that there would be blowback in the NSW division if the moderates went through with their challenge to Craig Kelly, Liberal member for the southern Sydney electorate of Hughes.

“I think it would be a disaster for our party if Craig Kelly were to lose preselection, an absolute disaster,” the former Prime Minister told the media.

“He has been a very good local member, he has been a very strong participant in all of our policy discussions, he has been a very good and vocal advocate for our position.

“The idea he should be knocked off, at this point in time … I just think that is the worst possible look. The only way we can win the election is if we have harmony inside our party and we sure ain’t going to have harmony if Craig Kelly gets rolled.”

Kate Critchley

From the Gallery • H.E Ambassador Hugo Javier Gobbi and Dr. Beatriz Elena Mollerach hosted a reception at the Albert Hall to celebrate the 202nd Anniversary of Argentina’s Independence and the 208th Anniversary of the May Revolution on Wednesday.

•Barnaby Joyce has taken extended personal leave – effective from Tuesday. He’ll be on 11 weeks leave missing one sitting period and returning for August sitting of Parliament. The Nationals Chief Whip, Chief Government Whip and Deputy Prime Minister granted his leave and the Labor Party has provided him a pair in the House of Representatives for all divisions so the Coalition wont lose his vote.

• Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop launched “Australian Aid: Friendship Grants” project on Wednesday in the Private Dining Room of Parliament House.

• On Wednesday evening in Parliament House the Clean Energy Council held a function to promote alternative sources of energy. The function held in the Mural Hall was addressed by the Energy Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, Shadow Minister and Labor Party President Mark Butler and Greens MP Adam Bandt.

• The Australian Ship building company Austal has delivered the first of twenty one Guardian Class Pacific Patrol Boats. The delivery was the first of the Commonwealth Government’s Continuous Build Program. The Patrol Boat was delivered on time and on budget to the Federal Government.

• Representatives from Cotton Australia travelled to Parliament to meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals Michael McCormack. The delegation was lead by General Manager Michael Murray, Chair Simon Corish and CEO Adam Key. Sussan Ley MP and Assistant Minister for Trade Mark Coulton MP and Ken O’Dowd MP also meet the delegation with the DPM.

• Dr Martin Parkinson Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet addressed the Property Council of Australia this week in Parliament House. The Secretary said “Cities will be fundamental to Australia’s success in the twenty-first century. So it was fitting to have a conversation about the future of Australian cities”.

• The Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has issued a ‘please explain’ to the Palestinian Authority over its fund that “rewards murder and terrorism” of Israeli citizens. This comes after advocacy form the Young Liberal Movement of Australia that foreign aid shouldn’t be supporting terrorism.

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