Tomorrow is the first official day of parliamentary proceedings – we’ll have question time and legislation to discuss, and we’ll probably even manage to get through the day without a leadership spill, so that should be great.
Parliament starts at 9, but the blog will be up and running before that, so I do hope you’ll tune in. I’ll need the company and the laughs.
A very big thank you to everyone who came along today – and especially to Mike Bowers, Sarah Martin and Paul Karp for helping me through the mess this morning.
Katharine Murphy is in Sydney for a work event but she is, as always, keeping her fingers on the pulse.
We’ll wrap up early while we have the chance – tomorrow we will see a return to the usual scheduling, and who in 2020 knows what that actually means.
Thanks again – and take care of you.
Tim Wilson is now getting upset about not being able to give the government talking points on what it is doing on reducing emissions. He is pulled up by Patricia Karvelas for giving “a list” saying her viewers deserve more, but Wilson says that means he won’t be able to answer the question.
He then moves on to the Kyoto credits, as Karvelas request:
I don’t think we need to use our Kyoto carryover credits. The whole argument about Kyoto carryover credits is frankly absurd.
Carryover credits were a condition the Labor party put in, in terms of the negotiations.
The whole point of carryover credits is to encourage countries to take action earlier than they commit internationally.
Because it means there’s actually value and incentive to do so. Removing it an argument for governments to invest in less reduction.
It’s the most bizarre logic I think I have heard. In the end, I don’t think we need to use them.
We’ll be in a position to cut our emissions consistent with our international obligations but as I’ve said, if people want to delay and encourage countries not to take action, by scrapping carryover credits, all they’re doing is saying that for accounting purposes, they would rather countries did less.
Ed Husic, who looks like he has been put into the ABC’s smaller studio (Tim Wilson is in the big one) also has some things to say about the Nationals’ actions today:
Firstly, I would like to have a chance to comment on what’s happened today. I mean, today was about commemorating, it was about respecting, it was about thanking those who fought the bushfires and all we had was this disgraceful self-indulgence from the Nationals that turned this into a farce leading into what was supposed to be a day that all sides of politics got together to talk about the very things just mentioned a few moment ago, the human story of the bushfires and we didn’t have that because of the Nationals.
Then you go into a Coalition party room where some of the Nationals want to, including Barnaby Joyce, again, defy community sentiment and the concern that is palpable and real that climate change is having an impact on people’s living environments, it’s impacting on their ability to survive in their areas, and having real life consequences, life and death consequences on people.
And they still want to maintain that nothing should be done, very little should be done, on this.
And I think, people are saying, loud and clear, as they have for quite some time, one, we should be taking climate change seriously and doing what we can to reduce emissions and to play a part as a nation in tackling this issue. I just think what we saw today, as I said before, was utter disgraceful self indulgence by the Nationals.
Tim Wilson is now on Afternoon Briefing on the ABC. He is asked about the Nationals hijacking today – which was meant to be about the bushfire victims:
I suspect they acknowledge it themselves. I don’t think their desire was particularly to deal with this way. But what’s been done has been done. And soon as it’s over, the focus is rightly on bushfire victims, the families, the communities affected by the awful fires over this summer period.
A number of members of parliament now are making sure they’re giving speeches, talking about the human stories, families who lost their homes, the small businesses that have lost customers, the communities that have lost much of both their physical and their emotional structures, and the need and necessity to rebuild.
And the prime minister, I think, gave a very good speech talking about how today is not the day to talk about policy, as much as possible, the focus should be on the experiences people have had, and what we need to do to make sure we rebuild as a community and a country.
For those who wanted to see more of the leaders’ speeches today:
Anthony Albanese also gives a hint of where Labor will go this year, in terms of attack:
You’ve got pattern of behaviour here – and interestingly, with the sports rorts saga, you have just such an obvious, blatant, industrial-scale rort, and you have the government saying, “There’s nothing to see here.” You have a government that’s prepared to say, “Don’t worry about what the auditor-general said, we’ll worry about what the prime minister’s former chief of staff says” and continuing to justify this behaviour.
… Even though the government has released its talking points for today to the entire press gallery and everyone else, and I’ve got a copy of that, we tend to not release our tactics pack a day in advance. We’ll have a discussion tomorrow morning, but I would be very surprised if sports rorts don’t get a reasonable run over the next week, and indeed, months, because there has been no transparency here.
We still don’t have a list of those clubs that missed out that had high scores in favour of clubs that basically got almost zero – one club got four out of 100, and got funding, and another club who made an application got 98 and didn’t get funding. So work out that.
On the Greens leadership change (Richard Di Natale resigned yesterday, to spend more time with his family), Anthony Albanese tells Patricia Karvelas:
Look, our opponent is the coalition, and that is what we’re focused on. The Greens remain essentially a Senate-based party. We’ll see how it works having their only member of the House of Representatives as the leader.
But I don’t see that it will make an enormous difference. From time to time, Adam Bandt’s rhetoric is more extreme than Richard Di Natale’s rhetoric was, but we’ll wait and see how that plays out.
The truth is that I’m running for Prime Minister against Scott Morrison, not against the Greens or Clive Palmer or One Nation or anyone else.
For those desperate to see them.
But honestly – you do see them. They say this stuff almost verbatim.
On climate action, Anthony Albanese says:
My view is that climate change is a serious issue and the public want action on it. What they want is action that is practical, that makes a difference, that reduces emissions – that’s what my framework is.
They want to see emissions going down, because they understand that also Australia can’t do it by ourselves. Australians want our nation to speak up strongly in international forums – we’re not doing that at the moment. We went to Madrid and argued for a weaker target, not stronger action, by arguing that somehow you could have carry-over credits and do an accounting trick, rather than actually reduce emissions.
But one thing Australians have been doing for some time, Patricia, is voting with their wallets.
They’re putting solar panels on their roofs.
They’re taking action to reduce their own carbon footprint, because they know that just as good action on climate change is good for jobs, lowers emissions and lowers prices, their own individual action is lowering their household bills as well.
Anthony Albanese says he was surprised to not be consulted over the head of the royal commission, given the bipartisan way the parties have been working together on the fires:
I am, frankly. I would have thought that common courtesy should mean that that occur. During recent months, the opposition – we have put forward a range of constructive suggestions.
We wrote, of course – I wrote to the prime minister on 22 November last year, calling for a Coag meeting to get better national coordination, calling for greater involvement of the defence force, calling for economic compensation for volunteer firefighters, for a range of measures including an increase in our aerial firefighting capacity – all measures that were eventually, with the exception of Coag, the meeting, eventually happened.
After – at the beginning of the process being rejected by the prime minister. Even today sitting in the parliament and the nature of it is something that I wrote to Scott Morrison about at the beginning of January, and called for, so we’ve continued to put forward a constructive suggestion.
I would have thought that consultation about the terms of reference was a very basic thing that should happen.
Anthony Albanese is speaking to Patricia Karvelas on Afternoon Briefing on the ABC. He is asked about the bushfire royal commission:
Well, I think there is some doubt over it, but it is a decision for the government rather than the parliament. Certainly the Prime Minister didn’t have the courtesy of consulting Labor about the appointment of Mark Binskin.
He is obviously a very distinguished person, but I would have thought that on an issue like this, the opposition should have been at least consulted. Certainly there is a range of inquiries, there is the official ones from New South Wales and Victoria, but of course the loss of life means that there will be coronial inquiries as well, and we have a range of other reports and inquiries that have been held in the past.
What we need to do is to make sure that the starting point is looking at what the recommendations have been, looking forward in terms of what – what issues might need to be taken up, taken further, and the opposition also hasn’t been consulted on the terms of reference. So we’ll wait and see what the terms of reference of any such royal commission would be.
Hilariously, a lot of One Nation’s policies also fall under the umbrella of socialism.
No one tell them.
The PMO talking points, which go out to ministers and MPs as a “this is what you need to say in answer to any questions on these topics” have been found for today.
No big red flags so far – it is as you would expect – and the government loves when we run its talking points, so you won’t get giant slabs
Greg Hunt has thanked New Zealand for its assistance in evacuating Australians from Wuhan:
Immediately prior to coming here, the advice I had at this stage we’re anticipating over 50 Australians. And again, special thanks to New Zealand for their cooperation. And the advice I have is that if they are to come to Australia, if they’re not housed in New Zealand, then again, prior to coming here, the anticipated plan is we’ll be supporting them on Christmas Island.
The UK’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is on their way for a visit.
From Marise Payne:
It is Mr Raab’s first overseas trip since the UK left the European Union on Saturday, in a clear demonstration of the strength of the enduring partnership between our two countries.
With the UK’s exit from the EU, we enter a new era of strategic and economic cooperation. There is much to discuss, and to look forward to, in deepening our relationship, not least a comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreement.
Together, Australia and the UK will continue to protect and promote the rules-based international order, in the face of an increasingly complex strategic environment.
We will find new opportunities for enhanced engagement with the UK in the Indo-Pacific, including on infrastructure, development, security and promoting human rights and the rule of law.
We will strengthen our cooperation in the Pacific, harnessing the growth of both our diplomatic footprints in the region. Despite our geographic distance, we have clear strategic interests in common, including a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Australia is ready to launch negotiations on a high-quality UK FTA as soon as the UK is in a position to do so. We want to pursue an agreement that creates new commercial opportunities for Australian exporters and further deepens investment ties with our fourth-largest source of foreign direct investment.
Australia is grateful for the support and solidarity the UK has shown us during our ongoing bushfire crisis. A UK team was in Australia in January to look at how best to assist with our recovery and how we might cooperate on managing future fire seasons.
Such help, readily offered between close friends, epitomises the enduring partnership between our two nations.
Jim Chalmers has responded to the RBA rate decision – it remains unchanged at 0.75%.
Interest rates are just a quarter of what they were during the depths of the Global Financial Crisis and yet the Morrison Government continues to leave all the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank.
In his statement today, the RBA Governor noted that “The household sector has been adjusting to a protracted period of slow wages growth” which “is expected to remain at around its current rate for some time yet”.
Australians are struggling, weak consumption is being driven by stagnant wages, household debt is at record highs, almost two million Australians are looking for work or for more work, but the Liberals and Nationals have no plan to turn things around.
For too long the Prime Minister and Treasurer have recklessly left the Reserve Bank to do all the work instead of coming up with a plan to support the economy.
Greg Hunt has an update on the coronavirus situation:
... It remains there are 12 confirmed cases in Australia. Two in South Australia, two in Queensland, four in Victoria, and four in New South Wales. And three of those in New South Wales are clear of the virus and have been discharged. As the cases of suspected or potential coronavirus emerge, they’re being tested by the state authorities. I want to thank and acknowledge the work of all the state and territory authorities.
I want to give a status on the flight from Christmas Island, and I have just been briefed prior to coming in, into this room, by the head of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre.
They run the Ausmat team, the Australian medical assistance team, on the ground on Christmas Island and was part of the flight crew attending to passengers.
All travellers, I’m advised, are examined, have been examined, and there are no cases of confirmed coronavirus. Fourteen were looked at more closely to ensure they were in an acceptable condition and they have now all been cleared of the virus. A further two are being tested as a precaution.
The advice from the Ausmat team on the ground is, however, they regard the likelihood, or the probability, of coronavirus in that case as being minimal, but nevertheless they are being tested.
A pregnant woman and her partner on the flight are now in isolation in Perth.
That sort of glowing tribute from a resources lobby group is to be expected – you may remember the first time Matt Canavan resigned from cabinet (during the section 44 stuff) he said it had been an “honour to represent the mining sector”.
The Minerals Council of Australia have released a statement, paying tribute to Matt Canavan:
Senator Canavan delivered untiring and passionate support for Australia’s minerals companies and workforce and regional communities as a Cabinet Minister in the Morrison Government.
He worked closely with the MCA and our member companies to secure and maintain the growth and success of Australia’s resources industry to create new jobs, strengthen regional communities and drive economic growth.
In particular, mine workers from pits to ports across the country appreciated Senator Canavan’s staunch support for their jobs and industry.
Most recently, he established the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office to help Australia become a global supplier of rare earths and critical minerals. Advances in computing, manufacturing, energy and transport are being made possible by critical minerals found in Australia.
The next minister for resources and northern Australia will have big shoes to fill as they build on Senator Canavan’s passionate advocacy for the development of Australia through a globally competitive and sustainable minerals sector.
Back to China’s response to Australia’s travel ban, this is what the embassy official had to say about why Beijing believes its citizens should be compensated:
I mean, if, for example, they suffer if they suffer a loss, for the rejection by February 2, they were rejected, they have to pay their ticket back but they were not properly alerted on February 1 – it’s not reasonable, right?
But if, after February 2, I think most students and Chinese citizens learned about the restriction measures.
It’s not technically feasible to enact a decree on the day of its announcement.
We understand the anxiety of the Australian government and society but, for measures, they need to be reasonable. Under preventative measures, actually we think WHO – when it announced this coronavirus epidemic as a public health emergency of international concern, it didn’t recommend any restrictions over international travel and trade. Actually, it opposes such measures.
We are not happy that United States took the lead in enacting such a strict restriction measures over Chinese citizens.
The RBA has held interest rates at 0.75%
[cont from previous post]
It is also understood that in the earlier meeting of Liberal MPs, MP for the Queensland seat of Bowman, Andrew Laming, slapped down other conservative MPs for publicly denying the science of climate change.
Morrison thanked local MPs for being there for Australians who were doing it tough as a result of the summer bushfire crisis and said today’s sitting of parliament was a “solemn” occasion to acknowledge those affected by fires.
“They are our absolute focus going into this year,” Morrison said.
Following the turmoil in the Nationals party room, Morrison also urged harmony between the Liberals and Nationals, saying they had joined forces to “do things together”.
“Australians demand us to continue to be a team working together. Together is how each of us can best serve this country. McCormack acknowledged that many people were hurting, but regional Australia was full of “strong people who would bounce back”.
“Regional Australia is not broken … they need our support and strength in line with their own strength.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government focus was on stable economic management to ensure the country “got through these tough times” to deliver the support that people needed.
There was also general discussion on the government’s response to fires, the problems in the tourism sector as a result of the fires and the response to coronavirus.
Nationals leadership spill leads to Coalition climate change debate
Nationals and Liberal MPs met this morning following the Nationals ballot, which saw Michael McCormack survive the challenge from Joyce and elected David Littleproud as deputy leader.
Matt Canavan addressed the partyr oom after resigning his position from cabinet, telling colleagues he would not be seeking reappointment and extending his congratulations to McCormack and Littleproud.
He used his speech to thank the party room fo the “honour” of serving in cabinet and said he was proud of the work he had been able to achieve in the resources portfolio.
He also said he believed the Coalition parties had become the party for workers. “We have become the party of workers, workers in coalmines, workers in shipyards and workers in factories,” Canavan said.
“We represent those people by fighting for their jobs, and defending their jobs.”
Joyce also spoke. He said the leadership vote was part of the Westminster system, but he was pleased it was short and we could all move on.
He added that he had faced fire and drought in his communities, and warned that some people were pursuing “reactionary” policies, which he described as “pushing their hobby-horse issues out of tragedy”.
The comments formed part of a broader partyroom discussion on climate change, with several MPs expressing the view that more ambition on climate change was needed.
Those speaking strongly in favour of the need and importance of embracing new technologies included Katie Allen, Tim Wilson, Fiona Martin and Trent Zimmerman.
Nationals MP George Christensen was the strongest voice against more ambitious climate action.
The argument was put that the government needed to be “mindful” of the impact on regional jobs of any change to climate change policy, particularly in seats which had supported the Coalition at the last election.
The official goes on to say China expects “proper compensation” for those caught up in the ban:
Over the past few days, we were in close touch with Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, DFAT, Immigration, and most of our Australian counterparts are quite cooperative. They understand the situation of those students.
So that’s why most of them were cleared and they entered Australia and they will abide by and follow the recommendations of the health authorities. At the same time, we are very concerned about the interests of the Chinese students who will not be able to come Australia over the next 14 days – 12 days, actually. We are in touch with the universities and also with the education ministry to sort out a proper solution for these students.
We hope their rights and interests will be safeguarded, including proper expansion of visa if the validity is over, and also maybe proper compensation for some of the financial losses during this period.
China not happy with handling of Australia's coronavirus travel ban
A Chinese embassy official has given journalists an update on China’s reaction to the coronavirus. (I missed his name at the beginning of the briefing, so apologies.)
He spoke a little about Australia’s travel ban and how that has affected some Chinese citizens, including students. The key takeaway: China is not happy with how it has been handled.
It is the Australian government who made the decision, those restriction measures, and on February 1, after the announcement, there are still some people who already departed from China and, on February 2, about – some say 50, some say 70 people, most of them are students – were stranded in the airport in Sydney, Brisbane, and some in Melbourne.
We are not happy about this situation because they were not alerted – there’s not enough time to be alerted about the restriction.
We get in touch with relevant authorities and ministries. As far as I know, most of them are finally cleared.
Of course, we encourage all the Chinese citizens, the students, who entered Australia after February 1 to abide by the measures that’s suggested by the Australian government, including the self-isolation measures.
But at the same time, we hope their legitimate right and the interest will be secured. But there are still a number of people who are still stranded in Brisbane, and a few of them were actually already sent back to China, for which we are not pleased about what happened, because they were not alerted about the restrictions.
Matt Canavan, who started yesterday by publicly committing to Michael McCormack as leader, before ending the day resigning from cabinet to support Barnaby Joyce as leader, has released a statement saying he will “now commit to supporting Michael and the Coalition as a senator for Queensland”.
For those who like the procedural side of things, there is the motion, supported by all sides, to suspend parliament procedures for today’s bushfire condolence motion:
Kristina Keneally is calling on the government to allow temporary migrants and backpackers to volunteer in bushfire zones, given that many won’t be able to work in the regions because of the bushfire emergency, which could have a massive impact on their visa status in that they could lose it.
Sarah Martin has just alerted me to more South Australian Liberal fights, as reported by InDaily:
Several sources have confirmed that assembled Right members voted to exclude Barker MP Tony Pasin, Boothby’s Nicolle Flint and recently-elected Senator Alex Antic from future meetings – effectively purging them from the Liberal Right.
The trio, whom sources described as from the “Hard Right”, are in Canberra this week and did not attend the meeting, although it’s understood they were offered the chance to take part in a teleconference.
Pasin did not respond to questions except to say: “There was a meeting last evening [and] we indicated we weren’t in a position to participate.”
Neither Antic nor Flint responded to inquiries.
Looks like Simon Birmingham is pushing to move the SA Libs back to the centre quite hard - and winning. So far.
The Nationals president Larry Anthony just had a chat to Lucy Barbour on the ABC about the leadership spill this morning:
I agree it wasn’t good timing, I accept that and I do hope from right now, as they move forward to this day, which is a very important day, as you point out, to the condolences for those people who have lost their lives and lost their homes today.
Look, it is messy. Sometimes democracy is messy. But this is what happened today, and we have a clear result now for Michael McCormack.
On the question of whether or not he thinks there would be another spill, Anthony says:
Look, I can’t mind read into the ambitions of people. I certainly think in the short-term, absolutely not. I mean, there’s been a decision made today. I think it’s been accepted.
One of the tragedies, I think, out of this, is that we’ve lost Matt Canavan. And I think that he did the honorable thing yesterday - a very capable minister. But nevertheless, he’s still in the Parliament and he’ll continue to make a major contribution.
What does Anthony think that contribution will be?
Well, I think that they’ll have a lot more time on their hands. I think you’ve got two former Cabinet ministers in Bridget McKenzie and of course Matt Canavan, so I think that they’ll apply themselves to the parliamentary places, to representing those regions. So they’ll still be very active. But they are eight not going to have portfolio roles.
It turns out that Black Summer is already the name of a Netflix zombie apocalypse series where “complete strangers band together to find the strength they need to survive and get back to loved ones”.
It has just been pointed out that, right now, the Nationals have no ministerial representation in the Senate – the first time that has happened in 15 years.
It’s the Nationals centenary this year. It’s going well.
Scott Morrison spoke about this in his speech:
The generosity of the rest of the world was also so humbling. Seventy nations offered us assistance.
Over 300 firefighters sent from the United States, Canada and to New Zealand, to whom we are so grateful.
We also had offers of assistance from the UAE, which is greatly appreciated. Military assistance from New Zealand, the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Japan, our wonderful family in PNG and Fiji.
When the 54 engineers from the Republic of Fiji military forces arrived in Melbourne, they placed their hands over their heart and they sang a hymn, “Angels Watching Over Me”, and they have been to us.
Our Pacific family has been so incredibly generous.
Labor caucus also discussed the legislative agenda, resolving to support a range of non-controversial government bills.
However it will oppose the government’s move to overhaul the family court system – first flagged by Christian Porter in 2018 – and the Coalition’s revamped Ensuring Integrity bill.
Caucus resolved to support changes to the research and development tax incentive in the House, but the party will reserve its final position until the Senate economics committee reports on the bill.
Various views were put forward by MPs, including concern about how it might affect technology start-ups, and Australia’s very low rate of research and development spending (1.8%) compared to the best practice of 4% in some countries. Another MP said there was a “huge political opportunity” to campaign on the issue, given its importance to the manufacturing industry.
There was also some discussion about government plans to allow employees to opt out of the superannuation fund nominated in workplace agreements – often at the behest of unions – with shadow minister for financial services, Stephen Jones, saying the party was considering amendments.
In the discussion of the bushfires, several MPs spoke about the impact on their communities, including Susan Templeman (Macquarie), Fiona Phillips (Gilmore) and Mike Kelly (Eden Monaro).
Kelly said his local economy had been “smashed” by the fire crisis, and also expressed concern about the lack of a national climate change policy.
In response, Anthony Albanese said a climate change policy would deliver “more jobs, lower emissions and lower prices”.
Michael McCormack is the first to go the “current fire season is not without precedent” line.
As it does, of course, we consider what has been done well and what we can do better to protect even more lives and assets into the future. I know there are things we can and must do.
This must be our focus in the months and weeks ahead. There is a legitimate policy debate to be continued.
I fully accept that climate change is an important part of this. There is no single cause for the fires.
I know that fuel loads and build-up must be part of our forward thinking. I stress again the actions of arsonists warrant strong discipline to discourage a repeat of such dangerous antisocial, life-threatening behaviours.
This current fire season is not without precedent. We know that we’ve had fires in this nation before.
These have been dreadful, though. There is much to be done.
Communication from fire authorities in the various states through communities and emergency service personnel has been consistently strong.
We thank them for that. Of course, there is also room for improvement, but I believe our forebears would be proud of just how much we’ve made the most of modern technology to keep people alert to trends, to help preparation for the fire when it does arrive.
Michael McCormack is up now, and he’ll be followed by Richard Marles.
Then we have speeches from MPs whose electorates were directly impacted by the fires. And then the rest of the night will speeches from all other parliamentarians – practically everyone is on the list – but they will be limited to about five minutes or so, so parliament doesn’t go until 2am.
There was one direct mention* in Anthony Albanese’s speech.
He said this:
So what now? Yes, fire is part of who we are. Our recorded history is heavy with its grim poetry. Ash Wednesday, Black Friday, Red Tuesday, Black Saturday, but we are at a turning point.
This is not business as usual. This is not even fire as usual. We can no longer fall back on the poetry of Dorothea MacKellar and comfort ourselves with the thought that it’s always been like this, that this is the price we pay for living on a beautiful but sometimes harsh and unforgiving continent.
Nor can we soften reality with the fiction that we had no way of predicting this.
We have no choice but to turn to face the harsh new reality, the scale and intensity of the fires has been unprecedented.
But the responses to the fire from our fellow Australians has been completely as expected.
There has been toughness, resilience, generosity and, amazingly, through it all, there has been a sense of humour.
All of these qualities have been put to the test during this time of fire and Australians have shown their true character. In this time of upheaval, the only certainty we have is that they will be tested again. We must be ready
*This has been amended from an earlier post, which said there was no direct mention of climate change. My fault, as I missed it in the transcribing.
Anthony Albanese has also thanked David Littleproud for his handling of the crisis:
I want to acknowledge the fact that Minister Littleproud has returned every call and has responded to every request that I have made, which has been pretty regular, it’s got to be said, working with our shadow minister, Murray Watt.
We are guided by a single thought, that, as Australians, we are all in this together. Working together is our only way forward. I have every confidence that, as Australians, that is what we will do.
Scott Morrison labels the 2019/20 fire season 'Black Summer'
Scott Morrison has termed the bushfire emergency “Black Summer”.
In past times, when Australia has been tested by fire, we have given the fires a name, based on the name of the day or locality.
Black Thursday, in 1851, Black Friday in 1939, Ash Wednesday in 1983, the Canberra bushfires of 2003, and Black Saturday in 2009 – just saying these words brings back such chilling memories.
This year, we have faced, and we are still facing, a terrible season of fire, national in scale, fires that reached our highest mountain range and our longest beaches, fires that consumed forests, grasslands and farms, suburbs, and villages, fires that jumped rivers and highways, fires where days became night, and the night sky turned red, fires that raged into the heavens as clouds of fire – with it all, a merciless smoke that lingered across our cities, fires that still burn.
And the smoke from burnt bushland that left an oppressive tightening in our chest told us that all was not right.
This is the Black Summer of 2019-20, that has proven our national character and resolve, a national trauma best described by Indigenous leaders, who love our land so much, as a grief for the victims, a heartache for our wildlife, and broken heart for the scouring of our land.
These fires are yet to end and danger is still before us in many, many places, but today we together to mourn, honour, reflect and begin to learn from the Black Summer that continues.
And to give thanks for the selflessness, the courage, and the sacrifice and generosity that met these fires time and again and continue to. Many of the stories of our Black Summer we will never know.
Anthony Albanese has begun his speech.
Both leaders have paid tribute to those who died in the fires, and the firefighters – professional and volunteers – who continued to head out day after day.
Scott Morrison finished his speech with some information on the royal commission which has been called to look at the bushfires:
The royal commission will be led by former chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC and will shine a light on what needs to be done to make our country safer and our communities more resilient.
We owe it to those we have lost. We owe it to those who have fought these fires. We owe it to our children, and the land itself, to learn from the lessons that are necessary.
Mr Speaker, over a century ago, Henry Lawson wrote a poem about a bushfire in a place called Dingo Scrub.
“It is daylight again and the fire has passed, and the black scrub silent and grim. Except for the blaze of an old dead tree or the crash of a falling limb.”
In his reminiscence, he writes about three men who wipe away tears of smoke and put themselves in harm’s way to save a family and when the fire has passed, he writes of the men:
“When they’re wanted again, in Dingo Scrubs, they’ll be there to do the work.”
And that’s what we’ll all do, here in this house and across Australia, to do the work, to do the work of recovery to build back better.
To do the work of learning, to do the work of repairing shattered hearts, broken communities. That is what we owe our country. That is what we owe each other. Australians are overcomers.
Despite the scale of this disaster and the tragedies, Australia is not and will never be overwhelmed. As we face the challenges that remain active, as we confront and face the devastating drought, compounded in so many places by these fires, as we confront and contain the challenge of the fire risk that threatens the world, Australians will not be overwhelmed.
We will overcome, as our national anthem encourages us with courage all, let us proclaim, advance Australia fair.
So I conclude in memorial, I conclude in thanks, I conclude in honour to those we have lost, and the deepest of our sympathies and condolences to you and we just simply hope and pray that, as we’ve gathered here today to acknowledge your great loss and the heroes you have lost, that this will make your journey just that little bit easier.
Scott Morrison has just concluded his speech on the bushfire emergency after speaking for about 20 minutes.
To my count there was one mention of climate change in the speech, which came towards the end here:
Mr Speaker, following a national disaster of this magnitude, we must also heed the lessons. These fires have been be fuelled one by one of the worst droughts on record.
Changes in our climate and a build-up in fuel amongst other factors. Our summers are getting longer, drier and hotter. That’s what climate change does. And that requires a new responsiveness, resilience and an invigorated focus on adaptation.
Today, I’ve written to the premiers and chief ministers to seek their feedback on a draft terms of reference for a royal commission that I have flagged now for several weeks along the terms that I’ve outlined in public.
Mike Bowers has had to head to Sydney for a work engagement
Over in the Senate, Bridget McKenzie has been confirmed as the Nationals senate leader.
Matt Canavan will be her deputy.
The Labor side of the Senate laughed at this news.
Scott Morrison is delivering his condolence speech on the bushfires.
I’ll bring you some of that in a moment.
Parliament has begun – prayers offered and now we move into the condolence motion for the bushfire victims.
The rest of the day will be speeches.
Anthony Albanese has addressed MPs in Canberra for the first caucus meeting of 2020.
The opposition leader began by reflecting on the summer break and the widespread criticism of Morrison’s leadership during the bushfire crisis.
We were not critical of his trip to Hawaii but people were deeply critical of his claim that people wanted to be fighting fires.
“I’ve never seen anything like the behaviour of Morrison. He forced a woman to shake his hand and then turned his back on her.”
On sports rorts, Albanese said it was an “outrage and a scandal” and referred to projects that missed out, as well as our story about the rugby club that received a grant despite not having a women’s team.
Albanese also criticised the prime minister for relying on the report of Philip Gaetjens and not the auditor general’s report in his assessment of Bridget McKenzie’s conduct.
Labor will pursue the issue in parliament this week.
Following a briefing of MPs by the chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, Labor MPs discussed the issue of coronavirus.
The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said he had sought information from the government about the economic impact of the virus and the travel ban, while Bill Shorten raised concerns about racism directed at Chinese Australians.
Pretty much, yup
Looks like there will be a second Australian flight from Wuhan
The bells are about to ring, bringing parliament back for 2020.
I mean, Belgium once went 589 days without a government and it seemed to do OK, but you know, democracy.
Barnaby Joyce releases statement after leadership spill loss
Barnaby Joyce has released his statement:
I would like to congratulate Michael McCormack in winning the leadership ballot and by so doing re-endorsement of his position as leader of the Nationals party.
It is appropriate that if an issue needs resolving as to contentions held, there is a procedure to resolve it as is noted in our parliamentary system. That process has been followed and the issue is finalised. This was made as brief as possible prior to the first sitting of parliament for the year.
I support the vote of the room and will strive for the re-election of a Morrison McCormack government as this is definitely the better outcome for Australia and especially of regional people.
Now my first attentions go back to where they were before this week, the New England, drought, fires and now the threat of coronavirus.
The RBA will make its interest rate decision today.
It will most likely remain stable.
It’s a big week for the RBA governor though.
Phil Lowe has the interest rate decision today, the Press Club address in Sydney tomorrow and on Friday it is the quarterly statement on monetary policy – and Lowe will also appear in front of the parliamentary economics committee.
Barnaby Joyce is expected to issue a statement in the very near future.
That leaves Matt Canavan to say and talk to whomever he wants about whatever he wants.
The cabinet muzzle is off.
Bridget McKenzie is reportedly the Nationals Senate leader, according to three Nationals MPs I have just spoken to.
The parliament will sit at 12 – it is a day of ceremony and condolence.
So there won’t be any question time or legislation entered today.
That fun starts tomorrow.
Then we have another week of sittings next week, followed by a week’s break, and then a second sitting fortnight.
So plenty more days for these guys to blow up the show in another way.
Greens lay out Green New Deal
Adam Bandt on the Greens priorities under his leadership:
A Green New Deal is a government-led plan of investment and action to build a clean economy and a caring society.
And these two elements of a Green New Deal – government taking the lead to create new jobs and industries, and universal services to ensure that no one is left behind – are the values that I have been fighting for my whole adult life.
I joined the Labor party at high school, and I left at university because Labor started putting up fees for education and putting people into so much debt. It was inconsistent with my values.
It meant that people like my father, who was the first person in his family to go to university, were going to face barriers that no one should have to face.
As a lawyer, I fought big corporations on behalf of clothing outworkers, and also represented firefighters and even coal workers battling with privatisation.
And in my seat of Melbourne we have brought together people from public housing to young families, and that is what a Green New Deal is going to do as well. Because it provides a vision of the country that takes on the challenges that we are facing, that everyone is able to get behind.
And we’re going to talk a bit more about the Green New Deal and how it addresses these climate crises, the jobs crisis and the inequality crisis, over the coming months.
But let me just give you three things at the moment that I’ll be fighting for as part of the Green New Deal: first is get dental into Medicare.
That is unfinished business for us in the power-sharing parliament back in 2010. We managed to get dental into Medicare for kids, and we need to do it for everyone across the country.
Second, make education genuinely free. And the first cab off the rank for us at the moment is going to be targeting those fees that people who are sending their kids to public schools are being forced to pay.
We are facing a climate emergency, a jobs crisis, an inequality crisis, and the government’s only response is to shrug and say, “Well, get used to it, because this is the new normal.”
Well, I refuse to adapt to kids wearing gas masks.
I refuse to accept a society where people put off having children because they are feeling so insecure about their jobs and their life.
And I refuse to accept people living in poverty in a country as wealthy as ours. And I refuse to accept the dismal standard of this government, led by Scotty from marketing, whose love of coal has contributed to these fires that we are seeing at the moment, and the climate emergency we are facing.
And I refuse to accept the dismal standard of a Labor so-called opposition who chooses the middle of bushfires to celebrate coal, and who votes with the Liberals to give tax cuts to millionaires.
We are a smart and wealthy country, and if we have the guts to take on the big corporations and the weak politicians that they have in their pocket, we can solve these crises. We need a Green New Deal.
A couple of weeks ago, when I dropped my kids off at childcare, the air was so dangerous that the warning on my phone showed someone wearing a gas mask.
Summer is going from a time to relax to being a time where people fear for their life and their health.
People are angry and anxious because it is clear that the government does not have the climate emergency under control and has no plan to get it under control. But people are also anxious and angry because, in this country, the basics of life are no longer guaranteed.
Go to Tafe, go to university, study hard, and you could find yourself underemployed in a job with insecure hours and low wages.
Get yourself a job and you can find yourself unable to afford a house because the government has rigged the market against you.
We are becoming a country where, even if you do the things that everyone has asked of you, you are no longer guaranteed a good life.
Not exactly a happy camper – Barnaby Joyce captured by Mike Bowers.
Winners aren’t grinners.
The numbers being floated in the Nationals leadership spill – 11 to 10 – are coming from Barnaby Joyce’s camp, which is obviously invested in keeping the rumblings going.
We don’t know the actual numbers because the whip hasn’t released them.
Michael McCormack’s camp disputes the numbers. But they don’t know them either.
They have put the numbers more at 15 to 6
It would be much easier if the whip just announced it.
Outside the parliament, there is a people’s rally for the climate.
The speaker’s list is as follows:
10.30: Rebekha Sharkie, fed. Indep. MP, SA
10.45: Zali Steggall fed. Indep. MP, NSW; petition presentation from Natasha Deen, Save our Oceans
11:15: Mark Butler, fed. ALP MP, SA; former Minister for Climate Change, 2013
TBA - Mehreen Faruqi, Greens Senator for NSW
11.30*: Adam Bandt, Greens climate crisis spokesperson
*Bandt has moved from 11am to 11.30 because of his press conference
One Nation has not changed leaders in the past two years.
Who would have thunk it.
From Adam Bandt’s statement (which was put out VERY quickly, pointing to the Greens knowing pretty early that there was only ever going to be one candidate for the leadership position):
“We are in the middle of a climate emergency and long running jobs and inequality crises. People are angry and anxious because the government has no plan for the big problems facing the country.
“That is why Australia needs a Green New Deal.
“A Green New Deal means government leading the country in transforming our economy, creating new jobs and industries powered by clean energy and delivering universal services like dental into Medicare and genuinely free education. This is what I will be fighting for.
“We are a smart and wealthy country and if we have the guts to take on the big corporations and the weak politicians they have in their pockets, we can solve the problems we face.
“I call on everyone, but particularly young Australians, to join our movement for a Green New Deal so together we can fight to save the future.”
Adam Bandt has called his first media conference as leader:
Adam will use his first media conference as leader to call for a government-led Green New Deal to tackle the climate emergency and the jobs and inequality crises. Adam will also make a strong pitch to young people to join the movement for a Green New Deal.
That will be at 10.45.
The Nationals are still working out who their Senate leader will be.
So Nick McKim snuck in there as a surprise third candidate for the second deputy spot – he beat out both Sarah Hanson-Young and Mehreen Faruqi.
Adam Bandt is officially Greens leader
Larissa Waters will be the Greens Senate leader and co-deputy.
The second deputy is Nick McKim.
We are still waiting on the Greens to emerge from its party room – the hold-up is the deputy decision.
Adam Bandt is the leader (uncontested).
The deputy fight is between Larissa Waters (a pretty sure bet) and then Sarah Hanson-Young and Mehreen Faruqi for the second deputy spot.
Just a clarification on the Matt Canavan lower house tilt I mentioned a few posts below. Nothing is confirmed – it is all just Queensland chatter at the moment. I spent a few weeks in the greatest nation on earth over the summer (bung lungs meant I actually couldn’t breathe in Canberra) and that is what the LNP was talking about.
But nothing would happen (if it does) until a general election. We are not going to see a byelection.
The LNP were also talking about the ongoing battle between Amanda Stoker and James McGrath for the one Liberal spot (even if Canavan leaves the Senate ticket, it is a Nationals spot) – that, too, is a very interesting and long-term fight.
Who ever loses that has a choice: try to rebrand as a National (not fondly looked upon) or try for the lower house. If I was Andrew Laming, I would be keeping an eye on that.
I just checked in – the AFP has still not decided whether or not to take up the Angus Taylor investigation.
So with Bridget McKenzie out of cabinet, along with Matt Canavan, that opens two spots.
Darren Chester will move up. He wanted emergency services so I think he’ll probably get that, after his performance during the fires in his electorate and his unwavering backing of Michael McCormack.
Keith Pitt is a strong chance for a look-in. David Littleproud is a chance to get agriculture back. He lost it to McKenzie in the reshuffle – and was sidelined by McCormack, so don’t expect that to be an easy relationship.
Michelle Landry is in line for a junior ministry. She was a Barnaby Joyce backer who fell in under McCormack’s leadership early and hasn’t budged.
Michael McCormack claims it is over.
(cue side eye lols)
I think we need to draw a line in the sand and concentrate on the fire victims.
There’s been many who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts go to them. There’s been many who lost their businesses, their homes, lost their farms. That’s the people we’re going to be concentrating on.
I think today is a day where we reflect upon those. We concentrate on what we need to do for the recovery efforts, the relief efforts and providing, continuing to provide, the assistance we have already done and to that end, I know the government has acted very responsibly, very quickly, to help those fire victims and we will continue to do that. This clean-up is not going to take weeks or months, it’s going to take years. The National party, the government, will be there for those people.
You know the problem with lines in the sand? They are very, very easily brushed over.
It seemed those prayers worked this morning – Scott Morrison will absolutely be breathing a sigh of relief after that result.
On the question of Matt Canavan?
Matt Canavan has resigned as resources minister, I wish him the best,” says Michael McCormack.
So he’s out of the cabinet.
Keith Pitt is probably the big winner out of that. But then they have to do something with the women as well, because – they’ve just lost one.
Michelle Landry is the obvious choice – and that will see two Queenslanders moved up, as well as Littleproud as leader. But Susan McDonald – another Queenslander – is an emerging talent in the Senate. Keep an eye on her.
Michael McCormack on whether he expects Barnaby Joyce to challenge again:
No, I don’t expect him to. I’ve been endorsed as leader. I was endorsed as leader when we came back here after the May election last year I was endorsed as leader when he stood down in 2018. That’s three times in less than two years. I think that is enough to warrant me leading the party going forward.
But there are plenty of people in the Nationals who are swearing that Michael McCormack won’t survive as leader for much longer – they are all in the Barnaby camp, obviously – but still. It’s not going to be fun for him.
Maybe he’ll finally develop a personality in all of this.
Over in the Greens, Adam Bandt is the only person who has nominated for leader.
Paul Karp is outside the room – he is hearing that there may be a leader in the Senate who will be deputy leader. Discussions are still being held on whether there is a second deputy leader.
Michael McCormack is pissed:
I’d like to thank the entire National party team, and I know they will now unite.
We had way too much media speculation, way too much speculation in general, about the leadership role.
It’s time to put all that to bed. I would also say to the media – sometimes, I think, that there’s been media speculation heightened only by stories that were, quite frankly, untrue, quite frankly, backgrounding, if they’re not prepared to put their name to it, I don’t understand why it actually makes the paper.
If people are going to be – I’ve been upfront – if ever I said anything to to a journalist, I asked them to put my name to it. That’s the way I am and that’s the way I think we need to go forward. We need to unite, we will unite.
The people of regional Australia come first, not us. We’re sent here to do the job and we will do that.
Basically – you can put your bread away. Michael McCormack stays.
It doesn’t look like it was an overwhelming win, though.
Ten to 11 is what I have been told – but that is probably based on their estimates.
This is a proud day for me. I joined this great party 22 years ago, in my electorate, the little town of Stanthorpe.
I believe very much in the values of the National party. This is about hope, this is about vision for our people in regional and rural Australia. This is about now back to business.
The shenanigans are over, it’s time to get back to looking after those people that are facing drought, that have faced up to the fires. It’s time for us to focus on them, not us.
The party has to focus on that.
We will, we have a commitment from everyone in the room, that we have a responsibility as being elected from regional and rural Australia, to stand here to be their hope in Canberra, to be able to articulate clearly their needs and wants and their desires because regional and rural Australia has a great future.
The story of regional and rural Australia and particularly of agriculture is just to have rain. It will rain.
We shouldn’t talk ourselves down. There’s been too much of that.
We’re doing it tough, yes, in some parts but we will through and it’s important we have a policy framework to support our future and those that we have lost over many generations. We’ve lost too many young people out of regional and rural Australia, it’s time to bring them home, time for them to believe in regional Australia and the National party is the party to lead them.
It’s a great honour and a privilege to continue to serve as the leader of the National party.
I congratulate David Littleproud for his election to the deputy leader’s position. Also, I look forward to working and continuing to work with Barnaby Joyce, who put his hand up for the leadership. I also continue to look forward to working with Keith Pitt and David Gillespie, who put their hands up for the deputy leader’s role.
Never before has there been such an important time for the National party to continue the representation we’ve done for 100 years.
It’s the challenge that is there. Of course, with the fires, with the ongoing drought. I commend David Littleproud as the newly elected deputy leader for the role he played this very worrying and troubling summer in drought, in bushfires and everything else that has beset regional Australia.
We will continue as a united team, to put the people of regional Australia first and foremost.
I want to thank my colleagues for again placing their faith in me. I also want to acknowledge that regional Australians are out there hurting. They are and we will be there for them. Their interests are our interests.
First and foremost, I have never shied from the responsibility of making sure that every waking minute of every day I work hard for regional Australians, as does David, as does the entire National party team.
We will continue to serve in a very good government. We have been very responsive to the needs and wants and expectations this summer and particularly for regional Australia.
Michael McCormack has won the vote – Damian Drum (the chief whip) says we will “never find out” what the numbers were.
Michael McCormack wins leadership spill
Michael McCormack and David Littleproud are the new leadership team.
If Barnaby Joyce doesn’t win this though, then Matt Canavan also loses.
The word from Queensland is Canavan is looking at a lower house move – Ken O’Dowd’s Flynn seat has been floated as the most likely – which would be part of a long-term plan to win the leadership himself and become deputy prime minister.
Nothing concrete yet but the chats are being had.
But Canavan will be on the backbench after this if Joyce loses. Which leaves him free to talk as much as he wants.
It might be a win for Keith Pitt though – he is in line to move into the ministry, with Canavan out.
But let’s just remember that this is a leadership spill with 21 people, and none of us actually know what the numbers are until they are counted.
Although I hear Peter Dutton has the numbers in the Nationals party room.
The ballot has been taken from the Nationals party room – looks like the deputy leadership vote is being held.
The problem is, if Michael McCormack just flops across the line, with 13 votes, and the disgruntled Nationals continue to rumble – which they will – then it only takes a couple of people to change their mind.
That’s a little tougher in a smaller party room: there are only 21 Nationals and moving one chess piece usually moves sacrificing another, so the moves are a little more difficult.
If the government continues to struggle to gain traction – and the budget isn’t going to help, with the prime minister and the treasurer already moving to lower expectations of a surplus (which never really existed, because, come on – you are relying on iron ore prices and other outside factors which have nothing to do with government policy and everything to do with world exports) it is only going to get worse.
So we’ll have a bunch of agitators with a grudge and a leader who has shown he doesn’t know how to respond.
Barnaby Joyce resigned as deputy prime minister on 26 February 2018.
That was just 708 days ago. Or 23 months and nine days.
He doesn’t look to have the numbers at the moment. He looks like falling short. But the act of the spill is enough to unsettle the party – it won’t be over.
The Greens are also holding their party room meeting now.
Adam Bandt will be the leader.
But there are three people for two deputy spots – Larissa Waters, Sarah Hanson-Young and Mehreen Faruqi.
Bridget McKenzie walked into the room with the NT senator Sam McMahon and the NSW senator Perin Davey (who Jim Molan tried to beat with a below-the-line campaign after he lost the Senate preselection. He returned after Arthur Sinodinos left for the US.)
That’s important. Because if you don’t think that this Nationals spill isn’t the direct result of McKenzie being forced to resign over #sportsrorts, then you are not paying attention.
The view within half the Nationals is that McKenzie was forced to be the scapegoat for doing what she was directed to do and Michael McCormack didn’t save her.
How better to get back at Scott Morrison then to deliver him Barnaby Joyce as his deputy?
Up until late last week, the Nationals were convinced McKenzie would survive. And then she didn’t. Given that none of us will ever see the PM&C report (it has been made cabinet in confidence) into the affair, it would have been pretty easy to find that McKenzie didn’t breach ministerial standards (which is what she went down for).
But it didn’t. And less than 24 hours later – we have a leadership spill.
Michael McCormack has made his address to MPs – Barnaby Joyce was out of the room.
Joyce is back in there now and making his address. McCormack left.
(This is normal – it’s easier to talk about how terrible your opponent is when your opponent isn’t in the room.)
I have just been reminded (thank you) that Jim Molan, who admitted on Q&A last night that he wasn’t relying on evidence for his climate scepticism views, was also the director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre for three years.
Probably not great to have someone who admits to not relying on evidence to form his climate views, making judgments on what waterbombing forces we need to fight fires.
Mike Bowers caught #thoughtsandprayers in action.
Sarah Martin says when asked if he had the numbers, Michael McCormack replied: “All good.”
Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce enter party room
Sarah Martin tells me he was flanked by Andrew Gee, Michelle Landry and Mark Coulton.
Barnaby Joyce, much like the cheese, walks in alone.
Mehreen Faruqi had wanted co-leaders.
Larissa Waters will also want to stay on as deputy – there is already a co-deputy system in place in the Greens, so this doesn’t change much.
Oh, and the Greens are holding its leadership vote today.
Adam Bandt will win that one. It is, as they say, done.
Anthony Albanese spoke just ahead of this morning’s church service:
Look, this is a day which parliament has set aside to deal with a condolence motion for the bushfires, the terrible impact, the loss of life, the loss of property. And what we have here is the most self-indulgent act of the National party. The Coalition’s problem for this government is that they’re too focused on themselves rather than on the Australian people. And today is the ultimate self-indulgence that just reinforces that. This government needs to actually concentrate on what the Australian people need rather than on itself. It’s all about politics.
One of Michael McCormack’s problems is highlighted right here – Queensland is supposed to be National party heartland.
Even in a country where “male, pale and stale” tends to be the rule for politics, McCormack fades into the walls.
The Nationals are walking in to their party room meeting.
We expect a statement at 9.45am to say the spill has been called. We should have a result around 10.30am.
At this stage, the numbers still seem locked at about 9/10 each.
There are claims Barnaby has 12 – one more than is needed in a 21-strong party room – but people lie.
But it doesn’t matter for Michael McCormack, unless he wins conclusively – which is very, very unlikely. A split party room shown to be split doesn’t tend to hold on for long.
Scott Morrison finished with this:
Those matters [the Nationals] will be sorted out properly this morning and the attention of the nation will be on the condolence motion. And the parliament has been reserved for the full day today to give total focus on that. That’s the focus of the day. That’s my focus.
And he also gave special mention to the Abdallah family, who lost three of their four children in the horrific and tragic Oatlands crash at the weekend.
But again to the Abdallah family, my thoughts and prayers. My heartfelt, sincere condolences are to them. We love you and you have a God who loves you, you know beyond the measure.
Asked if he could work with Barnaby Joyce as his deputy, Scott Morrison says:
The Coalition is between the Liberals and the Nationals. And that Coalition has always provided very stable and very good government for this country. And, in fact, that Coalition government has been the majority form of government for most of our time since certainly the Liberal party was formed. And that Coalition is always strong.
Scott Morrison spoke outside the church service, which is held before the first parliamentary sitting, about what the day is supposed to be about:
Today for the parliament is very much a focus on the reflecting on the terrible losses over the summer, to reflect on the lessons of the summer, and to say very clearly that Australians are not overcome, Australians are not overwhelmed, and Australians are strong, and the government will be there with them each step of the way as they rebuild, and they rebuild back better.
And Australia will go forward in what has been a very difficult start to the year with the strength and character that it’s well known for. And the government will do the same.
He was then asked about the Nationals – which is what today is actually about, because they decided that’s what today should actually be about – and Morrison had this to say when asked if the Nationals were a distraction:
Not to me. I’m focused very much on the important business we have to do today in this parliament, and to honour those who have given so much for their country and, in many cases, have lost everything.
Reminded by Laura Jayes that his problems in the past have arisen from things he had not declared (his relationship and citizen status are just a couple which come to my mind), Barnaby Joyce is asked if there is anything, anything at all, he hasn’t previously declared and might need to.
He says, conclusively, there is nothing he needs to declare.
Asked if he will survive the coming auditor general’s report into water buybacks, Joyce says he will.
Barnaby Joyce is being pushed very hard by Laura Jayes on Sky News about what is his actual plan to lower power prices and get investment back in regional towns (among other things) – and what he is promising that Michael McCormack has not.
The short answer is: there is no concrete plan. There are a lot of motherhood statements and a lot of callbacks to what he did when he was last in charge of the Nationals – which was a time when the economy was looking a hell of a lot better than it is now.
“Laura, Laura, Laura you are talking to a backbencher – how about we have this discussion after the ballot?” Joyce says.
“Who wants to be a leader, who wants to be deputy prime minister,” Jayes says.
“I will stand by my record, Laura, on what we have achieved in the past.”
Asked on ABC Breakfast about the rural women who have urged the Nationals not to reinstall Barnaby Joyce as leader (as reported by Sarah Martin on Monday) Joyce had this to say:
Well, it’s all the case, isn’t it, that you just have to deal with it. Politics is a game where if people can’t beat you on policy, they’re going to try to beat you personally. And they’ll be organised by others to roll on out. That is the unfortunate art form of some in politics, and they’ve had to deal with it before, and I’m sure we’ll see it again. On the policy issues, I’m happy to have that discussion.
You can read Martin’s full story here:
That’ll fix it
Darren Chester appeared on Sky News a little earlier this morning, and the ABC just a few moments ago.
Props to Chester for continuing to front up to all the cameras. A lot of Nationals have gone dark after agitating to create this situation.
Chester, who is firmly in Michael McCormack’s camp (and is no fan of Barnaby Joyce, a feeling which is very mutual), told the ABC he was “embarrassed” by the leadership spill and apologised for it.
Well, I believe Michael McCormack has the numbers, and I’ve gotta say I’m frustrated, I’m disappointed, I’m somewhat embarrassed that we’re going through this today. I mean, I want to offer an apology to the Australian people.
I know a lot of regional Australians watch your program. Those people who are suffering the consequences of drought or bushfires, on a day when the parliament was due, and is due, to debate a condolence motion, to have us talking about ourselves is embarrassing. I apologise for that.
I want to reassure them there are a lot of people here in Canberra who are fighting to make sure the recovery goes as quickly and as well as it possibly can.
Liberal senator not relying on evidence for climate scepticism views
Meanwhile, the first episode of Q&A with Hamish Macdonald at the helm gave bushfire victims (the ones we are supposed to be focused on in parliament today, until the Nationals made it all about themselves – and they accuse the media of living in a “Canberra bubble”) a chance to speak to politicians and experts about what Australia is facing moving forward.
The Liberal senator Jim Molan, who moved heaven and earth to get back into the parliament for one last three-year go-around, and who was supported by a group of Liberals who were willing to blow the whole show up if necessary to get him back in, admitted he doesn’t believe the science is settled on climate change.
And then, when pressed on what evidence he was relying on to form his views by Macdonald, Molan went further.
I’m not relying on evidence, Hamish.
At least he was honest.
But the climate will keep changing if we don’t do something, no matter how many feelpinions Senator Jim Molan has. (It’s also a very disconcerting admission from a man who was a general in our armed forces.)
Well, we enter the first day of parliament – which was supposed to be all about the summer bushfire emergency and its victims – talking about the Nationals, because they decided to hold a leadership spill today.
The leaders and a lot of the MPs of the moment are at church this morning for the traditional opening of parliament service, which means there is a lot of Old Testament floating around.
Michael McCormack opened with: “There is a time to tear down and a time to build. Now is a time to build,” as he fights to keep his job.
There are only a couple of votes in this at the moment. Even if McCormack holds on by one or two, the vote will show just how divided the party is. And that, as we know, is not sustainable long term.
Barnaby Joyce on the other hand, says he has spent the past two years in backbench purgatory learning from his mistakes – and he now has the “personal infrastructure” in place to succeed. He told the ABC:
I’ve [been in a] steady relationship, I’ve got two boys here. The infrastructure, the personal infrastructure around me is such that I believe I’m in a better position to go forward.
And what I’ll be focusing on is to make sure that the National party, as a team, has the best candidates in the key positions, and to make sure that we have the best capacity to deliver a policy outcome, because that is what our people require.
Joyce has also pointed out that he has “been in politics longer than Scott Morrison” and he has been in “leadership longer than Scott Morrison”.
So this is great for the Liberals too. They must be absolutely loving this.
Just as much as they must have loved Matt Canavan going on Sky News and telling Andrew Bolt last night that there haven’t been enough people standing up for coal in the government.
So, as we wait for the Nationals to head into their party room meeting at nine, the numbers are looking very tight. Both McCormack and Joyce’s camps are claiming they have about nine or 10 votes locked in. People lie, obviously, and as Darren Chester told Laura Jayes on Sky this morning, the only people you can believe are the ones who tell you they would never vote for you. Still, that seems about right from the phone calls we have all been making. Which means it will take just two of the newbies to decide this.
We’ll bring you everything as it happens.
Mike Bowers is already out and about and filing. I’ll bring you some of that very soon. You also have Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin and Paul Karp and a three-coffee Amy.
Let’s get into it.