01 November 2021
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There were two distinct themes in Federal politics over this past sitting fortnight: climate change and integrity. And the Government failed at both.Australians were given an unedifying glimpse into the way this government works, as fighting within the Coalition Party room over accepting a target of Net Zero by 2050 spilt out into the media. The public brawl escalated to the point where the Nationals threatened to blow up the Coalition, and ended (for now) with Scott Morrison announcing a “plan” to reach the target.The Prime Minister still hasn’t revealed what this deal will cost the nation, other than climate denier Keith Pitt being promoted to Cabinet and receiving a pay rise as a result.
And all this on the eve of COP26 - the most important international climate summit yet. After eight years of government, three prime ministers and 21 different policies – the Coalition is still divided and can’t make up its mind.I spoke on this vitally important issue which you can see here.In contrast Labor has long been committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and has already announced a number of important policies to reach that ambition. You can see those policies here. (This page will be updated as we announce our full election commitments).Anthony Albanese confirmed Labor’s commitment to climate action when I joined him, Chris Bowen and Ed Husic for a tour of Canberra’s community owned solar farm, the SolarShare Solar Farm in Majura. Projects like this show how the Australian people are acting, despite the Coalition’s inaction. We need a Government who will take up the fight against climate change, not watch from the sidelines.I also spoke in favour of legislation which will allow offshore wind farms to be developed in Commonwealth waters around Australia. Offshore wind has huge potential in Australia. With one proposal in Gippsland having the potential to supply 20% of Victoria’s energy needs. You can see that speech here.
Of course, the Government’s apathy to any real climate action remained on display in the Parliamentary chamber. One of the clearest examples of this was when Independent MP Zali Steggall introduced her private members bill to the House. Among other things, her bill sought to legislate a net-zero by 2050 target, establish an independent climate change commission and mandate a national adaptation program.However, before debate even started, the Government used its numbers to gag Ms Steggall and kill her bill. They wouldn’t even debate it on its merits, in the place designed specifically for debate.This is a common tactic by Mr Morrison’s Coalition Government – whenever something they don’t like comes before the Parliament they shut down debate. It’s entirely undemocratic and exposes their contempt, not only for accountability, but also for the many millions of Australians who voted to send Labor and Independent representatives to Parliament.This penchant for secrecy and contempt for democracy was the second theme of this fortnight where we saw Scott Morrison’s Government in one breath vote to protect the anonymity of Christian Porter’s $1 million donors and in another, introduce a bill to make it harder for Australians to vote.
Christian Porter, the former Attorney-General and current Coalition backbencher, recently attempted to sue the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan for defamation. In September, Mr Porter disclosed that he had been the beneficiary of a ‘blind trust’ in which he received up to $1 million to fund this lawsuit from persons unknown. This is essentially the legal equivalent of a brown paper bag full of cash left outside his front door.Part of the requirements of being a member of parliament is that you must disclose who has donated to you and how much money they donated. It’s a form of accountability which is designed to assure the public that their representatives are representing them and not the highest bidder.Labor requested that the Speaker of the House, Liberal member Tony Smith, give precedence (essentially his approval) for the parliament to refer this anonymous donation for investigation by the privileges committee. The Speaker did grant that precedence which then required the House to vote. Since Federation, no Commonwealth government has EVER voted against a matter which has been given precedence by the Speaker. No government that is, until the Morrison Government.
Australians should not accept this. Transparency and accountability in Government is crucial for trust in our democracy. That’s why an Albanese Labor Government will introduce as a matter of urgency, a Federal Integrity Commission. This commission will have teeth, with the standing powers of a Royal Commission, the ability to start its own hearings, conduct public hearings, and be able to look back into past corruption. In contrast, it’s been more than 1,050 days since Scott Morrison and Christian Porter announced their own integrity commission and we are yet to see any legislation.What we have seen is a proposal for a toothless body which won’t be able to look into the affairs of Ministers, won’t be able to hold public hearings, and won’t be able to look into past conduct.Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better when it came to integrity either.Last week, we saw Angus Taylor introduce Trump-style voter suppression laws into the Parliament.The Government’s proposed laws would require every voter to show ID at the polling place lest they be turned away. At first glance this might seem like a reasonable ask. But this will affect the most vulnerable in our community. Older Australians who no longer have a driver’s licence. In First Nations communities lack of ID, including birth certificates is a serious issue. The homeless and other vulnerable people also can be disenfranchised by the need to provide ID.As Barack Obama recently said regarding similar laws put forward by Republicans in the United States:
I spoke about these issues of integrity in the parliament, which you can see here.This fortnight I was also pleased to welcome Bill Shorten to Braddon where he added his voice to our community’s calls to Save Braddon Centrelink. In the Parliament I moved a motion alongside my colleague Sharon Claydon, the Member for Newcastle, calling on the Morrison Government to stop axing these essential services for our community.Senator Katy Gallagher also asked questions of Services Australia and Minister Reynolds on this issue. Among other things, she uncovered that: Approximately 27,000 Canberrans use the service every year; The decision to axe the service was made in May, over 6 months before the community was officially notified; And that the Government is partly axing the service because the building it’s housed in is too ‘confronting’ and ‘drab’. You can see my speech on our motion here, and my media release following the Estimates revelations here.So far almost 1,500 Canberrans have signed my petition to save Braddon Centrelink. You can join them here.
I was also delighted to participate in the Youth Voice in Parliament week in which I read a speech written by a young constituent of mine. The speech was written by Nick Barker about Youth Homelessness, something which he has experienced himself. You can see Nick’s speech here.On a final note, I was especially proud to represent Canberra as our beautiful city became the most vaccinated city in the world. Canberrans deserve a big round of applause for their efforts in keeping our community safe during the pandemic.While the immediate danger may have passed, as we open up again it's worth remembering that the pandemic is still raging across the globe and we need to be cautious to protect our community. Our frontline health workers are still hard at work saving lives, so we owe it to them to follow the health advice.If you don't already, please follow my social media to stay up to date with what I’m up to. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you can see all of my speeches on YouTube and other news on my website.
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Authorised by Alicia Payne, ALP Canberra.