Well folks, that's your lot for today. We will be back again tomorrow to report politics live from the national capital.
Let's do the evening summary.
Key events today in federal politics:
- Federal parliament resumed for the 2013 political year.
- Our parliamentarians began their day in church.
- The political news cycle began its day chewing over the Opposition's declaration that if we now knew the election date, courtesy of Ms Gillard, we must already be in the caretaker period (see the first post today for English translation). The caretaker convention guidelines revealed this as rather an ambitious call.
- Labor's most famous backbencher Kevin Rudd professed no interest in the Labor leadership when he was asked by an enterprising reporter outside church.
- Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott shook hands briefly at the War Memorial before resuming the daily battle.
- Question Time was jobs and growth for Labor; surplus - where is it for the Coalition.
- I don't want to set the conspiracy theories running, but I note jobs and growth start with the Prime Minister's initials - JG. Make of that what you will.
Thanks to my Pulse gang, the readers, and the folks here in da House.
I've missed you. Have a great night.
Photos Without Notice
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop remonstrates with the Speaker Anna Burke Photo: Andrew Meares
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Chaos in the Press Gallery?
Prime Minister Julia Gillard pays tribute to Michelle Grattan Photo: Andrew Meares
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Kevin appears fired up and ready to go
Kevin Rudd and Anthony Byrne arrive ready for question time Photo: Andrew Meares
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First Question Time of 2013.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard enters the Chamber Photo: Andrew Meares
In a second I'm going to hand over to chief photographer Andrew Meares for a few minutes before we wrap.
He's going to give you his own unique take on the political day.
Drum roll please.
Here comes Photos without Notice.
Just a couple of things on the new Pulse Live template which we've wheeled out today.
Have you noticed you can now sort blog posts in the way you want to read them? (From earliest to latest, or the other way around. Some people find reading the latest development a bit confusing if you aren't with us all day).
You can now rate my individual posts should you want to do that: like or not. (Go on, be brave. I'm a tough old bird.)
The new live updates don't disturb our Pulse Live videos, so you can view them at your leisure without having to remember to turn off the old auto-refresh.
There are other cool things too, but I've forgotten. Thanks very much to Digimon Carlos Monteiro for his great work.
Interested, of course, in your feedback.
Let's check in with today's Essential Poll.
- Voters have given the thumbs up to the Prime Minister's decision to pre-announce the federal election date - 45 per cent approved, 34 per cent disapproved.
- Labor voters approved overwhelmingly (73 per cent). Coalition folks less so (35 per cent). Fifty per cent of Coalition voters disapproved.
- Given Question Time and its focus, interesting to see 42 per cent of voters in the Essential sample approving of the Gillard Government's decision not to return the budget to surplus this financial year. Thirty seven per cent disapproved.
The Coalition retains its thumping election lead over Labor on the two-party preferred measure - Coalition 54 per cent, Labor 46 per cent.
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop exchanges with the Speaker Anna Burke. Photo: Andrew Meares
So that was our first Question Time Pulsers.
Interested, as always, in your thoughts.
Mine are this.
Labor wanted the narrative today be jobs and growth: we are into it, the Coalition is not.
If I could do a word cloud, I would, just to show you how often that phrase got a run in Question Time. Everyone was onto it and into it. (You make not like us, the Labor Party, but you know we care about you is the message. That and trying belatedly to reclaim a credible economic management record with the voters. Folks seem to have forgotten about the global financial crisis - that's why the stimulus, the borrowing, the deficit; and the continuing global economic uncertainty has, in part, made revenue collections weak.)
Contemporary life is all about the permanent present. I know I forget things that happened five minutes ago. Labor, here, is retracing steps. Hoping you are all listening. Whether you are remains to be seen.
The Coalition was the surplus. (Where is it? You lot couldn't organise a party in a pub. That sort of thing.)
This is obviously fertile ground if you consider my explanation of Labor's strategy today. The Coalition wants to approach the election ahead on economic management.
Interesting how micro these battles are - hand combat, in close.
Rather like that overly obvious baiting of the new Attorney-General from Ms Bishop - who is taking up much of Mr Abbott's negative heavy-lifting in the chamber these days. Hard blow to the head. Watch how he absorbs it.
Politics. Ah, the humanity.
Labor backbencher Rob Mitchell isn't amused about the Dreyfus Affair.
(Sorry, I may have recently been in Paris, and therefore couldn't resist.)
Would JB have asked that question about settlements if AG wasn't Dryfus— Rob Mitchell (@RobMitchellMP) February 5, 2013
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop exchanges with the Speaker Anna Burke following question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne wasn't letting Mr Dreyfus off the hook. (See the post at 3.18pm for particulars).
After Question Time, Mr Pyne asked Speaker Burke to reconsider her ruling that the provocative question from Ms Bishop concerning West Bank settlements was out of order.
Speaker Burke appeared not amused.
Ms Bishop walked past the Speaker's chair. From my vantage point I couldn't hear any remark - but Speaker Burke suggested the Deputy Liberal leader had reflected on the chair.
She ordered Ms Bishop to leave the chamber. Ms Bishop attempted to resist. Speaker Burke insisted.
All a bit unedifying.
Ms Gillard calls an end to Question Time.
Now she is paying tribute to The Age's political editor Michelle Grattan - my boss, mentor and friend - who is off to a new role at The Conversation.
Ms Gillard praises Michelle's relentless focus on the facts.
She will be sorely missed from newspaper journalism, but will make a significant contribution at her new post.
(True, on both counts.)
And Mr Abbott on this subject.
Michelle, he says, is not leaving the press gallery! She will be the greatest online journalist in the press gallery. (True that.)
Michelle is the toughest journalist you will ever encounter, but has a warm and generous heart.
If so inclined, you can review the remarks here.
Political leaders pay tribute to legendary journalist Michelle Grattan as she moves to a new career as an academic and on-line commentator.PT3M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dw3i 620 349 February 5, 2013
Surly now down there.
Speaker Burke observes she'd been hopeful of a kinder chamber post Christmas.
Not. So. Much.
Welcome to the frontline Mr Dreyfus. Photo: Andrew Meares
Small skirmish there.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop inquires of the new Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus whether he agrees with the Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr's statement last year that West Bank settlements are illegal.
Nice try Julie is the response of the House and its operatives.
The question is ruled out of order.
Not within portfolio responsibilities.
(Mr Dreyfus is Jewish, should Pulsers need that information for their background.)
Labor backbencher Jill Hall tweets thus:
Bishopbeing too cute by half, asked the wrong Minister and asked for a legal opinion - ruled out of order#qt— Jill Hall (@JillHallMP) February 5, 2013
Shadow treasury spokesman Joe Hockey is now inquiring about the whereabouts of the surplus.
The Prime Minister retorts that these questions are only posed by people who fail to focus on ... (you can guess it can't you?)
Hint: J and G.
On jobs and growth.
Jobs and growth.
Mr Hockey is back with a supplementary to the Prime Minister. Given you can't run a budget, shouldn't you give up trying to run the country?
If you want to be taken seriously by anyone, you need to deal with the facts. The Member for North Sydney: good at bellowing, not good at analysis.
Mr Hockey then attempts to table a small forest of documents that he says are broken Labor promises on the surplus.
Manager of government business Anthony Albanese doesn't much care for the forest.
The forest and its keeper, therefore, resume their seat.
(Thanks to Alex Ellinghausen for this record of the forest.)
Is that a surplus in there?
The lovely Chris Hammer has produced this quick cut of the first question of the new political year.
Just if you had that office sweep and you need proof to cash in with the colleagues. Not that we encourage gambling here at The Pulse Live. Or audience participation. Or anything.
For your viewing pleasure. How 'bout that surplus?
Some facts now on soda ash, from Ms Gillard.
The Prime Minister has been asked by shadow industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella about job losses in January at Penrice - a soda ash plant. The company cited the strong dollar, rising labour costs and the clean energy package for this decision.
Mrs Mirabella wants to know if Ms Gillard will apologise for breaking her pre-election commitment not to introduce a carbon tax?
Ms Gillard curls a lip.
The impact of carbon pricing is very very modest indeed.
Two moments of mild alarm follow in the chamber.
House of Representatives Speaker Anna Burke informs the clerk she has lost all contact. Her console screens are blank. She's flying solo, up there in the big chair. A slight, nervous giggle.
And Queensland's Bob Katter is on his feet with his first question of the year.
(Mr Katter wants an inquiry into telecommunication infrastructure, post floods.)
Maybe, I think, is the Prime Minister's reply.
More welcome back business. A lovely chamber picture from Andrew Meares of Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop and her colleagues.
Welcome back, the sequel. Photo: Andrew Meares
It's jobs and growth day evidently.
The first Dorothy Dixer from Labor is jobs and growth: please discuss Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister complies. Jobs. Growth. Ms Gillard says the government has real plans to give people opportunity, including the Disability Support Scheme.
Mr Abbott now is back on superannuation. Can the Prime Minister guarantee she won't sting people and their superannuation as she looks for those offsetting savings in the May Budget?
Ms Gillard says Labor created superannuation. We will always be the party that does the right thing by working Australians and their retirement income.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan is now telling the House the Reserve Bank has left interest rates on hold.
If you had an office sweep on the first question of the new year from Mr Abbott, it's on the surplus.
When will Labor produce one?
Ms Gillard says Labor will be adhering to its medium term fiscal strategy. (In English, that means Labor will be finding offsetting savings for spending.) Ms Gillard counsels Mr Abbott to do the same.
Mr Abbott persists on a supplementary question. When will you produce the surplus you said you would produce?
There are these things called facts, Ms Gillard notes.
There have been revenue write-downs. This needs to be accounted for by both government and opposition. The government will maintain a focus on jobs and growth, the Prime Minister says.
Parliament has moved on to a tribute to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who died in early December.
The Prime Minister makes kind remarks and notes Mr Abbott would like to say a few words.
Mr Abbott does say a few words. A remarkable woman, a remarkable life. Married to a great newspaperman. Mother of another.
(That would be Rupert Murdoch.)
Welcome back monkey business. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Labor's Kevin Rudd and Anthony Byrne.
Let's roll back a couple of minutes, for the record. A new political year begins; thanks to Andrew Meares for the picture.
news.com.au political editor Mal Farr tweets thus.
TAbbott advised his MPs to avoid "personal snideness" Let's see how that goes this QT.— Malcolm Farr (@farrm51) February 5, 2013
And so it begins. Photo: Andrew Meares
Mr Abbott acknowledges the swift response of the national government.
The Opposition leader suggests assistance needs to be extended to business.
Recovery is not only a matter of physical rebuilding.
The Prime Minister opens the first Question Time for the new year reflecting on Australia's summer of sorrow.
Bushfires. Floods. Destruction. Ms Gillard is sharing anecdotes from her visit to the disaster regions. She notes this is not a time for politics. The Prime Minister thanks Coalition MPs who came with her to visit families who lost homes and possessions. She says $50 million has gone to the bank accounts of people severely affected.
Speaker I am always in awe of the courage and common sense of the Australian people.
It has been a summer of sorrow, but also a summer of survival.
I assure those communities we will help them rebuild and recover; they will not be alone.
Mr Abbott is on his feet now.
He notes the worst of mother nature brings out the best of human nature.
Mr Abbott is saluting fire fighters and community volunteers: the mud army that has been mobilised. Neighbours helping neighbours.
Question Time very shortly.
Before I transform myself into Hansard I should note the Opposition has of course released a number of policies. I raised this issue earlier, when reflecting on the current challenges before the two leaders. (Post at 11.36am.)
On the ABC's Q&A program last night - a particularly surly and uninformative outing in my view - Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne copped a hiding from one self-declared swinging voter frustrated about the lack of detail about the policy alternatives from the Coalition. He wanted all the facts now, so he could think about the material. Mr Pyne urged patience. Interesting that some voters think there's nothing much out there at all from the Opposition, rather than an incomplete picture. Mr Abbott gets a lot of coverage for an Opposition leader.
Everyone in politics has trouble landing a detailed message about anything much in the clutter.
Here are the bells.
Your parliament. 2013. Gather round.
Do I look like a Prime Minister who:
1. Has dissolved the House of Representatives?
2. Needs to take a long cold shower?
Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with Richard Goyder the head of the B20 at Parliament House in Canberra Photo: Andrew Meares
Just a little more on Tim Lester's interview with Craig Thomson, which we flagged first at 10.04am. Our colleague Damien Bright gives the summary:
Besieged MP Craig Thomson spoke to Fairfax media for the first time since his dramatic arrest last Thursday. Preparing for a Victoria court appearance, he discusses how police "sensationalised" 150 fraud charges, the pressures on his family and finances, the upcoming election and the "self-evident" Coalition interest in his case.
"I'm a little concerned that we've had the shadow attorney general George Brandis write to his Coalition colleagues in relation to these matters, so there has been political interference. ... Thursday was totally unnecessary, Thursday was done for the cameras. They were briefed beforehand, they knew that something was happening before we did", he said.
As parliament reconvenes, Thomson has resolved to make the most of his position on the cross benches. "I look at every piece of legislation now entirely through the prism of what is best for the people that I represent. ... I have no doubt that between now and over the next nine sitting weeks there will be legislation that I will have a different view to the government [on]."
If so inclined, you can watch the full interview here.
Craig Thomson details 'humiliating' strip search
Fighting 150 fraud charges, MP Craig Thomson talks about last Thursday's dramatic arrest and his future in parliament. He says police 'sensationalised' the case and questions Coalition interference.PT12M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dvj1 620 349 February 5, 2013
Alternate government meets governing. Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott at the War Memorial a little while ago. Chief photographer Andrew Meares captures the moment peace was declared.
Kinder, gentler polity?
Unlikely, but do stay with us. We'll know more at 2pm.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott say farewell at the Australian War Memorial after laying a wreath together at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares
Kevin .. er .. who, by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet on the ABC earlier today. Make sure you read through to the end.
HOST: Kevin Rudd has done very little to avoid the spotlight of late. He's written an article on tensions in the Asia Pacific region for a foreign policy magazine, he's returned to a certain commercial breakfast program, we've seen him posting photographs on Twitter with his grand daughter. Should he be given a greater role in the party as some senior ministers have suggested?
GREG COMBET: Well could I just say, so what if he's done all those things? That's fine. He's perfectly entitled to do them. We're actually in Government, he's a back bencher and we're doing important reforms to the economy and changes to our society and important environmental reforms. And that's what we'll keep focussing on and keep arguing. During the course of this year, for the future of this country, it's very important that we get beyond the superficiality of some of these debates about Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard and who said what to who and focus on what's important for the country in the years ahead.
I've had the privilege of working as Climate Change Minister over recent years. We've made, even in just that one portfolio, a massively important reform for future generations but we've done so in every portfolio. Major environmental reforms, the Murray-Darling Basin reforms, in the health portfolio, in dental health, in mental health care, in housing and homelessness. Those are the things that are very important for people in the community and those are the things that it is important in an election year to focus on. So I'm not going to be too distracted by whether Kevin Rudd got photographed with his grandchild and twittered it.
Now, the picture behind the picture.
There was a rally for single parents on the lawns of parliament house this morning. The objective of the rally was to increase the Newstart allowance, which of course no person would want to try and live on.
Here is a picture by Alex Ellinghausen that makes the objective absolutely clear.
The first picture we posted at 11.16am did not make the objective clear. This was a serious rally for a serious purpose.
Our instinct to periodically poke fun at the politicians with whom we co-habit triumphed at 11.16am.
We are certainly not making light of single parents, not for one moment! That's not our form, and we certainly weren't in this instance.
Rally on the lawns of parliament, Tuesday
Senator Trish Crossin, recently *moved forward* against her wishes for Ms Gillard's preferred Northern Territory senate candidate, Nova Peris, has said this about the opening of festivities.
First day of the federal parliamentary sittings start today...let the campaign (oops!)work begin.— Senator Crossin (@trishcrossin) February 4, 2013
Senator Stephen Conroy, Leader of the Government in the Senate Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
Blame game, or accurate diagnosis?
The newly minted senate leader and Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, on why Labor had another slump in this week's Newspoll.
It's Craig what dunnit.
Senator Conroy, on radio, a little while ago:
This is a poll taken at the peak of a fairly difficult and destabilising event in the arrest of Craig Thomson. But that poll has bounced between 32 and 38 (primary support approval points) over the last three or four polls.
Whatever you do, don't get cynical. Don't disengage from politics.
It's the easy response to the hysteria and shallowness of the political present - but it's entirely the wrong instinct.
Thus ends my sermon.
Interesting to think about the challenges before the two leaders at the opening of the political year.
Mr Abbott's remarks yesterday indicate the Opposition leader is more than aware of his negative personal approval ratings. The Opposition leader said he would be flipping the switch to positive in this, the election year. Policy, policy, policy. Except the Opposition is still coy on when we'll see the aforementioned policy, policy. After the May budget when there are updated economic forecasts. Possibly.
And the Prime Minister? It's a bumpy old show in Labor at the moment. The government appears to be doing its best to completely bamboozle the voters .. just what will happen next? Who can say? This is somewhat ironic, given the Prime Minister's efforts to frame the year by outlining the election date; her efforts to project calm and control and order. Self-direction is fine when it works, not so fine when it doesn't.
In this parliament - despite its many achievements of policy and legislation - calm and control and order are often the exception, not the rule.
Now that's a bit harsh, surely.
Photographer Alex Ellinghausen, on the scene.
Greens candidate Simon Sheikh leads the chant at the single parents rally on the front lawn of Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Commenter Brian asked me earlier about the Broadcasting Act and the caretaker convention. Brian noted at 9.29am that the legislation states the parties are to receive equal editorial airtime and coverage from the time the election date is announced.
I've been trying to get to the bottom of this offline - impeded only mildly by my lack of a legal qualification.
Now the newly appointed Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has bobbed up before the cameras to engage on this and other points.
Mr Dreyfus refutes the notion that Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott are now effectively equal before the broadcasting law.
He says equality begins once the campaign begins, once the Governor-General does her Constitutional business of issuing writs and dissolving parliaments - not when the Prime Minister makes an announcement at the National Press Club.
(You aren't perchance Brian Loughnane are you Brian? Just joking.)
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop speaks with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during the Shadow Cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 4 February 2013. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
As we wait in anticipation for the Question Time festivities later this afternoon, important to note Mr Abbott's comments yesterday to his shadow cabinet.
Both leaders bunkered down with their senior colleagues yesterday as is usual at the start of a parliamentary week. It was one of those slightly ludicrous situations where the opening of the meeting is staged for the cameras. (Come in, film me taking charge and looking prime ministerial.)
What do viewers make of these stooged events? Do they think oh, the cameras must have just wandered in there on a whim .. or do they know its all a bit of a pantomime for their benefit? Anyway, we digress.
The point of the post was this. Mr Abbott said yesterday voters were developing new expectations of the Opposition at this point in the political cycle.
Obviously, as we get closer to polling day there'll be more stress on being an alternative government, Mr Abbott said. People want us to be an opposition, sure, but they want us to be a little bit more like an alternative government.
What say you Pulsers?
Mr Rudd was asked by reporters whether he was intent on a political comeback.
Ah, give us a break. Everyone should take a long cold shower.
Labor MP Kevin Rudd leaves at the end of the service at the Church of St Andrew Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
Labor's most famous backbencher Kevin Rudd has also been out and about in the media narrative this morning - and, (helpfully from a television perspective), out in person.
(The age-old TV maxim: no vision, no story.)
It's been a choppy opening to the political year for Labor and the Prime Minister: the election date announcement, the arrest of Mr Thomson last week on fraud charges, ruffled feathers over the Senate pre-selection of Nova Peris, the leaking of a proposed Cabinet reshuffle.
Lots of chaos and mayhem and so on in the media coverage.
The Prime Minister told her colleagues yesterday the leaking must stop.
When chaos returns to the media narrative, so does the cherubic Mr Rudd.
Let's start to dig down. Tim Lester, online political editor, has interviewed the former Labor MP Craig Thomson.
In the interview Mr Thomson appears to keep open the idea Labor could pre-select him again for the NSW seat of Dobell.
Daring to dream.
You can watch some of that interview here.
Craig Thomson discusses his future
Craig Thomson hopes to continue his political career and believes the Labor Party is keeping open preselection for his seat.PT1M49S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dv6v 620 349 February 5, 2013
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Out and about this morning. Parliamentarians have been reflecting on their best selves at a church service in Canberra.
Yes they have.
Pulsers may like to select an appropriate musical background to Opposition leader Tony Abbott and deputy Julie Bishop wandering up the aisle. Or perhaps chief photographer Andrew Meares and I were the only people superficial enough to laugh.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop walk down the aisle at St Andrew's Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Here's the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, chairing Cabinet last night.
(Do I look like I've dissolved the House of Representatives?)
The PM governing first, electioneering second chairing Cabinet last night Photo: Andrew Meares
Good morning Pulsers. We are ridiculously excited to be back for the new parliamentary year. We welcome back our loyal and lovely readers from 2012, and say welcome to the newbies.
The political morning is already off and racing.
Let's start with the Opposition. This morning various frontbenchers are out declaring the Gillard Government is in caretaker mode, because the Prime Minister has announced the election will take place on September 14.
What is caretaker mode you ask? A broad summary: governments continue to govern, but the practice is they don't make major decisions or appointments that bind future governments. The public service fades into the background so it doesn't get caught up in grubby electioneering.
So what of this argument: the election has been called, so the government is in caretaker mode. What do the caretaker conventions say of this?
The convention says the government is in caretaker mode once the House of Representatives has been dissolved.
Paragraphs one and two.
1.1 Successive governments have accepted that, during the period preceding an election for the House of Representatives, the government assumes a 'caretaker role'. This practice recognises that, with the dissolution of the House, the Executive cannot be held accountable for its decisions in the normal manner, and that every general election carries the possibility of a change of government.
1.2 The caretaker period begins at the time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.