The Sunday Sandwich (That’s a Wrap)

Hello and welcome to the very first Sunday Sandwich at my new blog. We have now endured the first parliamentary sitting week of 2012 with little if any skin taken off. The lines of attack and corresponding defensive moves were played out in the media in the early weeks of 2012, giving us an indication of what the debate will be about for the year ahead. The economy and taxes, Craig Thomson and the events of Australia Day in Canberra dominated the week which saw the new Speaker stamp his own personal mark on the parliament and some policy-specific machinations.

The Gillard Government positioned themselves this week in Question Time in particular to be talking all about the economy in relation to domestic economic policies and with regard to international comparison. The overwhelming number of Dorothy Dixer’s were on the economy for the entire week.

The Opposition also promised to bring on debate and question on the economy and did so. However the Coalition also took to battle in a big way on the FWA/Craig Thomson debate/farce. The economy from the Coalition perspective was approached by questioning the ALP Government on the suitability of introducing new taxes, that is the carbon tax and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) in times of global uncertainty.

Also on the economy, the Abbott-led Opposition came under attack from the Gillard Government over comments this week seemingly showing a back-down from a commitment to a budget surplus in 2012-13. It was probably a good idea for Andrew Robb to come out and be refreshingly honest about budgetary prospects for an incoming government, not least because we do not know where the books will be whenever the Coalition next takes the government benches.

It was also correct for the others in the Shadow Cabinet to be saying that the Coalition would deliver a surplus in their first year in government, at this stage looking like some time in 2013, if the Government were able to deliver their promised surplus.

The disparate responses from senior Coalition frontbenchers did take some of the heat off the Government, and should have been avoided but probably did not have as much of an impact as some commentators are making out.

The new Speaker of the House of Representatives this week brought back some of the traditional style of parliaments gone by whilst at the same time keeping commentators and viewers wondering what the Slipper speakership would bring, particularly for his former side, the Coalition.

Peter Slipper decided to bring back the Speaker’s robe for parliamentary sittings and on the last day a plain white, droopy silk bow-tie. I am quite a fan of following parliamentary tradition so I thought that this was a welcome re-introduction of what has often been missing under recent Labor Speakers.

There is no doubt that there was some consternation, particularly in Coalition circles as to how tough Mr Slipper would be on his former Coalition colleagues prior to this week. A lot of that was borne out wrong with the Speaker only booting a couple of MPs from the Coalition side, when based on events of last year it could easily have been more than a handful or two.

Speaker Slipper brought some welcome changes to the start of the parliamentary year which will apply for the duration of his speakership, or at least until or if they are altered further. This included no warnings before removal under Standing Order 94a for unruly behaviour, 30 second questions and 3 minute answers. All positive developments in a way but areas that can be worked on further.

The other big story of the week was the argument over whether or not the Private Health Insurance Rebate should be means tested for higher income earners. Despite the debate and some of the evidence, it became clear by the end of the week that the Government was able to drum up enough support for the passage of this measure.

So another week in Australian politics flies by at warp speed, with the political noise at times breaking the sound barrier and lucky to not be heard in far off lands away from Canberra. The noise is set to continue with parliament again sitting next week and the same debates likely to be prosecuted by the respective sides of politics, all eyes will be on the tenor of that debate and what other political and policy nuggets that may pop up to be used and abused.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at tbridgey@gmail.com or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on February 12, 2012, in Federal Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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