The Week in Parliament
The process of government is moving on despite the febrile political atmosphere in Canberra in the aftermath of the Wentworth by-election.
On Monday Treasurer Josh Frydenberg foreshadowed legislation to increase the penalties to apply to corporate offences prosecuted by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
ASIC Chairman James Shipton appeared before Senate estimates on Wednesday evening and asked for more resources so that the organisation could undertake more litigation against big business.
He said that ASIC intended to put executives in jail when major crimes were committed.
“What we now need is a constructive conversation about the powers, positioning and right-sizing of ASIC,” Mr Shipton said.
Mr Shipton recently called on the government to pass legislation that would dramatically beef up the regulator’s powers and the penalties that could be slapped on companies breaking the law.
Another piece of legislation was due to be introduced into the lower House on Wednesday night.
This was a bill to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the exemption for religious schools with regard to the enrolment of students on the grounds of their sexual identity.
The Prime Minister had said that the legislation would be passed in this sitting fortnight but Labor has yet to decide whether it will pass the bill because it has reservations about the right of religions schools to compel students to attend chapel.
Senate estimates covered subjects ranging from carbon neutrality for beef production to the resumé of the new Treasury Secretary, Philip Gaetjens.
The Meat and Livestock Authority told Senators that the CSIRO had come up with 17 processes that could make beef production carbon neutral, including feeding the cattle seaweed.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally was flabbergasted when told that Phil Gaetjens had not submitted a resumé before being appointed to his new position.
It is a matter of public record that the former Secretary, John Fraser, recommended to the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, that Mr Gaetjens be appointed to the top job in Treasury.
Labor has reservations about Mr Gaetjens’ appointment.
On Friday the Drought Summit will be held in Canberra and the COAG Energy Council will meet in Sydney.
Both are important meetings and will probably dominate the news cycle in the coming week.
The Week in Politics
Politics this week was dominated by the fallout from the Wentworth by-election.
There were recriminations all round: Barnaby Joyce didn’t hold back, accusing Malcolm Turnbull of running dead in relation to the Wentworth campaign and declaring that all he had to do was tweet five little words: “please vote for Dave Sharma.”
Mr Turnbull responded to the criticism by saying that he had told people that he “would quit partisan politics.”
The defeat in Wentworth led to a push for a reconsideration of government policies on immigration and climate change.
The Prime Minister and his cabinet stuck to the position that the electorate’s priority was power pricing rather than emission reductions.
The government argued that in the electricity sector the emission targets would be achieved through the increase in renewables under the current policies.
This was confirmed by the head of the Energy Security Board, Dr Kerry Schott.
There is less precision in relation to the agriculture sector and transport but these are also blind spots in the Labor policy framework.
Labor is said to be about to announce an energy policy that is “the National Energy Guarantee on steroids.”
It appears that Labor wants to meet its 45% emission reduction target by 2030 entirely through the power sector and to give agriculture and transport a free pass.
The disaffected progressive Liberal and non-aligned sector of the voters have increased their activism against conservatives.
Jane Caro, a ubiquitous ABC panellist, has announced that she may run against Tony Abbott.
Craig Kelly, the member for Hughes, is having his preselection threatened by Kent Johns, a Liberal moderate.
These moves are likely to escalate in the run up to the election.
In the end all these activities are likely to detract from Scott Morrison’s attempts to present a stable policy agenda that deals with bread and butter issues.