The day in Parliament House started with The PM and Tony Abbott and most other MPs attending the Biggest Morning Tea Fundraiser for Cancer at which both Gillard and Abbott gave speeches.
Tony Abbott, as is his way, decided to use the bi-partisan occasion to be partisan:
It’s great to be here, great to be in the presence of the Prime Minister and so many distinguished colleagues, including the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, good to have you in the country, Kevin and of course – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, just, the devil made me say that, I’m sorry about that, Kevin – and of course the Shadow Minister for Health, Peter Dutton.
Aside from the fact it shows Abbott is as vacuous as those journalists who think it is astonishing that Australia's Foreign Minister spends a fair bit of time in Foreign countries, it also demonstrates yet again that Abbott is incapable of uttering a public remark that does not have some political barb. The devil made him do it? Gee I’ll have to remember to use that one next time I say something stupid. How pathetic.
Question Time began with the PM and Abbott acknowledging that today is National Sorry Day – the day that acknowledges the historical mistreatment of Aboriginal people. Tony Abbott, as is his way, decided to the use the bi-partisan occasion to be partisan:
I should observe today that this parliament could improve the economic prospects of the Aboriginal people of Cape York if it passed the private member's bill on Wild Rivers.
Again, how pathetic. If Abbott wants to argue for his Wild Rivers Bill he had his chance when it was before parliament – or perhaps he could go see Steve Fielding and try again – but to raise it during such a motion is to suggest it has universal support of Aboriginal peoples of Cape York – which it does not. I was not surprised though by Abbott’s statements. What surprised me is that he didn’t suggest the Government was destroying the Aboriginal people through imposing a great big new tax on everything. But I guess he had to leave something for Question Time.
Actually if he wanted to be political, perhaps during his speech where he paid tribute to Kevin Rudd for his apology to the stolen generation in 2008:
I should also acknowledge former Prime Minister Rudd for having the vision to say sorry on behalf of our nation. That was an historic day and we all pay tribute to him for that act of statesmanship.
He could have stopped and said – “Well not all of us pay tribute. Sophie Mirabella and Peter Dutton here on my front bench don’t share that praise, because of course they boycotted the apology…”
But on to Question Time, proper.
It started with Tony Abbott getting all huggy and concerned about asylum seekers and whether or not they will be caned in Malaysia. Julia Gillard responded by citing her joint statement with Malaysian President Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, which says:
transferees will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards.
And yes that is nice. But will they? What if they don’t? How will we be able to check? Who will determine what is being treated with dignity, respect and in accordance with human rights standards? Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner and current director of Equity and Diversity at the University of Western Sydney, Dr Sev Ozdowski, on the 7:30 Report tonight said the old Howard Pacific Solution is preferable to this Malaysian deal.
Things have come to a pretty pass for the ALP when they’ve arrived at that stage.
The key aspects of the “regional solution” is that there would be no advantage in getting in a boat to come to Australia, but secondly was that the other nations involved in the regional solution would be acting with the United Nation High Commission for Refugees. If Labor wants to keep any sense of morality they need to make sure there’s just a wee bit more than the word of the Malaysian Government – like getting some bloody tight oversight of the condition of the 800.
But really – why bother? It is so fraught and likely to end in tears. Will it “stop the boats”? To be honest I don’t care. But then I guess I don’t care much about polling in western Sydney.
The big news from the Government side was smoking – or more to the point the donations to the Liberal and National parties from smoking companies – in particular those from British American Tobacco. Nicola Roxon revealed some information she had discovered:
The coalition denies it is being influenced by big tobacco, but I have discovered something that seems to throw this into question. It is a policy that comes from big tobacco themselves—British American Tobacco, in fact. I think some of those opposite might particularly like to hear this because, despite their protestations, British American Tobacco makes the statement on its own website that their worldwide policy when it comes to donations is:
“Such payments can only be made for the purpose of influencing the debate on issues affecting the company ...”
The Liberal and National parties deny that these contributions have any influence, but the donors say that is the only reason they can actually make a donation.
Those opposite might be interested to know something else that is on this website.
According to British American Tobacco's own figures, they made political donations in only three countries around the world in 2010. In Canada they made a donation of £1,000 and in the Solomon Islands they made a donation of £2,000. In Australia, they made a donation—to just two parties in this place—of £111,000. So 97 per cent of British American Tobacco's money is spent here on two parties—the Liberal Party and the National Party.
No foreign nationals can directly contribute funds to a campaign, nor can they decide how the money is allocated. The donations have to come from US citizens or residents.
But it is still not a good look for the LNP – there’s fair bit of smoke stinking up their policy position.
Roxon was excellent in taking apart the Libs, but I wish she wouldn’t roll out her “It is time to kick the habit, Mr Abbott” line. I know it gets a run on the news and radio. But geez it is woefully lacking in wit.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was also very much on the front foot – this time against Scott Morrison. Morrison asked if legislation passed yesterday which enables asylum seekers to make claims under the United Nations Convention Against Torture would mean those being sent to Malaysia would be able to use the law to delay their being sent.
The question oddly had Morrison appearing to be against the new legislation but also against the opportunity for asylum seekers to use the legislation to avoid being tortured. It wasn’t particularly clear if he wants asylum seekers to be able to avoid being tortured in Malaysia or not.
Bowen dealt with the claim pretty comprehensively:
My God what a scummy debate we have – where the treatment of asylum seekers in Iran is being used as a benchmark. The stench of hypocrisy that wafts over both sides of the House is so strong you would need a lifetime supplies worth of Glen 20 to get the air to any normal level of freshness.
Mr BOWEN (14:25): I cannot confirm that, because it is completely untrue, as the member for Cook well knows. He has completely misrepresented the complementary protection legislation once again, as he has previously, and completely misrepresented the arrangements with Malaysia.
I am happy to go through this methodically for the benefit of the member for Cook. The Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of Malaysia have released a statement that outlines the agreement reached by them. That statement says that Prime Ministers Najib and Gillard have agreed that core elements of this bilateral arrangement will include that 'transferees will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards'. That is what the agreement between the two prime ministers says very clearly. It has been confirmed by the Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia since then that these transferees will be treated humanely under the terms of that agreement.
The member for Cook chooses to misrepresent the situation in relation to Malaysia. The member for Cook comes in here and cries his crocodile tears about the situation for asylum seekers in Malaysia, at the same time as criticising us for taking too many asylum seekers—for taking 4,000 asylum seekers—out of Malaysia. The hypocrisy of the member for Cook is exceeded only by this point: as the House would recall, last November the member for Cook proposed an arrangement similar to that proposed by the government in relation to a transfer agreement, except that instead of Malaysia he proposed Iran. I wonder how he would have gone negotiating with President Ahmadinejad the protections that this government has negotiated.
The economy was also not being ignored either today.
Once again there was a bit of an effort to target Swan. But – as has been the case all week – it was all very much about absolutely nothing. Joe Hockey after QT tried to keep up some sort of an attack with a Matter of Public importance on:
“The failure of the Treasurer to respond to imminent threats to the Australian economy”
The only problem was today out came the latest Capital Expenditure figures which detail investment in the economy and various industries.
They did not exactly show an economy under imminent threat:
The trend volume estimate for total new capital expenditure rose 3.3% in the March quarter 2011 while the seasonally adjusted estimate rose 3.4%.
The trend volume estimate for buildings and structures rose 2.6% in the March quarter 2011 while the seasonally adjusted estimate rose 4.5%.
The trend volume estimate for equipment, plant and machinery rose 3.8% in the March quarter 2011 while the seasonally adjusted estimate rose 2.4%.
But I know, the mining industry is the really important one – and that’s about to die (though how it survived the end of Work Choices is beyond me). So how is that going? Have a look on the graph on the right.
Huh. Not too bad it seems.
The trend estimate for Mining rose 2.1% in the March quarter 2011. The buildings and structures asset type rose 1.5%, and equipment, plant and machinery rose 2.9%. The seasonally adjusted estimate for Mining rose 2.8% in the March quarter 2011. By asset type, buildings and structures rose 2.6% and equipment, plant and machinery rose 3.7%.
Not too shabby.
But of course it must be expected to fall into a big heap very soon, given the whole “imminent danger” and all:
Hang on, that expected expenditure in the start of 2011-12 looks like a bloody big jump.
Estimate 2 for Mining for 2011-12 is $83,326 million. This is 70.6% higher than the corresponding estimate for 2010-11. Estimate 2 is 5.5% higher than Estimate 1 for 2011-12. Buildings and structures is 2.6% higher and equipment, plant and machinery is 21.7% higher than the corresponding first estimates for 2011-12.
Oh, that’s because it is a bloody big jump.
I guess all those mining companies are just betting that the MRRT and Carbon Price won’t happen…
In Hockey’s MPI speech he also said this interesting little thing which gave away just how trivial is the whole “what did Swan know and when did he know it thing”. In trying to prove that Swan and the Govt expected WA to raise the royalty rate to 7.5 Hockey said this:
Of course, on 2 July 2010 the government announced the deal that they had done with Xstrata, BHP and Rio. In the fact sheet associated with that deal, it says:
- The MRRT will also provide a full credit for state royalties paid by a taxpayer in respect of a mining project
It goes on to say:
- State royalties are assumed to be equal to 7.5 per cent of sales revenue and are credited against the MRRT liability to produce the net MRRT liability.
What does that mean? It means that there was always an assumption by this government that the state governments would remove concessions and it was prepared to rebate up to 7.5 per cent.
What it also means is that if the Government has budgeted for the increase, then the WA Government raising the rate will not actually blow a hole in the Government’s budget. It is why Hockey hasn’t been mentioning budget holes in relation to this. And what it also means is that this fight is about he said/he said and nothing else. It doesn’t make one difference to the economy or anything happening to real people.
The other big issue of the day was the Liberal Party nicely unravelling. For some bizarre reason the Opposition Whip, Warren Entsch, decided to send out an email to all Liberal-National Party MP in which he rebuked five Libs for missing a division. One of the five names (right at the top) was Malcolm Turnbull.
That not one person in the Opposition Whip’s office did not think the email would get leaked is rather astounding.
Did they really think putting it in writing was the best way to do it? Whatever happened to the old quiet chat?
"[To] send a letter out like that it's effectively a press release, that's the obvious intent of it. That's what happens when you send letters to half the Parliament."
“Clearly somebody has leaked it, but when you send a letter or email to every member of the government, or the Coalition, the reality is the chances of it finding its way into the hands of the press are extremely high - probably not 100 per cent, but 99 per cent.”
All is not wonderful in the Liberal Party. The tensions can be kept under a lid for only so long – especially when the strategy of getting quickly back into power doesn't seem to be working. As Albanese pointed out today (interestingly it was mentioned in a tweet last week by Possum):
…. as of today, at 1.30, we have passed 112 pieces of legislation through this House—112 supported, zero opposed by this House of Representatives. And we have done that in just eight months. How does that compare with our predecessors? Those opposite would like to say that this parliament cannot function properly because it requires proper negotiation. The fact is that in the first 12 months of the Howard government 108 bills were passed by the House of Representatives, so we have been more efficient and more productive on this side of the House in terms of getting legislation through.
The Government may be down in the polls, but in Parliament it is cruising. Many Libs would be coming to the realisation that they will not go to the polls till near the end of 2013, and that is two budgets away, and a long, long time to put up with Tony Abbott standing for nothing.
Don’t put down your glasses yet. The 2013 race isn’t run.