Today saw the opening of the 44th Parliament, with the class of 2013 sworn in and Bronwyn Bishop installed as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was largely a day of ceremony, with none of the usual cut and thrust of question time. Opening remarks from Tony Abbott did however attract much mirth from the Opposition benches, particularly when he called for dignity and civility in the new Parliament, in spite of being one of the main instigators of discord during the 43rd Parliament.
Bishop was as expected elected Speaker over Labor Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell 93 votes to 56. He was likewise defeated for the position of Deputy Speaker by the LNP’s Bruce Scott, with Mitchell declared Second Deputy Speaker. That was amongst the only real parliamentary excitement for the day, with most of the action coming outside of Parliament. Twice former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was present, but quizzed after a church service to mark the commencement of the Parliament, said that he felt that today at least was a day which was largely apolitical, pointing instead to the gravity of the situation in the Philippines.
The Liberal Party meanwhile had to deal with controversial comments from Tony Abbott’s head of the Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, who stated that he feels wages are too high and that Australia cannot afford the Disability Insurance Scheme or the Gonski education reforms. Clive Palmer meanwhile was the main drawcard at the National Press Club, with a wide ranging speech on everything from Karl Marx to wages for journalists.
In the background were ongoing issues surrounding asylum seekers and an increased cooling in Australia’s relationship with Indonesia stemming from that issue, as well as a Liberal Party proposal to raise the debt ceiling to $500 billion, which Labor is set to oppose, instead proposing an increase to $400 billion from the present limit of $300 billion. That issue, along with the Liberal proposal to repeal the carbon tax look set to dominate the opening days of the 44th Parliament.
First published at http://theinfinitive.com.au/top-news/44th-parliament-sits-first-time/1477
I’ve spent the past couple of months working on the ALP election campaign hence my absence. It was an enlightening, exhilarating and at times infuriating experience, which ended with my local MP losing his seat. I’ve had an amazing journey, especially as I was not even a member of the party 3 months ago! But anway, enough of that. Rather than writing a cheesy welcome back article I thought I’d get right into it.
If you’re anything like me, the silver lining from Saturday has been the close contest in the regional Victorian seat of Indi, where Liberal incumbent and nastiest MP award winner Sophie Mirabella is trailing in a close contest with Independent Cathy McGowan. I think it his heartening to know that, for all the lamenting that is done, the average voter is intelligent enough to know their local MP is a dud, and to vote in a fashion they would not normally. Brand Independent was meant to be dead after Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott backed the Gillard minority government. But the voters of Indi have sent a powerful message- even for potential front-benchers, forgetting to serve your electorate is done at your peril. Unable to overcome her nastiness, Mirabella has spent too much time in the sin bin under section 94A of the standing orders and not enough time representing the people of Indi. And whether or not she holds the seat, they have responded in kind.
The outcome might take several days to determine, but a strong reminder has been sent to the major parties, and to individual MPs. Voters aren’t stupid, and they expect decent representation. That is why the people of Greenway rejected Jaymes Diaz, and why such a stinging rebuff has been delivered to Sophie Mirabella.
Running scared that the Labor government might be in with a shot at the upcoming election after Friday’s announcement of the PNG solution, the Herald Sun naturally instead focussed on the tweaking of fringe benefits tax regulations on novated leases as the basis for an attack on Kevin Rudd. It’s only at the bottom of the page in the Herald Scum that one finds the fundamental nature of the change. Drivers are now to be asked to keep a log book for 3 months every 5 years to prove the vehicle is being used sufficiently for work purposes to claim the relevant tax offset. All the government has done is tightened up on the rorting of an already generous tax concession, largely by the middle and upper class, and yet this rent seeking industry built on a tax break is squealing like a stuck pig. I don’t know what’s more pathetic; the media coverage or the pathetic whining of the industry at being taken to task for what is basically the defrauding of average taxpayers.
The pink batts scandal is once again back in the news, and the aggressive posturing of the Liberals raises some interesting ideological questions. For one, why is the party of individual responsibility blaming the government rather than the cheap, sleazy bastards who sent untrained young men to their deaths in pursuit of a quick buck? Could it be that the said individuals are those small business types with which the Liberals so adore? Furthermore, why is the party of the alleged moral high ground so eager to politicise these tragedies? Food for thought…
One reason for my opposition to the conservative side of politics here in Australia is that in my view they not only seek to oppose the downward redistribution of income via progressive taxation, they in fact encourage regressive taxation. The Shop and Distributive Union’s Joe de Bruyn has put out a very concise and convincing piece on this issue, which can be found here. He lists plans to reintroduce a tax on low income super contributions, to undermine penalty rates, to reverse the near tripling of the tax free threshold to $18000, and plans to abolish the school kids bonus. Perhaps if these 4 policies received greater publicity, low and middle income voters would think twice about supporting a party which really only cares for the residents of Toorak and the North Shore.
If someone were to ask me for a single, definitive reason as to why I lean left rather than right, I think I would say that, for all its flaws, the union movement never killed anyone in order to make a buck. Unlike companies such as CSR and James Hardie or the big tobacco companies, who, in spite of knowing full well that their respective products were deadly, suppressed the information and continued selling them. In the case of CSR, this in the end led to the WA mining town of Wittenoom being left as a ghost town, with an estimated 1 in 3 of those who passed through the town either developing, or by 2020 set to develop an asbestos related disease. CSR’s blatant disregard for life in the pursuit of the almighty dollar was immortalised in Midnight Oil’s protest anthem Blue Sky Mine (young-uns and overseas readers who’ve never heard it, check it out), and has come to be seen as a hallmark of corporate immorality in Australia.
You’d think corporate Australia would learn. But now, news has come out today that the operations of miner Xstrata in the Queensland town of Mount Isa are responsible for elevated lead levels in the blood of local children, according to an independent study. This is in spite of previous denials by Xstrata and the Queensland Government that naturally occurring lead was responsible for the elevated lead levels. Needless to say exposure to lead is not a good thing, with it having the potential to cause damage to vital organs and to retard growth in children. In 2008, when the Queensland Health report came out detailing the high levels of lead in children’s blood, Xstrata denied the correlation between their operations and the high levels. Now that this independent report is in the public domain, it is time for Xstrata to outline what they know, and to look to alter their practices in order to minimise the exposure of the children of Mount Isa to dangerous lead.
An advertisement from the Australian Council of Trade Unions to be released this evening serves as a pointed and timely reminder of the merits of the oft maligned union movement. Many Australian’s will remember the ACTU’s powerful advertising campaign against the Howard government’s WorkChoices in 2007. The Coalition has relentlessly attacked the union movement in relation to a number of scandals whilst Labor has been in power. Indeed, like any other organization, there have been some bad apples within the movement. But with the Coalition looking set to return to power, it is worth remembering the prominent role the union movement has played in shaping society as we know it, by virtue of initiatives such as the 40 hour week. Without the union movement, the disparity between the haves and the have nots would be far wider in Australian society. It is a crucial counter balance to the power and influence that money buys for corporate Australia. So, next time a Liberal MP attacks the unions, pause to wonder what life for the vast majority of us who work for someone else for a living would be like without them.