So it’s Tuesday in the first of two weeks in the federal parliament in Canberra before we can all thank our lucky stars that the news won’t be filled with noisy parliamentary soundbites and dodgy antics for a good month and a bit. Monday didn’t exactly go as predicted though the content was exactly what just about anyone who knows even a skerrick about the current parliamentary discourse even if the exact proportions of each debate ingredient turned out to be slightly different to what seemed likely. Nonetheless, the content of the debate itself was just as predictable as you could expect and today will be no different.
The Coalition have chosen, since of course, the breaking of the August 2010 election promise to focus their attacks on the carbon price which is fast hurtling toward us at warp speed. They’ve chosen to focus on the broken promise, the compensation and the costs, direct or knock-on effects and the perceived impact on the economy all at once and that will certainly be continuing today and right over the next two weeks of parliamentary debate which ends just two days before the carbon tax commences on July the 1st.
The government does not particularly surprise either these days with the policies they try to sell during Question Time through the use of the Dorothy Dixer largely mirroring or at least being similar to the ones that the Coalition tries to rail against every parliamentary sitting day from 2pm until 3:1opm even if the exact level of focus on each does come as a bit of surprise.
Today will be no different. The Gillard Government, with Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan fronting the parliamentary attack will continue to use Question Time to get soundbites into the media selling the household assistance package that is pegged to the carbon tax even though their advertisements fail to make that link.
They’ve been trying at the very least to tread water over the very idea of a carbon price since the promise was broken after the 2010 election and need to up the sell for the policy which is within weeks of operation. They also need to remind some voters that they’ve just received compensation payments for the imposte of the carbon tax beginning in July. They need to do that much just to maintain the status quo.
Although the use of Question Time by the ALP Government to market their plans for vastly more marine reserves around our coastline was not a surprise yesterday, it was quite a surprise the number of times it was raised, even if it was just a little more than expected. That is certain to continue with the government needing to persuade all parties that everything will be okay, even though many just aren’t listening anymore.
The Labor Party may also use the topic of marine reserves to try and score political points after the Opposition denied Tony Burke a pair to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the full Earth Summit to present the policy of his party to the world though the public seem increasingly weary of politicians doing this so this doesn’t bode too well for a party struggling for willing listeners.
So that’s how it’s going to play out, you don’t even have to watch Question Time now if you don’t wish to subject yourself to it. The only question left now is who will find themselves in the “naughty corner”, likely the cafeteria or bar after finding themselves on the wrong side of the Speaker and the 94a. There could be a few.
We’ve had two weeks reprieve from shouty parliamentary soundbites and nasty exchanges but tomorrow the show rolls back into town in the nation’s capital with a two week sitting period before the long winter break commences and we get some sizable respite from the major arena of political hostilities. The two week period ahead will be the last parliamentary sitting before the carbon price appears on July the 1st and that very subject is almost certainly going to dominate that daily hour of screaming back and forth that we refer to as Question Time.
For the Opposition in Question Time for the next two weeks we can expect well beyond all reasonable doubt that the majority of questions to the Gillard Government from their side will be around the impending carbon tax. This has been the case off and on for some time in the parliament with it dominating the parliamentary debate most of the time when either the Minerals Resource Rent Tax or the Craig Thomson case weren’t the flavour of the day.
It is possible that some of the National Party members or Shadow Environment Minister will get to ask a question or two of the Environment Minister following the announcement on Friday of a swathe of new marine reserves around the Australian coastline. This also could be relegated to a question or questions in the Senate.
The government itself will also focus most of its questions in both chambers of parliament on the carbon tax too after it shared the spotlight with budget commitments since the May 8 fiscal statement. For the government it will be about continuing to sell the compensation package that has begun to roll out and the other associated sweeteners mean to blunt any impact that the price will have and even overcompensate many.
In what may well mirror the Coalition it is almost certain that the Dorothy Dixer will also be used to sell the proposed changes to marine reserves that Tony Burke announced last week, especially since environmental issues, like the Murray-Darling Basin plan have had a minor airing during Question Time in recent sitting periods.
Emotions will be running high again with so much political energy thrown into and burned by talking about and introducing the carbon tax so it can be expected that the 94a will get a workout or multiple MPs will get a stern talking to from the Acting Speaker, Anna Burke as the parliamentary battle rages and perhaps descends into the sad depths it has in recent weeks.
There are only two more days left in the last parliamentary sitting period before the budget is handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan on behalf of the Gillard Government in May. As a result, the ALP Government will be competing hard with the Coalition for the remaining two days in Canberra this week to try to create momentum going into what will have to be a very difficult fiscal tightening if the government are to reach the surplus they have promised. All this and more points to a big two days of Question Time before parliament rises late tomorrow.
The Coalition look set to continue pursuing the government over questions about the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and to significantly focus on the already passed carbon tax which comes into force in just a matter of months. Both the carbon tax and the MRRT look like they will focus of a High Court challenge and this will play out in the coming months.
The Opposition may also decide in small part, to continue to pursue matters related to Craig Thomson and the Fair Work Australia investigation into alleged improprieties at the Health Services Union which have already seen a recommendation that 3 former officials in Victoria face Federal Court action.
The government look set to continue to focus on the economy specifically through the revenue raised by the MRRT and how it will fund programs and tax cuts for business.
There looks set to be less and less “Opposition bashing” during the answers to Dorothy Dixer’s in particular but also in responses to questions from the Coalition thanks to very strict policing of the “direct relevance” Standing Order which saw the Treasurer kicked out of the parliament under 94a for one hour yesterday and others effectively warned to become relevant.
The noise, with two days in parliament to go will surely be at a high, with temper tantrums flaring up from time to time throughout the hour and ten minute session of Question Time. A number of MPs will surely be removed for an hour under Standing Order 94a. Who will they be and just how entertaining or frustrating will Question Time be? Find out at 2pm AEDT.
It’s Wednesday and another day of Parliament and the requisite Question Time is upon us and it promises to bring much of the same drama, shouting and laughter we have come to expect, particularly during Question Time. Today’s session also promises to bring much the same line of questioning from both sides of politics, but likely not the cross-benches. This means parliament is set to continue debate on the economy, carbon tax, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), Private Health Insurance Rebate and the Fair Work Australia (FWA) investigation into Craig Thomson. A further event past that is likely to attract attention is the Australia Day protest which overnight saw a new development with footage of a key player, Kim Sattler being brought to light.
The Coalition is likely to continue its attack with a three prong mix of the carbon tax, FWA and Craig Thomson and the means testing of the Private Health Insurance Rebate. It is also now likely that the Opposition will pursue, with renewed vigour, the events of Australia Day. The questions will likely pursue the same lines of inquiry that have been displayed so far this parliamentary year.
The Government are also likely to continue on the same line of attempting to establish a narrative as good economic managers which is failing to cut through if the latest poll is any indication as far as team performance goes. Once again, Government questions, or Dixer’s will focus on the strength of the economy related to others and on the spending that is occurring under this Government.
Again the Speaker will have a tough time controlling the parliament with members likely becoming more raucous as the time flies by and the likelihood of the 94a being utilised is high. The reforms to the lengths of both questions and answers does not seem at all to have changed the tenor of the debate with much of the same nonsense, just less time to fit it in.
The rundown complete, you know have the tools to follow Question Time a little more closely, beginning at 2pm AEDT on both your radio and your television. I won’t be missing it, will you?
Today marks the return of the political juggernaut that some of us love to hate, some of us just downright detest and the select few, like me just love for all the noisy, angry and at times theatrical performances. We are in a unique position for this week seemingly knowing ahead of time who or what policy will be in the political cross-hairs for at least the week ahead. That takes away some of the anticipation but the dramatic performances and the unknown factors, including the new Speaker, Peter Slipper point to a, politically at least, edge of your seat week.
So first we turn to what we can reasonably assume will come as far as the questions go from both sides of the both chambers and the cross-bench MPs lucky enough (for them) to be asking a question.
The Coalition have signalled their intentions over the early weeks of this year to pursue Craig Thomson, the Member for Dobell relating to his time with the Health Services Union. It is no secret that the ruthless intensity behind this is in part because of the tight nature of the parliament and it will continue in Question Time this week.
In pursuing the Government over the handling of Craig Thomson, the questions will likely focus on two or three factors: why Craig Thomson still has the support of the Prime Minister, and on Fair Work Australia and why it is giving the growth 0f grass a run for its money. There are indications too that the Coalition will pursue claims of political interference.
The Government on the other hand has signalled recently that they will aim to highlight what they perceive its strength to be, the economy and the dreaded “Dorothy Dixer” will provide them that opportunity. The Gillard Government will likely not focus on the state of the budget, which looks even more likely to remain in deficit again, but the perceived comparative strength with other global economies.
Now to the comparative unknown factor, the impact the new Speaker will have over the House of Representatives. The main question most in political circles will be asking in relation to Mr Slipper is how many Coalition MPs will be either warned or booted under the Standing Order we all should refer to as the “coffee break order”, the 94a.
Another eventuality in the back of your mind should be a possible censure motion anywhere between 3-3:30pm AEDT with the Opposition Leader stepping up to the Despatch Box to outline the failings of the Gillard Government.
There are only a few hours to go before the sport that is Question Time kicks off and the events play themselves out in some glorious shouting and acting worthy of an AACTA or perhaps more appropriate, a Logie. It will be an eventful week and I for one am intrigued by the prospects of an exciting week, so from 2pm AEDT all I can say is, get watching!