Today marks the last sitting day of the parliamentary week and the last day of parliament before the budget is announced in Canberra on Tuesday May 8 by Treasurer Wayne Swan. Consequently economics will continue to be the focus of the day in Question Time and the energy of our politicians will be at an almost anxious high as they try to get attention on their programs for Australia and the Opposition throw everything at the Gillard Government in trying to hold them to account.
The focus of the Opposition will continue to be on the two or three key areas that the Coalition have pursued for some time now in their Question Time and broader political strategy. The two main focal points of the Abbott-led Opposition questions today will continue to be both the carbon tax and the mining tax which have had varying degrees of focus since both have been announced. They have both now been passed by the government and the Coalition will continue to pursue them as they come into force and for any negative impacts they have.
The Coalition also may ask some questions of the ALP Government about Fair Work Australia and its investigation into Craig Thomson, a long-running affair which has provided much political and parliamentary material for the Liberal and National Party Coalition.
The Opposition is likely to also ask questions of the government about the deal announced today to keep Holden producing cars in Australia for the next 10 years at least.
The government, as has been its strategy all parliamentary year will be to focus on their big programs, at the moment the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and how the revenue from it is projected to benefit the community, including low income individuals and small and big business. Some Dorothy Dixer’s, as has been the case this week may be devoted to other topical or even less discussed policies, like the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which received questions in the House of Representatives yesterday.
The Gillard Government will certainly use some Dorothy Dixer’s to ask ministers associated with the car industry about the deal with Holden to keep car production in Australia for at least 10 years and to highlight the benefits of this for the local and national economy.
The usage of the motion to suspend Standing Orders is another eventuality that cannot be discounted, particularly as we head toward a grand total of 50 of them for this the 43rd parliament of Australia. The motion however is less likely to occur as the topics discussed have been the focus of the motion in the past.What may work in favour of a suspension of Standing Orders is another topical issue presenting itself before Question Time today, likely not the Holden issue, or the fact that it is the last session of Question Time until the parliamentary week beginning the 8th of May.
Look for fireworks and restless pollies slanging remarks across the chamber today in the Lower and Upper House. Expect to see a high number of ejections from both sides and even Ministers sat down by the Speaker for not being “directly relevant” to questions asked by the Coalition and even their own side as they attempt to use Dixer’s for having a go at Coalition policy rather than explaining their own. Get your last fix for over a month from 2pm AEDT today
Day two of the second week of the parliamentary year is upon us and is not likely to disappoint with more of the same narrative from both sides likely to dominate during the parliamentary sitting day. There may well be an added ingredient slipped into Coalition questions which will cause them great fits of laughter and smiles spattered throughout Question Time.
The Coalition is likely to continue to pursue the Government over the Craig Thomson affair and the long-running Fair Work Australia investigation causing much annoyance and disbelief. The Tony Abbott led Opposition will also likely pursue the Government over the carbon tax, the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) and the upcoming legislation to means test the Private Health Insurance Rebate.
Likely to provide added energy and vigour into the Coalition questions to the Gillard Government in Question Time is the Four Corners program last night which aired some claims which will be particularly uncomfortable for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the ALP caucus already under pressure from many quarters. Just how these factors will be slipped into Opposition questions will be interesting to watch and certain to provide to the theatrical nature of Question Time.
The Government will certainly continue to try and plot its narrative in economic management, despite recent polling showing that this message is not cutting through to voters like the Government would have hoped. Already in progress and foreshadowed job losses will make that narrative even harder to prosecute even if the dollar is realised as a major factor.
Question Time yesterday was quite volatile compared with any of the days last week, not just because of the cross-chamber barbs and yelling and raucous laughter but because of the removal of more Coalition members under Standing Order 94a than many would have expected given last week. The length of respective leashes will certainly be one to watch.
Given the complex and intriguing mix of events, policies and politics likely to pervade the questions during the session today, it is entirely possible for it to be the most anxious, loud, giggly and angry Question Time of calendar year 2012. You know the drill, 2pm AEDT, and if I can get into the parliamentary spirit of plagiarism, “be there or be square”.