The last week of the federal parliament of Australia before the winter recess has swiftly come around and will come to pass just as quickly to the relief of many with the politically inclined the exception to that rule. The sixweek break will mean the news will feature less loud, hysterical grabs for that period of time though the saturation of politics in the media will certainly continue with the carbon price coming into effect at the very beginning of the parliamentary holiday.
The year has so far been dominated by less than a handful of issues: the carbon tax, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), the Craig Thomson investigation and asylum seeker p0litics.
In recent weeks it has been basically all about the carbon price for both the Coalition and also the government. It would be a completely incredible, indeed miraculous situation if the Coalition did not in the last week before the price begins, continue to use the majority of Question Time in both chambers of parliament to pursue the government on the carbon tax. The Opposition will continue this week, as has been regular practice, to jump on any report by any organisation on predicted price impacts of the incoming price on carbon.
The ALP Government, for its part will also likely continue to focus on the carbon tax through the Dorothy Dixer, the difference here being they will continue to try and sell the message of compensation to low and middle income earners and their families, though if recent poll results are to be believed, that battle for public belief in the compensation package has been well and truly lost.
Late last week and over the weekend another asylum seeker boat tragedy unfolded with a significant loss of life. While the horrific events unfolded debate on the issue was held back. The embers of that debate are now beginning to smoulder again and will likely spark again and become another major element of the Question Time mix for both the Abbott-led Opposition and the Gillard Government as the politics of the issue begins to creep back in after an all too brief let-up. This is the only thing which looks likely to knock the carbon price off its perch in political debate this week.
Environmental issues could creep into Question Time again in a small way with the possibility that debate of the marine reserves may return for the week ahead.
That’s basically the way Question Time is likely to go for Monday, even the week with the major battle-lines having long been drawn by both sides and their approach to just an issue or two, maybe three or four at a time if we’re lucky absolutely relentlessly unless extra topical issues rear their head during the political week.
It’s Thursday folks and that means, for those who get their political fix from watching the nightly news bulletins that it’s the last day of the week that you have to endure shouty and often silly grabs. It’s been a rather subdued week of Question Time from Canberra with the House of Representatives not seeing a single motion to suspending Standing Orders in the three days that have elapsed in this sitting week and that doesn’t look set to change today. It has however been a week full of one-off vitriolic comments and that is an immense shame. It has been a very predictable week in Australian politics again and that will almost certainly continue today to round out the week.
The Coalition have spent the first 3 days of Question Time this week focusing on the Roy Hill Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) and the reported consultation gaps (read complete lack thereof) between the Prime Minister and her Minister for Immigration. Aside from the nearing carbon price commencement on July 1st this issue has completely dominated political debate in the parliament since the decision was announced by the Immigration Minister last Friday at the National Press Club.
Things could change slightly today in Question Time in the wake of comments from the Prime Minister to a group of miners overnight which could precipitate a return to questions around the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.
Of course, the other focus of the Coalition as it has been since the broken promise just after the 2010 election will be on the carbon tax which will be commencing in just over a month. It is entirely possible that this could become the main focus of tomorrow ahead of, or in place of the EMA debate which only has so much to give.
The Gillard Government will undoubtedly pursue the same two-pronged post-budget, pre-carbon price commencement Question Time strategy that has been used almost continuously since the budget was delivered on the 8th of May. This will mean most attention is drawn to selling the family and low income earner assistance that was delivered as part of the supposed surplus-returning fiscal statement delivered by Treasurer Wayne Swan only three and a bit weeks ago. The questions as they have relentlessly, will focus around the education payments and the increased family tax benefits.
The other focus which has been essential for the Gillard Government in an attempt to claw back ground on the issue after losing it just after the election has been to highlight the overcompensation that many will receive after the carbon price commences in July. This means many questions about how the Household Assistance Package will help the electorates of those asking Dorothy Dixer’s to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Climate Change, the Minister for Family Services, Communities and Indigenous Affairs, Treasurer and perhaps other ministers.
Further, although minor in focus during Questions Without Notice and not guaranteed, the ALP Government backbenchers have asked their ministers about environmental issues and education, although the latter has largely been tied to the payments tied in with the budget.
So that’s likely to be Question Time for Thursday with only minor exceptions likely or the level of focus of each topic varying a little bit. After today we’re set for two weeks respite from the Canberrra theatre before two more weeks of parliament and then the long winter recess saves the day for those of us not too keen on the theatrical side of politics, especially when it ain’t no Shakespeare and isn’t funny enough to match the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan.