Volume 73 – number 18 – political news

Below is a summary version of edition 18 for 2020. To read the full version you need to subscribe. As a subscriber you receive the newsletter and can access back copies. You also gain access to video content inside of our membership site.

The Week in Parliament

A photo of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison looking across at the Speaker Tony Smith during Question Time in the House of Representatives
Canberra, Australia – 18 June 2020: Prime Minister Scott Morrison “But, Mr Speaker, to assist you and to respect your ruling—” Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

We saw something rare in Parliament this week, in more ways than one. 

First of all it was the second week in back-to-back sitting weeks, we also saw the Prime Minister push the limits with the Speaker during Question Time.

The big news of the week was actually set off on Sunday night following  revelations by the Age and 60 Minutes over branch stacking allegations in the Victorian Labor Party.

By the end of the week three Victorian state ministers had fallen.

In Canberra the Victorian ripples made their way into Parliament House in Canberra.

The Labor member for Holt, Anthony Byrne, was ratted out by disgraced state MP Adem Somyurek. We saw Somyurek leak private text exchanges between himself and Byrne. 

The content of the texts was explosive.

Question Time

On Monday to open Question Time the opposition opened with a left field question about diplomatic efforts being made to support Karm Gillespie, an Australian that had the death sentence imposed on him over the weekend by a Chinese court… subscribe for more.

Over in the Senate the focus started on the HomeBuilder scheme with Labor asking if the scheme would support half a million jobs. Senator Gallacher then said, “Analysis by Credit Suisse has described the HomeBuilder program as ‘disappointingly small’. He suggested the program should involve more spending. Senator Cormann said “we believe is appropriate in the circumstances but of course everybody is entitled to their own views.

Labor’s Senator Green followed up the first series of questions by saying “The design of the government’s HomeBuilder program has been criticised internally and publicly. Housing experts are concerned that the HomeBuilder program won’t deliver for regional areas”

Before heading into Question Time on Thursday the Prime Minister had held a press conference to discuss the Job figures that had been released earlier in the day.

Canberra, Australia – 18 June 2020: Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the PM’s courtyard for a press conference. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

The Prime Minister opened the press conference by saying, “The past three months have seen many hard days. This is another very hard day. 38 months of job creation, gone. 838,000 Australians having lost jobs. 227,700 in May. As heartbreaking as all of these lives, stories are that are represented in these numbers, the sad truth is is these numbers are not surprising in these circumstances. We are very aware of the significant blow that Australians are being hit with through the course of this pandemic.”

Later when answering questions from the media the topic of Anthony Byrne was raised. The Prime Minister would say this, “Anthony Byrne who has described this as a corruption investigation. A corruption investigation. That is not what the Liberal Party is calling it, or the Nationals, this is what the Labor Party themselves have defined what is occurring in the Labor Party at the moment.”

The Prime Minister and the Speaker clash

Canberra, Australia – 18 June 2020: The Speaker Tony Smith gives the Prime Minister a stern look. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

Those words of corruption would come back during question time and create a very tense situation, one not seen for a long time during question time.

It came when the Prime Minister said, “JobKeeper and jobseeker expand the full economy of Australia. What our government has been doing has been responding to the needs of those Australians. This Leader of the Opposition, in the midst of a debacle and corruption scandal that he has overseen—’corruption’ a word that his own Labor member has used to describe—”

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With Parliament now in recess until August 4 it was back to the campaign trail for a the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition as they travel around Eden-Monaro.

There was however a surprise press conference called by the PM at which he alerted Australians of a sustained cyber attack. Reading from a prepared statement he said, “I’m here today to advise you that based on the advice provided to me by our cyber experts, Australian organisations are currently being targeted by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor.”

Simon Birmingham at the National Press Club

Canberra, Australia – 17 June 2020: Trade Minister Senator Simon Birmingham ahead of his National Press Club Address. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

On Wednesday Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment addressed the NPC. The title of his speech was ‘Trading Australia towards the future’. The Minister pointed out that the OECD had stated that we are in the midst of the biggest global downturn since the Great Depression and that Australia has weathered the storm better than most countries. He said this was thanks to programs like JobKeeper, which were made possible because of Australia’s budget and economic strength.

“Liberalised trade settings for the three decades have given a 5.4 per cent boost to Australia’s real GDP. Australian households are an $8,400 estimated better off due to our open trade policies. Being part of global supply chains means we can export the large surpluses we produce in many goods, not to mention the expertise of our people and businesses. It also means Australian consumers and businesses can get access to the world’s best technology and products at the best prices,” said Birmingham.The past three months have seen many hard days. This is another very hard day. 38 months of job creation, gone. 838,000 Australians having lost jobs. 227,700 in May.“Liberalised trade settings for the three decades have given a 5.4 per cent boost to Australia’s real GDP. Australian households are an $8,400 estimated better off due to our open trade policies. Being part of global supply chains means we can export the large surpluses we produce in many goods, not to mention the expertise of our people and businesses. It also means Australian consumers and businesses can get access to the world’s best technology and products at the best prices,” said Birmingham.

Australia is under attack

On Friday morning the Prime Minister called a news conference to announce that Australia is the target of a sophisticated state-base cyber attack.

The PM read from a statement and said, “I’m here today to advise you that based on the advice provided to me by our cyber experts, Australian organisations are currently being targeted by a sophisticated state-based cyber actor. This activity is targeting Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure. We know it’s a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used. The Australian Government is aware of an alert to the threat of cyber attacks. Our Government’s expert agency on cyber matters is the Australian Cyber Security Centre. It has already published a range and technical advisory notices in recent times to alert potential targets and has been briefing states and territories on risks and mitigations.”

The Prime Minister refused to name the country that is suspected in mounting the attack however government sources have said China is behind the attack.

It didn’t take China long to deny the attack was carried out by them. China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian. slammed the accusations.

Zhao suggested the rumours come from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He said ASPI are receiving funding from the US and that influences the organisation.

On Saturday ASPI’s executive director Peter Jennings described the Chinese claim as “laughable nonsense”.

Jennings is often critical of China and that no doubt has attracted Beijing’s attention.

Further information on how you can protect yourself and your business from cyber threats is available at www.cyber.gov.au

Pauline Hanson stands alone to say “all lives matter” 

Photo of Senator Pauline Hanson speaking on Indigenous issues. "All Australians should be treated equally when it involves the delivery of government services
Canberra, Australia – 17 June 2020: Senator Pauline Hanson speaking on Indigenous issues. “All Australians should be treated equally when it involves the delivery of government services and funding. All citizens and residents are equally deserving of services that make our lives better, but there remains a significant imbalance in the funds and services dedicated specifically to those of Aboriginal heritage as opposed to non-Aboriginals.” Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

In an almost empty Senate chamber One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson (pictured above) stood to deliver a Senator statement. She opened by saying “all lives matter”. This comes at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is sweeping the world. The point of her speech was that all Australians should be treated equally when it involves the delivery of government services and funding. 

Last week in the Senate her all lives matter motion was opposed. 

Senator Hanson went on to say, “If taxpayer funds are spent in a specific area, we are right to expect positive outcomes. As I said in the Senate in February 2020, most Australians know that tens of billions of dollars are spent each year to help alter the standard of living of those in remote Aboriginal communities and even those living in developed parts of Australia. When you spend billions of dollars a year on any group of people, you expect outcomes….

To read the full article subscribe to Inside Canberra.

Snowy 2.0 takes a big step forward

Cooma, Australia – 19 June 2020: From left – Angus Taylor, Jim Molan, Fiona Kotvoys and Scott Morrison at Polo Flat near Cooma. (Photo by Rob Keating). Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

Yesterday the Prime Minister visited the Polo Flat segment factory on the outskirts of Cooma. He was joined by Minister for Energy,  Angus Taylor, Senator Jim Molan and Fiona Kotvojs, the Liberal Candidate for Eden-Monaro 

Back in April the NSW Government gave the approval for the Polo Flat segment factory Environmental Impact Statement giving a green light for construction to start.  

Construction is now well underway as was witnessed by the Prime Minister.

The factory in Cooma will produce 130,000 segments that make up the concrete rings that will line the 27km Snowy 2.0 tunnel. 

 “We fought hard to build the factory locally rather than importing segments from overseas or interstate because it means local jobs, opportunities and investment,” CEO Paul Broad said. …

From the Archives

The following content is from Inside Canberra Volume 59, No 498 published on June 16, 2006

“Libs anticipate end of the Howard era

The Liberals in the Federal Coalition are sensing the”

“end of the Howard era is approaching, hence the unrest in the backbench. This doesn’t mean they expect him to retire before the next election. Rather, if the PM wins the next election, he will hand over to Peter Costello within 12 months. If he doesn’t, he will be asked to go. Howard faces an unprecedented challenge on the new immigration laws. While only one Liberal, the ACT Senator Gary Humphries, voted against the measures to defeat same-sex unions in Canberra, many Liberals believe Howard’s approach shows he is out of touch with the broad community. We think it is simply a straight forward Howard wedge against Labor, yet many Liberals say Howard doesn’t understand there is now widespread community acceptance of homosexuals, particularly among younger voters.

PM resorts to lies on border protection

Howard is in a desperate position over backbench hostility to his measures to appease Indonesia. He has resorted to the outright lie in telling Parliament on Wednesday – “These policies have nothing to do with listening to Indonesian politicians.” Later, during a 7.30 Report interview, Amanda Vanstone told Kerry O’Brien – “Well, I think, as you say, it is indisputable we’ve taken into account the concerns of Indonesia.” And on Thursday she was saying how vital it was to have good relations with Indonesia because of their cooperation on border security. Inside Canberra (17 Feb) warned a delicate problem coming for Australia was the future of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers then incarcerated on Christmas Island. Eventually all but one were recognised as genuine refugees and granted visas to stay in Australia.

Papuans different proposition to Tampa episode

Inside Canberra observed it would be far harder for the Government to engender hostility from Australians towards the Papuans, compared to the Tampa boat people. After all, the latter were “people of Mediterranean appearance” and the slippery Peter Reith assured voters there would be terrorists among them. Further, the PM said he wouldn’t want to see people come to Australia who threw their children overboard. It is unfortunate, but true (and no doubt there is an element of racism in this), that Australians don’t particularly like Indonesians. On the other hand, a natural sympathy exists for all Papuans emanating from World War II. And so it has turned out. The Government has rushed to appease Indonesia with new laws clearly aimed at stopping the flow of canoe people from West Papua by excising the whole of Australia from Australian law, thus providing that all future asylum seekers will be processed off-shore. If subsequently granted refugees status, they will go to any country which will take them, but not Australia.”

From the Gallery

Bad news for the government on IR – Alan Jones is going off his face with indignation about the treatment being meted out to workers since the legislation became law.

He gave the Treasurer a terrible time in an interview on Thursday. Jones was particularly incensed about Spotlight offering an employee, Annette Harris, 2c extra an hour for removing conditions such as overtime worth $90 a week. Jones, although a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party, knows what his listeners are thinking because of his frequent correspondence with them.

The PM should be worried. Jones also lambasted Peter Costello over the government’s failures to develop an ethanol industry. This is one of his hobby horses. Again, it no doubt echoes support for ethanol from listeners worried by petrol prices.

When Costello asked to be allowed to finish making a point, saying Jones had been making plenty of points of his own the request set off an out-burst from Jones who let Costello have it, both barrels. “Don’t be facetious Treasurer”, said Jones. Adding, “Don’t be a smart Alec.” And after that rant Jones told Costello he was “pig headed” and would not listen to the electorate. Off air, Costello made it clear he wished he hadn’t agreed to doing the interview.

Photos from around the House

Canberra, Australia – 17 June 2020: Lisa Chesters MP with her daughter Daisy in the House of Representatives. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 18 June 2020: The Prime Minister during a press conference talking about job figures. He said, “The past three months have seen many hard days. This is another very hard day. 38 months of job creation, gone. 838,000 Australians having lost jobs. 227,700 in May. As heartbreaking as all of these lives, stories are that are represented in these numbers, the sad truth is is these numbers are not surprising in these circumstances. We are very aware of the significant blow that Australians are being hit with through the course of this pandemic.” Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 18 June 2020: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers during a doorstop interview. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au
Canberra, Australia – 17 June 2020: The President of the Senate Scott Ryan is glancing up at the camera as the photo was taken. Photo by Rob Keating – https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

More photos can be viewed or purchased at
https://photos.keatingmedia.com.au

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