The first week back in the federal parliament has been and gone. The week started off with a bang with the expert panel on asylum seekers headed by former Australian Defence Force declaring that a variation of the Coalition’s former Pacific Solution, which is also the Coalition’s current policy, being deemed the best way forward in dealing with boat arrivals. This set the scene for the early part of last week being dominated by attacks on the government over the issue and was all about the Opposition scoring some political points on this difficult and complex issue.
After a couple of days of political posturing and games over asylum seekers, the debated returned to the main-game in politics since the August 2012 election, debate over the carbon tax and there it stayed.
It’s likely, with the asylum seeker issue now muted politically, that debate will stay with and over the carbon price introduced by the Gillard Government which commenced on July the 1st.
The Opposition will continue to try and paint price rises, in particular power prices, as in large part down to the price on carbon which has been in operation for a matter of weeks. The Tony Abbott led Coalition will also likely during the week direct their questioning to industry specific areas and to the Treasury modelling done in the lead-up to the beginning of the policy. It is also entirely within the realms of possibility, in fact alm0st certain, that as has been done time after time, the Opposition will ask the Prime Minister to apologise for breaking her pre-2010 election promise.
It is possible that the asylum seeker debate will result in at least some questions during Question Time this week with the Coalition indicating that they would have liked the government to go further and reinstate Temporary Protection Visas (TPV’s) and begin towing boats back to Indonesia.
The government will, after having spent today talking about the Gonski Review and school funding, likely spend the bulk of the hour and ten minutes of Question Time with backbenchers asking questions of the Prime Minister and Education Minister on education reform.
The ALP Government, through their usage of the Dorothy Dixer will probably, in some small part, continue to sell the message of carbon tax compensation that they have been trying to prosecute. This message appears to be cutting through to the public with a big swing in the perception of the carbon price in the community.
Another policy area that the Labor Party may choose to highlight is the National Disability Insurance Scheme progress, particularly in light of recent machinations involving New South Wales and Victoria.
The only uncertainty of the week is just how well behaved our MP’s and Senators will be in parliament this week. Will they be loud and bickering with each other more than usual? Or will they act with a little more restraint than in recent times? I
f last week is any indication then there will be some improvement in the level of childishness that has infected our parliament. The issues that will be at play this week are not exactly new so our parliamentarians will just be going through the motions, but as always there will be at least one or two who find themselves on the wrong end of Standing Order 94a.
Oh, and then there’s also that ever-present possibility of a motion to suspend standing orders that we’ve sadly become accustomed to as a regular function of Question Time during this 43rd parliament.
Question Time for Wednesday has come and gone. It was a rowdy affair from the start, but appeared to quiet down towards the end as the variation in Dorothy Dixer’s crept in and the initial boisterous behaviour of both sides over the carbon price questions relaxed just a little at least.
It was a little surprising that the Opposition did not choose to use just one more session of Question Time to have a bit of fun over the half-pike on asylum seeker policy which will see offshore processing return to Nauru and Papua New Guinea in the near future. The House of Representatives passed the amended bill just before Question Time today with the support of the Opposition and is assured of passing through the Senate.
Instead of just one more day attacking the Gillard Government over offshore processing, the Coalition chose to resume hostilities over the recently commenced price on carbon. This returns the debate to the long-term issue which has been the main debate of the 43rd parliament since that August 2010 statement from the Prime Minister just prior to the election that brought us a minority government.
The questions from the Liberal and National Party Opposition were largely centred around price rises and the carbon tax as they have been for some time and will likely continue to be right up until the next election due around mid-2013. Carbon tax questions were also about the broken promise as they have been since it was broken.
The government, for it’s part also chose to have a focus on the carbon price. Again, they too returned to their common strategy on the issue which is to highlight the compensation available to low and middle income earners in an attempt to compensate for associated price rises.
There were also Dorothy Dixer’s on the aslyum seeker bill that passed the lower house, as well as on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and education reform.
And so it goes that this gives us a hint of what is to come during Questions Without Notice on Thursday, the last session for the week.
It is now certain that, barring any last minute topical subjects, that Question Time will be dominated by questions from the Opposition on the carbon price as it applies to price rises as well as that promise.
The government will also likely return to the carbon price fight again with questions from backbenchers based around the payments and tax cuts that will be received in return for the introduction of the policy.
It is entirely possible that in the Dorothy Dixer mix will be questions on the NDIS and education reform as there were in the previous session.
With Standing Order 94a used on Wednesday and the noise in the parliament not abating, will there be more of the same tomorrow? Or will our parliamentarians ease into the weekend after a full-on week? The answer to the former is a definite ‘yes’ and the latter a certain ‘no’
Parliament has now returned to Canberra after six weeks break and so has the associated noise and lack of courtesy and decency during Question Time. Things were looking up. There were wonderfully heartfelt speeches in the chamber at the commencement of Question Time in expressing the condolences of the parliament to the families of both Sargeant Blaine Diddams of the SAS and art critic and writer Robert Hughes who both passed away during the winter recess.
But that is where the respect and decency ceased. After over half an hour of speeches paying respect to Sgt. Diddams and Robert Hughes, which included a brilliantly animated and well-spoken speech by Malcolm Turnbull Question Time began.
Somewhat surprisingly at least, Question Time was dominated by asylum seeker politics. It was surprising insofar as it meant that the carbon price, the major battleground of this parliament did not even get even a skerrick of attention from the Coalition, nor for that matter from the government through their usage of the Dorothy Dixer.
What was also surprising about this is, given the outcome of the expert panel on asylum seeker policy, is that the government also used Questions Without Notice to heap attention on the issue. Now, it wasn’t a complete win for the Coalition. Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be used, but in a slightly different capacity than the outright detention under the Pacific Solution. But at the same time, asylum seekers that go there will likely languish for a very long period.
It would appear likely that the Coalition strategy from today, to focus on the half backflip of the Gillard Government on this area of policy will continue in Question Time on Wednesday. Not wanting to give up the opportunity, the Coalition will almost certainly continue to highlight the recent history of the ALP in asylum seeker and refugee policy. This should continue even though the new amendments will be supported by the Coalition. This attack will also likely continue even if the bills pass the House of Representatives before Question Time at 2pm.
What is far from certain regarding this policy shift on asylum seekers is whether the government will continue to highlight the importance of implementing the policy when the Coalition have agreed to support it in parliament.
Electricity prices were raised during Question Time, once, just to break up the monotony for the briefest period of time and this could again make an appearance in Dorothy Dixer’s and maybe in questions from the Coalition if refugee policy doesn’t completely dominate.
Failing asylum seeker policy dominating Question Time again, it is within the realms of possibility that the parliament could return to the tried and tested debate over the carbon price with the Abbott-led Coalition attacking the policy and the Gillard Government attempting to highlight the compensation package associated with the price on carbon.
Another likely inclusion, at least as far as the government’s questions to itself goes is the High Court case on plain packaging of tobacco products. This case today ruled in favour of the government, allowing them to proceed with their legislation. It’s almost certain that the Labor Party will dedicate at least one question to this matter.
Whatever the fuss that’s focused on, it all begins from 2pm Wednesday.
Everyone grab your HAZMAT suits, batten down the hatches, go out an purchase earplugs or earmuffs. Yes, after a month and a half break that institution we call Question Time returns to our television screens and radios on Tuesday. The winter break has flown by and as promised by our politicians, there has been little let-up in the political to-and-fro with the carbon tax and asylum seeker issues dominating the debate during the winter recess.
That seems the way that things will play out in Canberra this week during Question Time with carbon tax and asylum seeker politics set t0 be responsible for most of the noise during Questions Without Notice.
Power prices have been the debate over the last week with both the federal government picking a fight with the states over power bills which also brought in the federal Opposition with varying contributions from different MP’s to the debate, but the main ones being tied back to the carbon price.
It’s hard to see that electricity prices as they relate to the carbon tax will not be the major political battleground this week from the Coalition. The Abbott-led Opposition have dug in on this issue and will likely continue to prosecute the case of electricity related to the carbon price.
It’s also just as likely that, failing an electricity price specific attack on the Gillard Government related to the carbon tax, that other price rises associated with the price on carbon will form the basis of Coalition questions to the government.
The Labor Party too, through the use of the Dorothy Dixer will likely continue to try and hammer home the message of compensation for the price on carbon which commenced just weeks ago.
The Opposition, fresh from a fairly wide victory over immediate asylum seeker policy recommendations will likely turn up the heat on the Prime Minister and her government over the issue with the recommendations arguing the need to establish processing on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea as soon as possible.
The government will likely be fairly silent on the issue having been told by the expert panel on asylum seekers that their deal with Malaysia requires further work, so questions from the government benches on policy in this area will probably be scarce, perhaps non-existent.
The only major opportunity the government would have taken to get on the offensive over this policy area would be if the Opposition were going to oppose the legislation to be introduced into the parliament during the Tuesday sitting.
It will be interesting to see just how fired up both sides of parliament are after such a long break and whether or not this leads to the Speaker sending out one or two MP’s for an early coffee and cake.
Rest assured it won’t be such a quiet affair.