We are going to wrap Politics Live up for the night, but we will be back early tomorrow for the second last sitting day ahead of the winter break.
Who knows what the day will throw up. So far it has been nothing the government has really wanted to talk about. And the crossbench seems like it is just getting started.
Mike Bowers will be back with you tomorrow, as will Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and the rest of the Guardian brains trust. You’ll also have as much of me as I can muster. Probably 20%.
A very, very big thank you to everyone who followed along with us today. We truly do appreciate it. Thank you to everyone who sent in tips, comments, and even critique.
We’ll hopefully see you back here tomorrow. Take care of you.
This is also my face any time the deputy prime minister gets near a microphone
How that vote played out on Andrew Wilkie’s Crown motion, from Mike Bowers.
Queensland is still recovering from floods. David Littleproud has announced the period for recovery grants has been extended.
Up to $75,000 is available for primary producers and up to $50,000 for small businesses and not-for-profits to help with clean-up and recovery activities.
The grants have been extended until Friday 29 November 2019.
For information about the primary producer and small business recovery grants visit: http://www.qrida.qld.gov.au or call 1800 623 946.
There is also a range of information available for disaster-affected primary producers at: https://www.nqlira.gov.au/.
For more small business information visit //www.business.qld.gov.au/recovery or call 1300 654 687.
Over on Sky, Pat Dodson is telling David Speers that the hopes of Indigenous Australians will be dashed if Scott Morrison doesn’t come out and support his minister, Ken Wyatt, in both constitutional recognition and a voice to parliament.
Meanwhile, Adam Bandt isn’t letting the Crown issue drop either:
“Yesterday the PM said he had no information his ministers had done anything wrong, despite reports two ministers pressured the home affairs department on behalf of Crown.
“This morning the attorney general referred the Crown visa scandal to the ACLEI, but that body can’t investigate ministers and former ministers, especially regarding the prime minister’s statement of ministerial standards.
“This afternoon in question time the prime minister refused to answer my questions about whether he had satisfied himself his ministers had done nothing wrong, handballing it to the attorney general.
“What has the prime minister got to hide? Only the prime minister can enforce his ministerial standards, but it appears his approach is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.
“Meanwhile the Labor opposition is missing in action, not asking one question about the scandal and joining with the government to vote down a parliamentary inquiry which could have investigated ministers and former ministers.
“Liberal and Labor are running a protection racket for ministers and former ministers with connections to Crown casino.”
Brendan O’Connor has just put out this statement:
Reports today expose the government’s failure to ensure the safe management of radiation, with close to 600 incidents of nuclear radiation exposure occurring in Australia in 2017, as recorded by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
It is incumbent on the federal government to explain what measures it has in place to ensure the safe use, handling and storage of nuclear substances in Australia.
Currently it is not doing enough, with examples of skin exposure, contamination, spillages, and double doses.
Australians depend on nuclear technology for medicines used in the diagnosis of heart disease, skeletal injuries as well as a range of cancers. The community must be assured nuclear substances and waste is handled safely and with care.
An independent review by Professor Andrew Hopkins, which reported in October 2018, was commissioned to look at safety at ANSTO. Despite recommending the federal government commit to a replacement facility for Building 23, as soon as practicable, the government has no plans to do anything.
The government must stop with its cuts to science, research and innovation.
Instead of keeping an “open mind” about establishing a nuclear power plant in Australia, the government must fix the issues it already faces at ANSTO and the many other locations around the country where radioactive waste is currently managed.
You just said there was no process.
He does not want to hear the end of the sentence. The reality is, people tried to find somebody desperately when they were concerned about the size of a debt that had been alleged they owed and they couldn’t get through, the frustration and the number of cases where this occurred is already on the public record.
The government last year ... nearly 40 people lost their jobs last year, the last line of defence on this, because the government was so confident the automated system would work the way it would and it didn’t. But if Tim reckons it is working fine and dandy, let us see how he reacts when people respond to his comments.
I have to respond to that. He started the answer by saying there was no process and people should contact the ... office to ask for one, he went through every criticism he had of the process existing. This is the dishonesty sitting at the heart of the debate – people have an issue they should contact the department, raise the fact that they believe they have been incorrectly sent a notice and work towards a pathway to resolution, not deceive national television.
The main argument was on robodebt, after Stuart Robert apologised in parliament for the department pursuing a $7,000 debt against a woman’s deceased son.
This is the same process the minister outlined under the previous government, the one before that, because when there is a discrepancy between somebody’s tax return and the amount of money provided through welfare or benefit from the taxpayer, we have to go through a process of recouping. We can do that more accurately and most distinctly, the main thing is we are doing everything we can to get that right, because if not we are forgoing $1.9bn of revenue the opposition thinks we should not follow up.
I just need to jump in, we had Stuart Robert attempt this today – the system has been around for ages. What has been around is to collect money if it has been improperly extended to someone. What has happened under the Coalition with robodebt is the automation of this. The Coalition is looking to automate, looking to automate a number of processes and the way in which they have done this process has gone off the rails. No one is disputing the need to recover money if it has been received by somebody who has not validly received that benefit.
In this case, the automated system, a seven-year program of automation under this government announced, in particular respect of robodebt, has gone off the rails, people were sent notices because they were not being double checked by a human pair of eyes, this was just sent out, and people were getting debt notices or debts they did not owe.
This point is dishonest – the idea that a human pair of eyes is happy to go through every single debt collection notice and every single history of somebody’s tax payments and welfare payments, and make sure everything occurs, is verging on impossible, especially when talking on scale. That is why we have automated systems to compare to make sure there isn’t anybody doing the wrong thing. As soon as a problem is identified, there is a pathway for people to raise it and respond.
I’m not trying to pretend that there may not be shock when people receive a notice – that is why we have a pathway to make sure that when there is evidence to the contrary they can take appropriate action.
It is not. Frankly, Tim, you are the gift that keeps on giving when you just told viewers that there would be a system in place to be able to correct these things quickly. There is. The reality is anybody who watched you then pick up the phone to your office to set you straight, the experience of people was contrary. My point was that on the system, when it was seen. People have said, Tim, experience of people has been they could not get through quickly to have the resolution.
Tim Wilson and Ed Husic have had to stop arguing on Patricia Karvela’s Afternoon Briefing, because a division has been called in the House.
It also looks like Scott Morrison used the “unfunded empathy” line in 2015, in relation to Gillian Triggs, the former human rights commissioner.
Mike Bowers was in the chamber:
Bob Katter, on Sky, says it is one of the terrible things about this country that we like to bring down tall poppies. He then says he loves bringing down tall poppies.
But he is a bit sad in this case. Because the tall poppies here are the Packer family and he says the Packers have done great things for the country.
Adam Bandt has responded to this:
Labor and Liberal are on a unity ticket on coal.
We are in a climate emergency and governments around the world are recognising it. Thermal coal exports need to be phased out by 2030 and we need to urgently support coal workers and communities during the transition.
Parliament should be supporting a transition plan for coal workers as we phase out thermal coal exports.
If Anthony Albanese is serious about fighting climate change and supporting coal communities, he should instruct his party room to boycott this group.
Richard Marles was right when he said the global market for thermal coal has collapsed. Labor should be focusing on a plan to phase out coalmining in Australia so the industry can transition in an orderly and just way, rather than teaming up with climate-denying Craig Kelly on political stunts.”
It’s been pointed out to me that the phrase Scott Morrison used yesterday in regards to Labor’s question on Newstart, “unfunded empathy”, has turned up before.
One of those places is the 2017 book Retaking America: Crushing political correctness, by Nick Adams.
In my world, traditional American masculinity, predicted on masculine toughness and stoicism with doing the right thing, has no peer. It’s erosion is one of the most untold tragedies of the last half-century.
Unfortunately, this trend has extended to our national politics, too. Many of these people are afraid of their own shadow, incapable of leadership, dispensing tough love, and enacting painful reform, for fear of offending groups considered ‘victim groups’ by politically correct elitists.
Economic reform, for example, is almost impossible, when one side of politics is all about unfunded empathy.
And Scott Morrison calls time on question time.
Andrew Wallace gets the next dixer, reminding me of his existence.
Tony Smith again has to address members of the government not jumping when it is their question:
“The call is going to alternate. I say to the House very briefly, there’s people jumping – I’m trying to alternate the call. There’s – it’s not secret there’s arrangements with an independent question early on in question time. If the government’s decided not to jump, that doesn’t mandate who I call. I did call – I did call the leader of the opposition immediately after the member for Maribyrnong. I did that on the basis that I thought he was first getting to this feet ahead of the member for Melbourne, but I do point out in any event, given the position of the leader of the opposition, if it was a contest, I would have called the leader of the opposition anyway. It obviously presents a difficulty with me.
“But we had two questions from that side, and one from the government. We now had one from this side. All I can do is ensure that in allocating the call I alternate. And if members wish to have things run more smoothly with respect to the independents, it’s something they have to sort out with the processes. It’s not up to me to simply pick an independent because the government hasn’t jumped. So, and what I have tried to do now is allocate the call as fairly as I can. The member for Melbourne had sought the call after being denied it as well. I thought that was the fair thing to do. So we’ll now go back to the regular alternating of the call.”
Christian Porter, with the nod:
There’s two matters that we can provide in response. And perhaps the first is with respect to the statement that I made earlier today, and that is that all of the matters that have been raised in recent days in the media have now been referred by me to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, pursuant to section 18 of that act.
And I noted for the members’ benefit this morning, in making that referral, I’m simply saying there are sufficient concerns that have been raised to allow for that precautionary refer to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
They may decide to take further action. They may report back to me there’s not enough in it to warrant a full investigation, but that’s the body that is best placed to investigate the matters raised in the media.
As to the broad nature of the issue that you raise, I can say that with respect to the idea that there is some kind of favouritism or fast-tracking, there’s systems in place, where a variety of passport holders, particularly referenced in the white paper on developing Northern Australia, are able to access and facilitate quick visa processing. There’s nothing new in that. That occurred on both sides of the House, but if there’s any specific allegations the member wants to make, then perhaps he needs to make them.
Adam Bandt to Scott Morrison:
My question is to the prime minister and it’s about his statement of ministerial standards. You said there was nothing before you to warrant taking action on Crown. Today you and Labor opposed a parliamentary inquiry into ministers and former ministers. The attorney general has referred some of the allegations to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity commissioner, but it won’t look into if your ministers have acted inappropriately. Given the stench from allegations regarding the matters, can you ensure the House you have fully investigated and none of your ministers lobbied home affairs on behalf of Crown, or is it a case of don’t ask, don’t tell, with the government running a protection racket for ministers with ties to Crown Casino?
With respect to standing order 90 and reflections on members, that is a reflection on all ministers here without identifying particularly which minister he is reflecting on, and indeed, there were no allegations of the type he raised in the media specifically or otherwise. I think it’s clearly out of order.
It’s not up for me to judge what is in or out of the media. With respect to this point of order, the practice makes very clear on reflections. They generally have to be direct reflections on particular members of the parliament. You would find a precedent for questions of this nature have been asked before. Obviously, it was a long question. And the full 45 seconds worth. So I will allow the question and obviously the prime minister has given – I just say to the member for Melbourne, given the amount of preamble commentary, and the nature of the 45-second contribution, that wasn’t all the question. The prime minister has extreme latitude in how he wishes to answer it. And I call the attorney general. I give the attorney the same latitude.
We go to a dixer, and then we are going to Adam Bandt.
Someone missed the jump, because Anthony Albanese calls Stuart Robert back to the box with this question:
“When will the government finally admit that its robodebt experiment has failed?”
Robert does not answer the question, and instead goes to the government having a lawful responsibility to recover outstanding debts. Which was not the question.
Bill Shorten to Stuart Robert:
“In May ... Anastacia McCardel was told her son owed a debt of almost $7,000. She has said, and I quote, ‘I wanted to know how they thought Bruce would have worked his way through his paperwork when he was actually dead.’ What advice can the minister give Ms McCardel?”
Let me first of all pass on my sincere condolences to Mrs McCardel. In many cases when the department raises a debt against someone who is deceased, and the knowingly know about it, if the debt is big enough, they will seek to recover it from the estate. In the vast majority of times, the debt will be wiped.
Because of the size of the debt being uneconomical to recover and the length of time, the department should have simply waived the debt. They didn’t, my department was wrong. I apologise for it.”
It’s amazing how MPs can slam a billion-dollar industry though, just to own inner-city lefties.
From an Ibis world report on Australia’s coffee and cafe industry:
Revenue for the cafes and coffee shops industry has grown moderately over the past five years, supported by Australia’s vibrant coffee culture. Industry revenue is expected to grow at an annualised 2.5% over the five years through 2018-19, to $9.9bn.”
Obviously quaffing coffees is good for the economy. No matter where you are.
Mike Kelly to Stuart Robert:
“I refer to the minister’s previous answer. Can the minister explain why a 74-year-old widower was sent a letter this week claiming a debt from 21 years ago?”
Robert: “Let me thank the member for his question. In relation to the specific case he mentioned, my understanding is the gentleman is a former public servant [who was] incorrectly sent a letter dealing with income stream issue, not a compliance. The department has recognised the error and apologised profusely in the media.”
Someone from the government benches yells “that was a wasted question” and guffaws loud enough for the broadcast to pick it up.
Bill Shorten to Stuart Robert:
“Last night he told the ABC and I quote, ‘Bank records, of course, are always available for seven years. And the department won’t be going back after seven years in terms of recovering that.’ Does the minister stand by that statement?”
“I thank the member for this question. I do stand by that statement, as at today, the Department of Human Services forward letters will say ... they will be starting at the 2013-14 financial year. There may well be some outstanding notices from previous financial years, but forward letters going out to ask about a discrepancy will be from 2013-14 financial year and onwards.”
Darren Chester is delivering a dixer and proving that you can be a National MP and minister and not actually be a complete dunderhead while answering a question your office has written.
Bill Shorten to Stuart Roberts:
“How many debt notices issued under the government’s robodebt program have turned out to be wrong?” (He seemed a little nervous, but that is to be expected, I suppose.)
“Under the income compliance checking process, checking and updating the past income process, we have since 1 July recovered $1.9bn. Of the 800,000, 80% have resulted in a debt being collected. 80%. 80%.
“To give some ... [context] ... right now across Australia ... there’s $1.54m outstanding debts.
“This government, like all governments, has a lawful responsibility to collect, where citizens have mismatched what they said they earned, versus what through their tax return they have been shown to earn.
“Now that mutual obligation is something that has been around for decades and decades.
“Governments of all persuasions over the last 20-plus years have sought to recover debts that have arisen because citizens have put forward an assessment of their income and when their tax return came through, that was different. And that difference has to be accounted for.
“That’s the mutual obligation that citizens have with their government. So can I say to all citizens who are receiving income support, or indeed, family assistance payments, regularly update through either the myGov application, through a telephone service, or through a service centre, update the assessment of your income. Because when your tax return is returned, they’ll be matched, they’ll be checked and if there’s any discrepancy at all, we have a legal obligation to contact the citizen concerned and seek to explain the deficit.
“This has been a process that governments have done for well over 20 years, not just this government, but many members of the frontbench over there have been part of that.
“From 2010, the member for McMahon was the minister for DHS. That member did this process. The member for McMahon was the member for Sydney, following the member for Sydney, was the member for Gorton. He also followed that process. As will subsequent members. We seek to do it compassionately and sensibly, but there’s a lawful requirement to ensure the right people get the right funds at the right time.”
Kevin Andrews gets ANOTHER dixer. That’s like the third day in a row or something. It’s been a while since he has seen this much action during question time. But I guess he’s still coming to terms with Tony Abbott’s absence and they do say it is best to keep busy.
Anthony Albanese to Stuart Robert:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Government Services. Have any victims of the Townsville flood received debt notices under the government’s robodebt program?
I thank the leader of the opposition for his question. And let me say at present under the income compliance program, no victims in the four postcodes around Townsville have received a debt notice.
Chris Bowen pursues Greg Hunt over Medicare MRI licence
That was quick. From Chris Bowen’s office:
“Minister Hunt must respond in detail as to why he awarded a Medicare MRI licence to a clinic operated by the vice president of the Liberal party South Australia, Cara Miller.
“In April this year the government granted a Medicare MRI licence to Sound Radiology in Parkside, Adelaide, overlooking 443 other applications. This is despite Sound Radiology operating within 5km of nine other partially or fully Medicare-eligible MRI machines.
“In a response to a question on notice on the MRI licence from the April budget estimates, the department responded claiming that the final decision was taken by the government.
‘The successful applications were decided by the government, taking into account the assessment information provided by the department.’
“The department also denied any knowledge that the clinic was operated by Ms Miller.
‘The department was not aware that the CEO of Sound Radiology holds a position in the South Australian Liberal party.”
“The Liberals awarded just five Medicare MRI licences in their first five years of power.
“The minister must not hide the truth about which clinics he is awarding MRI licences to and why, because under his watch out-of-pocket health costs have never been higher, and waiting lists have never been longer.”
Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg:
When today’s median household income datas proves that Australians are going backwards, why is this government always banging on about Labor instead of coming up with an economic policy to increase wages and living standards?
“Mr Speaker, we won’t be lectured by Sir Tax-a-Lot over there, Sir Tax-a-lot. He’s quite pleased and proud of Labor’s housing tax and retirees tax.”
Ooooh sick burn.
Frydenberg is really pleased about this line, because he shouts it again.
“Well, Mr Speaker, we won’t be lectured by Sir Tax-a-Lot over there, Sir Tax-a-Lot. He’s quite pleased and proud of Labor’s housing tax and retirees tax. The co-architect with the member for McMahon over there, and the member for Maribyrnong will never forgive them, Mr Speaker.
“The reality is this Hilda survey you refer to today, oh, he’s very chirpy now, Sir Tax-a-lot is up and again.
“This is a quote from the report that you just cited: ‘Employment growth picked up in 2017, particularly for women who saw their employment rate rise from 69.5% in 2016, to 71.4% in 2017.’
“The highest it’s been in the history of the survey, Mr Speaker. We on this side of House, we’re in favour of 1.4 million new jobs, Mr Speaker. We on this side of the House are in favour of lower taxes, Mr Speaker. We’re in favour of $100bn of new infrastructure spending, and we on this side of House are in favour of record spending on schools, hospitals, and aged care. But we’re not in favour of Labor’s $387bn of higher taxes.”
In Senate question time, Michaelia Cash, representing home affairs minister Peter Dutton, was asked about our report just 11 people had access to the medevac briefing that was leaked to the Australian, despite the AFP’s claims that there were too many people to investigate.
The shadow home affairs minister, Kristina Keneally, asked Cash whether the investigation would be reopened. Cash responded the AFP considered the matter finalised. So that’s a “no” then.
The Greens are taking up the attack on the ACLEI referral of the allegations about fast-tracking visas for Crown casino.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale asks if the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has inquired into the report that two federal ministers and one federal MP lobbied the department of home affairs to allow high rollers to bring cash from the airport.
Mathias Cormann, representing the PM, warned Di Natale against “what appears to be a desire to be both police officer charging, judge, jury and executioner all at the same time”. He notes his answer yesterday that departmental officials have no discretion to waive visa character requirements.
Di Natale asks if the ACLEI referral was made “because they can’t investigate politicians”.
Cormann rejected the premise of the question. He added that the department of home affairs has “no evidence” visa requirements were waived and says the “same legal criteria are applied to all applications”.
Crown’s share price has taken a 3% tumble as a result of Andrew Wilkie’s speech in parliament detailing new whistleblower allegations against it.
The company’s share price is off 38c today, to $11.88 as of about 2.25pm.
This follows a 3.24% fall yesterday as the market digested allegations in Nine newspapers and on its flagship TV current affairs show, 60 Minutes.
Anthony Albanese to Josh Frydenberg:
Does the Hilda survey released today show that Australians are better off or worse off than in 2013?
They’re certainly better off. When he refers to the Hilda survey, they’re better off since 2013, and when he refers to the Hilda survey, that was conducted to December 2017.
Since then the unemployment rate has come down from 5.6 to 5.2%, the wage price index has increased from 2.1 to 2.3%. Real wages has increased. The participation rate has increased. And the ABS household income and wealth survey released earlier this month, that takes into account the full 2017-18 year, shows real median household disposable incomes has increased by over $2,000 per year compared to 2007-08.
The other point about the Hilda survey – when it comes to poverty line it’s fluctuated over time, but the broad trend has been downwards. This is especially true since 2007, when 12.4% of the population was in relative poverty. In 2016, the proportion had fallen to 9.6%. The bottom line is this government, this side of the House, has been responsible for helping to create the conditions where more than 1.4 million new jobs have been created, Mr Speaker. And lower taxes, lower taxes have ensured that Australians can earn more, and keep more of what they earn.”
It continues, but honestly, I am too busy quaffing coffees to pay attention.
The minister for originality, Michael McCormack, delivers us the very original attack of slagging off city dwellers for *gasp* drinking coffee.
“While the warriors from Newtown and Marrickville sat ... about quaffing their piccolos ...”
HOW FRICKING DARE THEY?
Personally, whenever I go to regional and rural Australia, I join the locals in a bracing cup of concrete, because according to our deputy prime minister, no one drinks coffee beyond the goat cheese curtain.
Michael McCormack: we really need to unite the city and country and improve the discourse. Also Michael McCormack; look at those city dwellers quaffing their tiny coffees!
Siri: what is the definition of “a punish”?
David Gillespie saddles the despatch box, and therefore us, with Michael McCormack, which gives me the permission I needed to go make a cup of tea.
“All politics is local, as it should be,” says Sliced White.
And I’ve just added a bathroom visit to that break.
Andrew Wilkie has the first independent’s question. It’s on what is being done to wipe Tasmania’s debt to the federal government for its social housing – or at least the interest bill – as well as what is being done to address the issue of social housing in Tasmania.
You may remember that Jacqui Lambie negotiated with the government to have something done on that debt, or social housing, in return for her vote on tax cuts.
(On the debt: it has been discussed.)
Sukkar concludes with this:
Through the agreement with Tasmania, we’re contributing $33.7m, $3m of which is permanent, where it wasn’t previously, and that is solely dedicated to homelessness. In addition, across the country the Coalition has announced a $78m commitment to support women and children escaping domestic violence, of which I know there are projects under way in Tasmania already, and this includes $60m to build emergency accommodation.”
Chris Bowen to Greg Hunt:
Can the minister confirm that the Department of Health has advised Senate estimates that, and I quote, ‘Successive applications were decided by the government.’ Can the minister confirm the CEO of sound radiology is also the vice president of the South Australian branch of the Liberal party?
There you go.
In relation to the latter item, I can’t confirm. That matter isn’t known to me, and to the best of my knowledge, has never been known to me. We receive submissions from the department, and the submissions are signed off in the ministerial office ...
I would note in relation to fully eligible MRI units per 1,000 population, in the electorate of Adelaide, an opposition electorate, the rate of 100,000 people is 0.7. That is significantly lower than in south-east Melbourne, in Perth south, and east Melbourne, in the Australian Capital Territory, with 0.5, in western Sydney with 0.5, in Nepean-Blue Mountains, in Central Coast and Hunter with 0.6. These things are determined on a basis of need. What that does is it sets out the fact that area is significantly lower in MRI concentration than all those other regions of Australia.”
If Christian Porter is writing these dixers, it is just indicative of how busy he is, because OMG it might just be easier to put a microphone on the prime minister when he delivers his joint party room rah rah than put up with this.
Put it in a press release. Let backbenchers ask questions that actually matter to their communities.
Chris Bowen to Greg Hunt:
Can the minister confirm that Sound Radiology in Adelaide is situated within 5km of nine other MRI machines with existing MRI Medicare licences?
I’m very happy to check the details on that. But let me run through the criteria for this process. I understand the ALP ran a parallel process, but there was no identification of the grounds, there was no identification of the basis for ... for applications, and there was no identification of a formal process.
In particular, I can indicate that on 4 February 2019 the government announced further investment in the MRI program, bringing the total units to over 50.
On 23 September 2018, the government announced an invitation to apply an ITA process, to allocate Medicare eligibility to up to 20 additional MRI units comprising a mix of fully eligible units and partial units in metropolitan and regional areas. The closing time for lodging applications was 2 September 2018.
In terms of the streams through which applications were available, they included the upgrade of partially eligible MRI equipment to full eligibility. Stream two is full Medicare eligibility for MRI equipment applicants with either an operational MRI unit at the practice, or will have one at the location by 31 December 2020.
The grounds are set out in those terms and that’s the process that’s been followed.
Chris Bowen is about to get back up – which means there is more to that MRI licence he just asked about .
The prosecution of whistleblower Witness K – who revealed Australia spied on East Timor – and his lawyer Bernard Collaery was in the ACT magistrates court this morning.
The hearing revealed that Collaery wants his case to be resolved in the supreme court on indictment but Witness K is still in negotiations with commonwealth prosecutors to deal with his case summarily.
This morning Collaery and Witness K asked for hearing dates next week to determine the scope of national security information in the case to be vacated because what’s the point in the magistrates court ruling if the supreme court will determine that point anyway? And as negotiations could fail, the substantive Witness K matter could end up in the supreme court as well.
Counsel for the attorney general said the commonwealth would prefer the hearings were not vacated until it’s clear that is necessary, and even if Collaery is off to the supreme court it wouldn’t bind chief magistrate Lorraine Walker in the Witness K matter.
“They’re trying to split us,” Collaery was overheard to say in the courtroom, although he later declined to give a statement.
Walker: “It seems to me that it’s important that the [Collaery matter] is committed as soon as is sensibly achievable. But I note there is some desire that that should go alongside that of Witness K in the event [his case is determined in the supreme court]. It is also desirable that any time that has been allocated for a hearing be utilised for a hearing should a hearing be necessary. There has already been considerable delay ... If there are to be conversations between representatives of Witness K and the commonwealth they should take place expeditiously.”
Walker adjourned both matters for mention at 9.30am on 6 August. So the procedural can has been kicked down the road, and it depends how negotiations go.
The first dixer is straight out of the joint party room meeting about “demonstrating” that the government is “on the side of local communities”.
Question time begins
Chris Bowen to Greg Hunt:
My question is to the minister for health. Can the minister confirm that the government has granted an MRI medical licence to Sound Radiology in Parkside, Adelaide, while overlooking 443 other applications?
The government has granted 53 licences and 43 have already commenced. The process was done through an independent process where applications were called and assessed by the department. But very interestingly, 53 announced, 43 already commenced. Two of them them have not commenced. In Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, where we’re waiting on the West Australian government to purchase the machines. And in Queensland, in relation to one of their own hospitals to deliver and do that. That is the situation. 53 announced, 43 already under way, and we’re awaiting on the governments of Queensland and Western Australia as exemplars to deliver the final part.
Speaking before Andrew Wilkie made his fresh set of allegations against Crown in parliament this afternoon, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, defended the state’s under-fire gaming regulator against allegations it has failed to properly supervise the company’s Melbourne casino.
“No, I think the regulator is particularly well resourced; they’ve been provided with additional money in this year’s budget; they’ve got the powers that they need,” Andrews said.
Wilkie has long slated the Victorian commission for gambling and liquor regulation as an inadequate regulator, today calling it and Victoria police “incapable or unwilling” to enforce the law against Crown.
There was a “peculiar power Crown has over VCGLR and Victoria police,” Wilkie told parliament.
The VCGLR has had little to say about the series of allegations aired against Crown over the past few days – a stance that is consistent with its general reluctance to discuss its activities.
Its chief executive, Catherine Myers, doesn’t appear to have given a single interview since she took on the role in 2015 (the Guardian has asked for one).
“Anyone who’s got concerns about Crown or any other operator within our gaming industry should with confidence go forward to Victoria police if they think it’s a criminal matter or go to the VCGLR,” Andrews said.
“I know that they take issues of probity and integrity across the industry very seriously and I’m very confident that they have everything they need to guarantee that probity and integrity as we look to the future.”
He denied that Crown, which is one of Melbourne’s single biggest employers, was too big to fail:
“No one gets a pass on integrity and probity when it comes to this industry or any industry.”
That was quite the hour! It’s question time, time and given the amount of running around in the last bit, I won’t make it to the chamber in time, so I’ll be reporting from the broadcast.
And why is the crossbench pissed?
Mostly because the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement and Integrity doesn’t have the powers to investigate ministers and former ministers.
Hence no one involved in the parliament will be part of any potential commission inquiry.
And Christian Porter finished with:
I would say though that I think the member for Mayo’s comments that anything other than support for the motion before the House reveals that the major parties are somehow beholden to the gambling industry is a frankly absurd contention to put.
This has now been referred to ACLEI as I have noted. I think that is the appropriate course of action. I might also note for the benefit of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, l did advise the member for Denison of the fact that I have already sent this mater to ACLEI as I am able to under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act.
My observation is that it was probably the better course to withdraw the motion in those circumstances but of course it is up the member for Denison to determine what he considers is the appropriate course.
But having had the matter referred to ACLEI, which is the body appropriately place to investigate it, pursuing a motion to set up a parallel parliamentary committee inquiry is wrong-headed; it would actually discourage and withdraw efficacy from the ACLEI investigation. But if the motion is not going to be withdrawn it would be the government’s view that it should be opposed and we will oppose it on the basis that this has already been referred through to the appropriate authority.”
ACLEI is I might say to Members who have supported this motion and spoken in favour of it is a very appropriate and in fact the most appropriate body to consider these allegations.
They have very significant investigatory powers; very significantly stronger than those of a parliamentary committee, obviously including the ability to apply for search warrants, issue notices that attract a criminal penalty if not complied with.
I would note that ACLEI also has the ability to hold hearings, exercise coercive powers and seize evidence.
It is highly experienced in these types of investigations and indeed in considering prima facie allegations to determine whether or not a full investigation is necessary. And it’s obviously better resourced to quickly and effectively consider the need for an investigation and to conduct that investigation into any alleged corruption if that is required.
I might say that in addition to the observation that ACLEI is clearly the best placed body to consider these allegations I would also offer the observation that a Parliamentary Committee of the type that you now seek to have formed is totally ill-equipped to deal with an inquiry of the nature that your envisage or that may be required in a matter of this type. And I’d also offer the observation that it would be significantly detrimental to have some form of Parliamentary inquiry running parallel to a potential ACLEI inquiry. There would be very likely significant legal issues and risks that could arise for any witnesses called before both hearings. And in fact a Parliamentary Committee inquiry would likely cause enormous difficulties to the efficacious running of ACLEI’S inquiry if they determined to undertake one.
I would also note that if ACLEI uncovered conduct by any other public service officers outside those determined in its remit as law enforcement officers or indeed civilians or employees of a commercial organisation who do not fall within ACLEI’s jurisdiction, ACLEI can of course refer that information, and further allegations, to the AFP for further investigation.
Now I just note as these allegations have now earlier today already been referred to ACLEI under the section of Act that I have nominated, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.
Here is Christian Porter’s official statement on why the government is not supporting the cross bench push for a parliamentary inquiry into Crown:
The Government is not intending to support the motion and I will explain in detail.
Obviously it is the case Mr Deputy Speaker that the Australian Government takes all allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone must abide by the Australian law and that is particularly the case for any members of our law enforcement, our immigration or our customs authorities.
They, of course, as part of the broader Australian law enforcement community hold very privileged positions and as such are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism at all times.
A strong integrity and professional standards culture is fundamental to public confidence in our work and the Australian Government’s work.
I have considered the allegations that have been raised in media reporting and particularly as they touch upon allegations which are either directly relatable to, or tangentially relatable to, Commonwealth officers.
It is my view that there are sufficient concerns raised at least to warrant further investigations.
Now I might note for the benefit of Members that were speaking to this motion that saying that there are sufficient concerns to warrant me as Attorney-General to refer this matter for consideration under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006, is not to say that I have before me, or that there is any obvious evidence otherwise available that supports allegations against law enforcement, immigration or customs authorities. Rather it is the case that s18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act might be called a precautionary referral provision and I have already enacted that provision earlier today.
So i can inform the House that I have already referred this matter, these allegations, to the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006.
And under that referral provision it would now become open for ACLEI to decide whether or not to launch an investigation or indeed if they determined not to, that would be a matter which they would need to inform me as to what it was that they considered was appropriate and if it was no further action they would need to advise me of that and obviously that is advice that I would relay publicly.
Kim Carr is unhappy.
Pretty interesting ructions in today’s Labor caucus meeting, particularly in light of the podcast interview we published at the weekend, which involved Anthony Albanese outlining Labor’s strategy in this parliament (a strategy that has been dubbed “bitch and fold” in our office).
The former Labor frontbencher Kim Carr expressed strong objections during today’s meeting about the potential for Labor to vote against its own platform when considering an upcoming piece of legislation which gives effect to some of the recommendations from the royal commission set up by the former Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard.
The bill deals with combating child sexual exploitation and includes mandatory sentencing for some offences, including (I gather), possession of child-like sex dolls.
The recommendation to today’s caucus meeting was the legislation be not opposed in the House, and the shadow cabinet to determine a final position after a Senate inquiry reports back.
According to people at today’s meeting, the relevant shadow minister, Kristina Keneally, telegraphed to colleagues that Labor might end up supporting the proposal, despite it containing mandatory sentencing provisions. Labor opposes mandatory sentencing in its federal policy platform.
At that point, Carr rose in high dudgeon. He asked why Labor would support legislation contrary to the party’s platform. He also wanted to know what the argument was for folding on the legislation if Labor proposed amendments that were ultimately unsuccessful.
A lively conversation ensued. Various shadow ministers spoke in favour of the recommendation, including, I’m told, Joel Fitzgibbon, who said Labor shouldn’t be guided exclusively by the platform.
Again, according to the accounts I’ve been given, the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, spoke in favour of the recommendation, but also expressed opposition to mandatory sentencing as a principle.
Separately to that, Albanese took caucus members through a very similar conversation to the one he and I had in the podcast.
He told MPs Labor was in a very similar position to where it washed up after the 2004 election (when John Howard gained control of the Senate after Mark Latham crashed out in the contest).
He told colleagues there was now a conservative majority in the Senate, and the government would succeed in getting most of its agenda through. He said it would be a regular event in this parliament – situations like the tax package, where Labor tried to amend the package but ultimately did not vote against it because the government already had the numbers.
It’s fair to say Carr’s objections today were both objections of principle and a proxy for disquiet within Labor about the post-election repositioning under way.
Andrew Probyn: Do you take personal responsibility for the loss?
Bill Shorten: That’s why I stood down, absolutely. You have to take some responsibility. But I came here to talk about robodebt ...
AP: Before we move on, can I just ask, now that you have referenced the fact that Labor is going through a review. Do you acknowledge that there is a difference between the merit of policies that you took to the election and perhaps the mistakes made in the messaging?
BS: Oh, listen, I think you are a formidable interviewer, but what I am not going to do is preempt the review.
AP: Are you in politics for the long haul?
BS: I love being in politics; it’s a chance to make a difference. I love being part of a united team. I am very grateful to the voters in my electorate for giving me another term.
AP: Is a really credible to ditch policies you have held for so long?
BS: The party is reviewing the whole election and what I am going to do is give time for that process to happen. While I am a very staunch defender of the ABC, I am very alarmed with the cuts that have happened to the ABC. [But I will not be pre-empting the review.]
AP: Do you have any resentments, finally?
BS: No. I am very privileged to be very fortunate.
Bill Shorten says he takes full responsibility for Labor's election loss
On Labor’s election loss, Bill Shorten says he takes responsibility and that is why he stood down as leader:
Andrew Probyn: You haven’t done much media since the election, so thank you for joining us today. The Coalition thought you would win on 18 May. What sort of grieving process do you go through when you experience something so deeply personal like that?
Bill Shorten: Well, it was very disappointing. Very, very disappointing.
AP: It was more than that, wasn’t it?
BS: Very disappointing for the nation, for the people who voted for Labor, and very disappointing personally, but I have had some time off with the family, I am still in parliament and I have had the chance to hold the government to account and work for the opposition. You have got to move on; the party is going to have a review and we will see what comes out of that, but in the meantime I am very grateful to the united team who supported me for the success and the millions of people who voted for Labor. We will learn the lessons and be a very diligent and united opposition.
AP: On the personal shock, though, what sort of grief process do you go through when there is such a grand expectation that you are going to be the next prime minister?
BS: Oh, listen, it’s happened. What I have been able to do is reconnect with my family, and that is a silver lining. And to the millions of Australians who voted Labor, Labor will still be a very determined opposition and we will still keep advocating our values that plenty of people wanted to vote for us, and we will have to learn our lessons which is why the party is engaging in a very extensive review.
AP: Did you find any comfort in the fact that the election was relatively close?
BS: It was very disappointing. Just plainly, very disappointing, and disappointing for me, and I think disappointing for a lot of people, but nonetheless it has happened, that’s the democracy, as I said on the night. The people have expressed their view so we need to move on and be the best possible opposition. It’s a privilege to serve in parliament. I understand that and I have still got the fire for parliament and making sure that a work as a united team.
Bill Shorten is prosecuting the robodebt issue in his interview with Andrew Probyn on the ABC:
The robodebt system is causing untold hardship. It’s seriously malfunctioning. Did you know that over 100,000 of our fellow Australians have received incorrect demands to pay debts to government that they didn’t owe? It is causing unnecessary distress, and the government needs to go back to the drawing board. It’s not that people shouldn’t pay money they owe the government, but just relying on algorithms and automated systems, taking up the human factor, just giving people a number without asking how it has been arrived at. Asking people to find financial records [from] 20 years ago, it’s causing too much hardship and unfairness.”
How to recoup over payments?
If you make 100,000 mistakes, I think time is up, isn’t it? One of the social institutes who researches this matter has an alarming statistic, that 429 people under the age of 35 after getting robodebts have died. This is a problem, and it is not the job of government to intimidate and harass its own citizens, especially when they won’t even explain, when people get this letter of demand from the government, how the number has been arrived at.”
I think, given this, you can also expect to see Bill Shorten make his 46th parliament question time debut.
It sounds like the joint party room was very much about everyone in the government needing to demonstrate that “they are on your side”.
Zali Steggall is also speaking in favour of the parliament launching its own inquiry.
If the government and Labor are opposing this in the House, there is a stronger chance than me drinking all of the mimosas a drag queen can hand me this weekend (which is a very strong chance) that both will oppose this in the Senate as well, meaning a parliamentary inquiry will be dead in the water – for the moment.
Witness K was in court today
Adam Bandt is on his feet and he is QUITE cranky over the government and Labor refusal to back the parliamentary inquiry.
He says the parliament is running “a protection racket for ministers and former ministers with connections to Crown casino”.
Mark Dreyfus says Labor will also oppose the parliamentary inquiry, given the referral to the law enforcement integrity commissioner.
Government refers Crown allegations to law enforcement integrity commission
Christian Porter is responding to crossbench calls for an inquiry. He says he has referred the allegations to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which he says is the correct place for the inquiry to take place.
The government will not support a parliamentary inquiry.
The commission will look at the referral and decide whether to hold an inquiry or not. Porter says it would be counterproductive and potentially damaging to any ACLEI investigation.
Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie is seconding the motion Andrew Wilkie has put forward.
Andrew Wilkie is detailing whistleblower claims, told to his staff in interviews, which level further allegations against Crown casino.
Given the content, I’ll wait until I have a proper transcript of what he has said, but it is hard to see how there won’t be an inquiry into this.
Christian Porter’s office has just sent out an alert saying the attorney general will make a statement on the Crown issue in the House as soon as Andrew Wilkie has finished speaking.
He is in the chamber having a chat to Tony Burke from the looks of things.
This follows the Nine network and newspapers reporting into Crown and its dealings.
The Greens are trying for one in the Senate, but Andrew Wilkie is trying to get an inquiry into Crown in the House.
Just on that last post: if only there was some form of mechanism – almost like a national energy guarantee – which could potentially take the best of both worlds and set this country up with an energy policy for the first time in a decade.
You could even give it some naff name, like “the Neg” to make it easy to talk about.
And if only there was some sort of minister who could lead the way in talking to the states about energy ... but that would take the federal energy minister actually calling the other energy ministers in the council of Australian governments together for a meeting in some sort of energy Coag, and he seems a bit busy at the moment.
The energy Coag, which is meant to meet twice a year, has been delayed, and there is no word on when it will be held.
NSW Liberal government to go it alone in energy if feds don't step up
Because Angus Taylor wasn’t facing enough pressure elsewhere: the New South Wales energy minister, Matt Kean, has again raised the spectre of the national energy guarantee, the policy the federal Coalition dumped along with Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.
In a speech to the Clean Energy Council summit in Sydney, Kean said the Berejiklian government still hoped for a national climate and energy policy but may take matters into its own hands if its federal counterparts refused to take action.
The NSW government still supports the national energy guarantee and will continue to support a national mechanism that integrates climate and energy policy.
As I’ve said before, if the commonwealth won’t get on board NSW will consider going it alone.”
Acknowledging competition in clean energy development is global, Kean said NSW wanted to be the easiest jurisdiction in the OECD for energy construction.
He said the state had $26bn in renewable plants at various stages of development. It has doubled its large-scale clean energy capacity in just 14 months.
The Greens will hold a press conference at 1pm as the MPs attempt to get support for an inquiry into Crown casino’s dealings.
All this press release from Catherine King means is that we will all have more Michael McCormack “congestion-busting” mangling to endure in question time.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Australians are spending on average 4.5 hours a week getting to and from work, a rise of 23% since 2002.
The data revealed in the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) survey, shows that average weekly travel times to and from work rose from 3.7 hours to 4.5 hours.
While Australians are struggling with ever-increasing commute times the Morrison government refuses to bring forward infrastructure investment needed to bust congestion.
Commuters in Sydney are experiencing a massive 71-minute average journey to and from work each day, while Melburnians are spending an average of 65 minutes.
Australians living outside our capital cities fare no better, with huge blowouts in average daily commute times across the regions.
More Australians are facing longer commutes, with one in six Australians travelling more than two hours to and from work, up from one in eight in 2002.”
One of my side gigs is being ever vigilant to the ways of the emu, given they did in fact, defeat our army.
I regret to inform you that the scouts are back. When will our politicians deal with the *real* issues? *
*Yes, we will return to regular auspol programming immediately
The bells are ringing, meaning the parliamentary day is officially about to get under way.
In the Senate today, the Greens will be aiming to get a motion up to get an inquiry into the Crown issue, raised by the Nine network and newspapers, through the legal and constitutional affairs committee.
No word on whether Labor or the crossbench will be supporting it as yet, but the Greens are “hopeful”.
Remember how Andrew Colvin said the AFP didn’t even start the investigation into who leaked the medevac security advice to Simon Benson at the Oz because there was not a huge chance of success given how many people had access to the advice?
Well, Josh Taylor reports, yeah, nah:
More than 200 public servants were suspected of being the source of a Department of Home Affairs leak on apparent security risks in the medevac legislation, documents obtained by Guardian Australia reveal.
The legislation, which passed parliament this year, facilitates the transfer of refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment.
While parliament was debating the bill in February, the Australian’s Simon Benson reported a classified ministerial briefing from Asio and Border Force that warned the bill would “undermine regional processing” and would “compromise Australia’s strong border protection regime”.
The Department of Home Affairs asked Australian federal police to investigate the leak as a potential breach of the Crimes Act.
Case notes for the referral to the AFP, obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws, reveal that the department was focused on two documents: a classified briefing prepared in December and an unclassified version of the briefing requested by the immigration minister, David Coleman.
It looks like the MPs are starting to emerge from their party room meetings.
Well that makes everything OK then. From Stuart Robert’s office:
The first round of National Disability Insurance Scheme data has been released as part of the Morrison government’s commitment to demonstrate full transparency of the NDIS.
Today the minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, released data collected directly from participants, their families and carers and providers.
‘The outcomes data collected by the National Disability Insurance Agency represents one of the largest surveys of those within the disability sector that has ever been conducted in Australia,’ Robert said.
‘Data on participant outcomes shows improvements across various domains including children’s development, community participation, personal relationships, and choice and control for people with disability since the NDIS began.
‘We will continue to release further data and I am committed to open information sharing which both guides and measures the progress of the NDIS, a world first and the largest social reform since Medicare.
‘As demonstrated with today’s release, the data will build a clear and accurate picture of what is working in the NDIS and what challenges we need to overcome to ensure long term outcomes for participants.’
All data released as part of the transparency agenda can be found on the NDIS website: https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/data-and-insights/. All of the shared data is subject to strict privacy controls so that individuals cannot be identified.
The MPs are in their various party room meetings, which is why it has gone quiet. We’ll let you know what was discussed when they break.
Kristina Keneally and Mark Dreyfus are picking up the attack on Peter Dutton. Ed Husic started this – he has been a rallying cry within the party room since the election to take the fight up to the home affairs minister, who, given his powers, is the most powerful minister in the government, outside the prime minister.
And for a few days there – he was more powerful than the prime minister.
Dutton is in the UK, talking all things Five Eyes, and so hasn’t been here to do the usual LABOR IS SOFT ON BORDERS routine, despite Labor having voted with the government on every single piece of national security legislation for years.
But now, with a raft of new national security bills before the parliament, Labor seems to be speaking up about its concerns with legislation which largely has received a tick and flick the moment “national security” is mentioned. That hasn’t gone so great, as we have seen with the metadata consequences, raids on journalists and tech companies questioning their business in Australia.
Keneally and Dreyfus though, are focused on Dutton:
For the second week in a row, home affairs minister Peter Dutton has been caught out failing to have legislation in place to keep Australians safe.
Last week we learned 40 so-called ‘jihadis’ were able to return to Australia unmanaged because Mr Dutton failed for four years to introduce a temporary exclusion order (TEO) scheme to control the return of foreign fighters.
Now, Mr Dutton continues his pattern of mismanagement as the government seeks to resume debate in the House of Representatives on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment (Sunsetting of Special Powers Relating to Terrorism Offences) Bill 2019.
The home affairs minister’s embarrassing legislation seeks to extend Asio’s ‘questioning and detention warrant’ (QDW) power and ‘questioning warrant’ (QW) power which are both due to ‘sunset’ on 7 September 2019.
This legislation can only be characterised as Mr Dutton admitting he has not done his job. Over the past three years, Asio itself, three independent national security legislation monitors, and the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS) have all said these powers are in need of reform.
Mr Dutton has done nothing to reform these powers and now wants another year to do the work.
This is especially concerning as Asio themselves have said the QW power needs to be reformed so that they can better protect Australia against espionage and foreign interference – something the head of Asio, Duncan Lewis, revealed over the weekend is at ‘an unprecedented level of activity’.
Given Mr Dutton’s failure to do his work, Labor will seek to amend the government’s bill to give Mr Dutton three more months – rather than the additional 12 months he is asking for – to get on with the job.
Labor’s amendments will also mean the QDW power, which has never been used since it was introduced in 2003, will sunset on 7 September 2019.
Australia would be safer if Mr Dutton had spent more time working on national security and less time plotting to become prime minister.”
Labor signals Asio power extension battle
The other issue ticking along today is the government’s request that the Asio powers, which allow the security agency to detain suspects for up to a week, and question them for up to 24 hours, without charge, be extended for another year.
These powers have been in place since 9/11 now, so I think we can give up the pretence these are “temporary” powers now.
The parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, which we just ignore now when we want, said last year it was time, once again, to review those powers. You will be shocked to learn that has not happened.
So Labor, in its latest round of “we have concerns” about national security bills, wants the powers extended for just three months.
This was Richard Marles this morning, on ABC radio:
Well we’re going to be moving amendments today to reflect what has been put forward by the parliamentary joint committee. I mean, it’s not good enough that the minister essentially comes into the parliament looking at his shoes and announces that the dogs eaten his homework. We actually need the minister to come forward with a more modern regime in respect of Asio’s questioning powers ...
The three months is an extension, so what we’re saying is we’ll give you an extension of three months not 12 – but, actually, do your job. Don’t come in here saying the dog ate your homework, actually do your job and come up with what should be a modern regime fit for purpose in 2019, rather than having Asio rely on a set of powers which date back to 2001 and have been significantly criticised by a whole range of parties since then.”
If the government says no, will we see another #bitchnfold? Stay tuned.
And given that we are talking about Stuart Robert again, just your semi-regular reminder that he has written a book called In the Footsteps of Jesus and his Amazon “about the author” is a book in itself.
Stuart currently serves his nation as a member of the Australian parliament representing the northern Gold Coast electorate of Fadden in the House of Representatives, a seat he has held since 2007.
He has been a minister of state, serving at different times as the assistant minister for defence, the minister for veterans’ affairs, minister for human services and the minister assisting the prime minister for the centenary of Anzac.
Prior to entering parliament, he co-owned a medium-sized information technology company that was twice named as one of the fastest growing 100 companies in Australia. He previously served in the Australian army for 12 years as an infantry and intelligence corps officer and is a graduate of the Australian Defence Force Academy and a top 10 graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon. He saw operational service in 1998 on the PNG island of Bougainville following the devastating civil war.
He was a founding director of Watoto Australia and a member of the Watoto International board. Based in Uganda, Watoto operates the world’s largest non-institutional orphan care program and is now exporting this program globally.
He holds a masters in business administration, masters in information technology and a bachelor of arts (hons). Stuart’s previous books include Hope the Watoto Journey and The trial of Lieutenant General Hiroshi Tamura: a question of command responsibility.
He is married to his beautiful wife Chantelle and has three sons. He loves four-wheel driving with his family, paragliding, learning Chinese, playing the piano and serving in his local church.
Anthony Albanese also says Labor won’t be letting the Angus Taylor matter dropped. Asked why the opposition didn’t pursue the Nine Crown revelations in question time yesterday, the Labor leader had this to say:
We’ll set our own priorities for question time, and yesterday we had the ongoing scandal around Angus Taylor that we’ve concentrated on. I mean, Angus Taylor’s circumstances just don’t add up. You have circumstances whereby he says he made representations on behalf of local farmers, but he can’t produce a single letter or a single email. All he can say is: he ran into a bloke in Yass and had a chat. This is absurd.
We know, also, from the documents that have been produced, that they were concerned about land clearing on one particular farm being a breach of the EPBC Act. So that’s why we asked: “Was that farm the one connected with Jam Land?”
Angus Taylor has so many questions to answer. He stood up in parliament yesterday and gave a statement that was incomplete, that didn’t satisfy anyone. And no wonder, he sits on the frontbench there with his colleagues inching away from him, further and further, so they’re not in the shot.
The person who is in the gun on this issue is Angus Taylor. He has real questions to answer and we’ll continue to pursue these issues. This is a very serious abuse of power by a minister in a government that abuses power all the time.
Bill Shorten isn’t speaking on it, on camera. At least not yet. I think you can probably guess why.
So instead Jim Chalmers was sent out to doors this morning, to push Labor’s case on why it should go:
The system is ruining people’s lives. Robodebt has been a shambles from the beginning. The Morrison government needs to take responsibility for the fact that we’ve seen revelations about the woeful, shameful pursuit of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This government has form when it comes to cracking down on the most vulnerable people in Australia. Robodebt hasn’t worked. It isn’t working. And the government’s incompetence is ruining people’s lives when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Anthony Albanese also had some things to say about it this morning:
The government’s ongoing robodebt scandal means that this system should be scrapped. You now have circumstances whereby they’re sending debt notices to the families of dead people. This is not on. One hundred per cent of my local constituency [who] came to my office with robodebt concerns and had their debts either fully scrapped, or reduced. One hundred per cent were mistakes.
The fact is, that this is a scam from the government in order to try to get money from people who don’t actually owe that money. I’ve got an idea for the government: why don’t they actually employ some humans to relate to other humans on Human Services, on service delivery? Instead, they have attacked people – set up a system of robodebt which is having disastrous consequences. It’s putting real pressure on families.
Shorten’s statement continues:
It is not just Bruce McCardel’s mum Anastasia. Every day brings another robodebt horror story.
- There is Norm Austwick, a recently widowed 79-year-old who was hounded for $67.55 from last century (1998) that he never actually owed.
- We have a government minister contradicting a member of her department and the Townsville Community Legal Centre in denying robodebt has been unleashed in flood-ravaged Townsville.
- There is that disturbing statistic from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare where at least 429 Australians under 35 have died after receiving a robodebt notice.
- Lawyers for the Department of Human Services admitted in court on Friday the government agency got it “wrong” as the legality of the whole robodebt scheme faces scrutiny in two federal court actions.
Robodebt is inaccurate, harsh and unfair. It is a system that is malfunctioning and the minister needs to go back to the drawing board.
He should no longer ignore the trail of human heartache that is occurring in robodebt’s wake.
Robodebt so seriously malfunctioned it should be scrapped, says Shorten
Labor has spoken out, for the first time, against robodebt. Bill Shorten, who heads up the shadow portfolio which takes it in, says it has so “seriously malfunctioned” it “must be scrapped”.
Bill Shorten’s statement:
Revelations from a mourning mother that her disability pensioner son continued to be hounded over an alleged debt even after his death should shame government services minister Stuart Robert to finally act and address the problems at the heart of this scheme.
We recognise the right of government to recoup legitimate debts that are owed. But robodebt is not that, it is a mess:
• It is inaccurate: the computerised calculation is claiming false debts that when challenged have led to more than 100,000 claims being changed. (The inaccuracies not only relate to the amount of money owed but have extended to clients’ student histories.)
• The operation of that computerised calculation has little to no human oversight. Centrelink officers act to enforce the debt number but apparently do not check that it is correct.
• Recipients of debt notices are given no evidence or detail of how the figure claimed is arrived at.
• The onus of proof is reversed meaning recipients must prove they do not owe the amount of money being claimed. (With many of the debts claimed several years old this can be a painstaking and torturous process of trying to obtain historical statements from banks.)
The minister will not concede any of this is a problem. Yet robodebt is not just inaccurate. It is being enforced in a harsh and cruel way and we now know it is being driven from above.
The ABC’s 7.30 Report has revealed Centrelink compliance officers are being pushed on their “daily targets” and “individual and team performance”. It is increasingly clear that this government intends to balance the books on the backs of some of our most needy and vulnerable people.
This, last night, did not go well for Stuart Robert.
Robert is not the strongest media performer on his best day. Put him against someone with Laura Tingle’s experience and, well, it’s sort of like watching a reality TV star go up against Beyoncé. That shiz is never going to end well.
Labor, after their shellacking in coal country – Queensland and the Hunter region included – are partway through the “we should have spoken up more in defence of coal” stage, led by Joel Fitzgibbon, who has done many a mea culpa on the issue.
In the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Coal Exports, both Craig Kelly and his co-chair want to celebrate the $68bn in export revenue in the last financial year – which is 208m tonnes of thermal coal and 179m tonnes of metallurgical coal.
In terms of jobs though, coalmining is not the mecca it is often held up as – the latest Labour Force Survey showed that in the four quarters to February this year 52,600 people were employed by the coal industry. In coalmining, for the last financial year, it was just over 38,000.
Craig Kelly has sent out an email invite to colleagues, inviting “all senators and members to join and celebrate the invaluable contribution that Australian coal exports make to our nation” with co-chair, Joel Fitzgibbon.
Those wanting to join, just have to email Kelly “and simply say ‘I’m in’.”
As the government, led by Christian Porter, begins whirring up to get the ensuring integrity bill up (short title: unions are terrible), the union movement is starting to speak up against the bill – louder.
The ACTU president, Michele O’Neil, told ABC radio this morning that John Setka, the government’s poster child for why this bill is necessary (even though it is is not retrospective and wouldn’t actually impact him), is not representative of the entire union movement:
This bill is not about one person and not about one union as much as the government wants to hammer that issue ... It’s like ... anything when we find anything that’s wrong with the behaviour of one company or one individual, that every company or individual should be treated the same.
Centre Alliance wants the bill expanded to cover private organisations as well, not just the union movement. Jacqui Lambie has said she wants Setka out, but has some concerns about the legislation. So Porter, who now seems to be the busiest person in the government, has some work to do. Bet he is THRILLED.
Less than 24 hours after Jim Chalmers asked Josh Frydenberg in question time how many recommendations from the banking royal commission had been legislated (spoiler: not many) we get this from Frydenberg’s office:
The Coalition government has today released exposure draft legislation that extends the unfair contract term (UCT) regime to insurance contracts.
Recommendation 4.7 of the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry recommended extending the application of the unfair contract terms regime to insurance contracts. In the government’s response to the royal commission it agreed to implement this recommendation.
Consumer law currently protects consumers against unfair contract terms that:
• would cause a significant imbalance in their rights and obligations under a contract
• are not reasonably necessary to protect the business, and
• would cause detriment (financial or otherwise) to a consumer.
In his final report, commissioner Hayne observed the considerations that render a UCT regime appropriate for other contracts of financial products and services apply equally to insurance contracts, and there was no reason for the current exemption for insurance contracts to continue.
Removing the exemption for insurance contracts from the UCT regime will ensure consumers and small businesses have the same protections regardless of which financial service or product they are purchasing.
The government is taking action on all 76 recommendations contained in the final report of the royal commission and will continue to take the necessary steps to restore trust in Australia’s financial system.
Just a day after the prime minister declared he would not engage in “unfunded empathy” the latest Hilda survey finds poverty in Australia has continued to increase – and welfare is a pretty big factor.
As Luke Henriques-Gomes reports:
Poverty in Australia is increasing again after several years of decline, a respected University of Melbourne study has found, with changes to welfare policies cited as a possible contributor.
The annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) survey, released on Tuesday, found the proportion of people living below the relative poverty line – 50% of the median income – increased in 2017, from 9.6% to 10.4%. Poverty rates also rose using the lower “anchored” measure in both 2016 and 2017.
Researchers said the trend was likely caused by the “tightening of the screws” of the welfare system, which has seen many Australians moved off higher pension benefits and on to the Newstart allowance.
But it is not in the government’s plan to raise Newstart. Even with, Barnaby Joyce’s motivations aside, pressure is mounting within the Coalition. So the deputy prime minister wants you to just “move”. Others, in some of the richest electorates, like Wentworth, are asking you to consider the cost to the budget. But like climate change, so often the cost of not doing anything is even worse.
The Hilda survey will see the focus stay on Newstart – and for the reasons it should – not because a politician’s six-figure salary is less than their previous six-figure salary, but because it is too low to live on. It’s cruel.
We’ll bring you that and everything else which happens today. It’s party room and caucus day, so you’ll have that as well. Mike Bowers will be making his way through the hallways, and you’ll have access to Katharine Murphy and Paul Karp as well.
Someone needs to bring me a coffee.
Let’s get into it.