Now Pulsers, we'll say goodnight with the evening summary.
Today in federal politics:
- The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, delivered her annual closing the gap statement.
- Opposition leader Tony Abbott responded. Parliament enjoyed an elevated discussion about indigenous disadvantage with much unanimity and very little finger pointing. It was terrific.
- Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke called in for a visit and, predictably, stole the show.
- Two Labor ministers - Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke - faced questions about trips to a ski lodge owned by the Obeid family.
- Former Labor MP Craig Thomson's court case began in Melbourne.
- Question Time was again focussed primarily on the economy. Surplus and tax for the Coalition. Jobs and growth for Labor.
It's been great fun. Thanks for staying with us. We'll see you again tomorrow!
Photos without Notice.
Julia Gillard watching Wayne Swan deliver a surplus of jobs and growth.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan Photo: Andrew Meares
Handing over now to Andrew Meares for Photos without Notice.
Kevin Rudd and Joel Fitzgibbon. Chewing the fat.
Kevin Rudd and Joel Fitzgibbon Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
So what of Question Time today?
Pretty straightforward wasn't it?
The Coalition wants the discussion on the economy.
Labor does too, for different reasons.
The Coalition wants you remembering the days of John Howard and surpluses and all that feel good. Tony Abbott can bring all that back is the conclusion the Opposition would like you to draw.
Labor wants you to walk back to the global financial crisis and then walk to the present with them. (We have debt because we needed stimulus. We put jobs before black ink in the write column in the Budget papers.) That's the message they want voters to hear. We care about you more than we care about a paper surplus.
It's the economy, stupid.
Welcome to the next several months.
Here is the pamphlet from Mr Swan that Mr Hockey referred to. (See the post at 2.21pm for details.)
What surplus. Take two. Photo: Andrew Meares
Took us a couple of minutes to get this organised, sorry. We wanted to give you a couple of visuals of the pamphlets the Opposition were highlighting in Question Time today.
Here's the one Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer referred to.
What surplus? Photo: Andrew Meares
Will no-one think of the children?
The Prime Minister has a new social media avatar.
Unleash the meta.
Extra disaster assistance for severely flood affected communities is now available. ow.ly/hsryB TeamJG— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) February 6, 2013
Eddie who? By Stephen Conroy.
Just a note from the red place.
During Question Time, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy was asked about Eddie and the ski-lodge.
His response for the record?
"I am such a close friend of Mr Eddie Obeid that he couldn't even remember my name yesterday. I am so close to Mr Obeid that he actually got my name wrong, he actually named someone else."
(Mr Obeid thought he had invited another Victorian, Bill Shorten. Senator Conroy said he was invited to Chez Obeid by Tony Burke. Picture by Alex Ellinghausen.)
Peta Credlin, Chief of Staff to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, during Question Time.
Not sure whether this is a reflection on the performance of the boss in Question Time today - surely not - but Peta Credlin looks less than impressed doesn't she?
Ms Credlin is chief of staff to Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
She's been known to particpate actively in the Question Time to-and-fro.
Alex Ellinghausen puts you on the spot.
Minister Jason Clare is currently introducing the Anti-Dumping Commission.
The government is doubling the number of anti-dumping investigators. Procedures will be more transparent. Thou shalt not dump.
Peter Slipper greeting Hawke #qt I imagine you'll see that photo shortly— Bernard Keane (@BernardKeane) February 6, 2013
Former Speaker Peter Slipper with former PM Bob Hawke. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Member for Wentworth has the call.
Malcolm Turnbull has a question about the national broadband network to Prime Minister Gillard. Do you stand by the government's claim that wholesale prices will come down?
Ms Gillard begins to respond.
But Mr Turnbull has a point of order. Could the Prime Minister answer my simple question about retail pricing?
(Wasn't it wholesale pricing Malcolm?)
Perhaps I misheard ..
Speak up Wayne.
Jill Saunders: What was that Wayne? Jobs and growth? Photo: Andrew Meares
Victorian Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer has a prop.
And a question. Given the surplus has vanished, can the Treasurer tell us what the deficit will be?
"When the facts change, so do the actions of responsible governments. We will always take the balanced decision to support jobs and growth."
Keep it down Hawkie! Photo: Andrew Meares
"In our bones, in our DNA, is jobs and growth," declares the Treasurer Wayne Swan, with a swipe to the "cranks and crazies of the Tea Party" now running the once great Australian Liberal Party.
Shadow finance spokesman Andrew Robb is unmoved. He wants to know why Chile has a surplus and Australia does not.
Victorian Liberal Tony Smith is trying to table more pamphlets from Labor folks referring to a surplus that wasn't actually delivered.
No, no, no, no, no, no and no, says Mr Albanese.
Former prime minister to former prime minister.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd greets former prime minister Bob Hawke with his personal assistant Jill Saunders at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie is worried about the super trawler. Environment Minister Tony Burke gets a question.
Mr Burke says he has written to the operators of the super trawler and reserves his right to make new declarations if something fishy is going on.
(Sorry, I know it's serious. Couldn't help it. Pulsers will remember the issue of the supertrawler depleting Australian fishing stocks blew up as a political furore last year.)
Mr Hockey would like to table the document.
Manager of government business Anthony Albanese would like Mr Hockey not to table the document.
Mr Hockey now to Treasurer Wayne Swan. Mr Hockey says he has a pamphlet distributed in Mr Swan's Queensland electorate welcoming the delivery of a surplus. (The surplus didn't happen, obviously.) Will you apologise to your constituents for lying?
The latter part of the question is ruled out of order.
"This government makes absolutely no apology for putting Australian jobs and Australian growth first."
Liberal backbencher Wyatt Roy, who sought an audience with Mr Hawke.
Bob Hawke sitting on the floor of Parliament, @joehockey reminded the house he was the last Labor PM to deliver a budget surplus 1989-90— Wyatt Roy MP (@Wyatt_Roy_MP) February 6, 2013
Wyatt Roy talks with former PM Bob Hawke in Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
The first Dorothy Dixer today from Labor is on closing the gap.
The Prime Minister says the government is not "starry eyed" about progress to date, reported to parliament this morning. The problems remain huge.
Ms Gillard is "gravely concerned" that the Northern Territory Government is winding back alcohol restrictions. She says Indigenous Minister Jenny Macklin has today written to the Chief Minister of the NT.
Speaker Anna Burke meanwhile pauses to welcome Mr Hawke to the chamber.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, on his feet with a question, concurs with Speaker Burke.
Mr Hockey welcomes the "last Labor Prime Minister to deliver a surplus" back to his old stamping ground.
Labor MPs lining up to pay homage to Bob Hawke on floor of #qt— Stephanie Peatling (@srpeatling) February 6, 2013
Righto. Here is Question Time.
Mr Abbott opens today, as he did yesterday, on the economic management theme.
The Prime Minister says the tax to GDP ratio is lower than it was under the Howard Government.
I suspect there will be another outbreak of jobs and growth shortly.
Ah there it was. "Jobs, opportunity and growth."
I've been trying to get through today ignoring a shouting match about birthday cakes that has erupted around parliament, believe it or not.
A report in The Daily Telegraph this morning blasted the Gillard Government for implementing new guidelines "taking the nanny state to new heights." This concerns the blowing out of candles on communal birthday cakes and making children wash their hands before and after a play in the sandpit.
Labor retorts these are in fact Tony Abbott's guidelines from when he was health minister. So if anyone is responsible for the rise of the nanny state it is the Opposition leader.
Some days, ear plugs are the only option.
Parliament considers a meaningful, important debate on closing the gap - and on the sidelines, a circus about nothing.
Now I don't want to report as fact the Prime Minister had a mental blank about pentagons when chatting with the gorgeous young lady from Alex Ellinghausen's picture in the last post.
But I suspect she did. The Prime Minister covered the brief lapse by looking to America.
After a bit of uncertainty about the name of the pink plastic shape, Ms Gillard told her young friend you could remember pentagons by "thinking about a very important building in the United States that they made in that shape."
Something in that for all of us I reckon.
Now Pulsers, who knows what this shape is?
(I had a mental blank.)
Of course I know what shape this is. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
A question to Mr Oliver about foreign workers.
This is a very vexed issue for the Gillard Government.
Mr Oliver declares that it's a lazy management option to bring in temporary workers - companies should train locals.
But the mining industry - and other employers - want to reserve the right to bring in temporary workers if that is the best option for their business. Labor is wedged between two powerful interest groups in this debate: the industrial base, and big business.
And then there is the man in the hat - Bob Katter.
Bob Katter is intent on causing trouble for Labor on this issue: he has his eye on votes from blue collar workers, and of course, potential donations from the trade union movement.
Mr Katter is fiercely opposed to temporary foreign workers. He's been campaigning on this issue, largely below the radar thus far. A very simple message - keep the foreigners and their low-wage set-up out - not the nuanced message Labor is trying to run.
Mr Katter's activity is a problem for Labor, which wants to improve its vote in Queensland in 2013.
Mr Oliver is asked who is best to take the fight to Mr Abbott, Ms Gillard or the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The ACTU boss responds thus:
"We are on the record. The current Gillard Government has been good for workers."
(The diplomat's answer, wouldn't you say?)
How about that Health Services Union debacle?
Mr Oliver speaks generally first. He says the union movement made a strategic mistake after the Your Rights at Work campaign in 2007. It moved on from campaigning to transactions. Now it must resume a campaign posture again.
Then specifically. He makes no defence of HSU or other officials. Union members have the right to expect the best governance standards that there are. But the union movement, he contends, is bigger than scandals and Craig Thomson. "It's an isolated incident. Hopefully it will not happen again."
From the sidelines, a comment from Ian Hanke.
Ian Hanke was media adviser to Peter Reith - John Howard's industrial relations minister who took on the wharfies in the late 1990s.
Mr Hanke is still active in campaigning for labour market deregulation.
Strangely defensive speech by Dave Oliver at the #npc today. Also very reactionay vis penalty rates/weekend and scaual work.— Ian Hanke (@IanHanke) February 6, 2013
Mr Oliver poses the following questions to the Opposition leader: will you protect rights and conditions; what is your plan for the car industry; will you allow more foreign workers; will you support collective bargaining and unfair dismissal protections; and will you disclose how many public sector jobs will go if you win the election?
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver addresses the National Press Club. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
Mr Oliver is outlining what he says workers want from Canberra at the next election.
"Our political leaders need to know what people will be voting on."
He says the union movement made a big impact in the election in 2007 (that was the poll John Howard lost) because workers stood together. "This was not about big advertising dollars. It was about two million members," Mr Oliver says.
(The Pulse Live: I think it was a bit about the advertising dollars too, just quietly.)
Mr Abbott is out now trying to reinvent himself, Mr Oliver says. We know there is a lot at stake in this election.
Mr Oliver says the union movement will mobilise for the next eight months. The rights of working people must be protected.
Let's cross now to the National Press Club. ACTU secretary Dave Oliver is today's guest. Mr Oliver is outlining the union movement's objectives for 2013.
Mr Oliver is arguing that John Howard overturned co-operation between labour and corporations and fostered industrial conflict. This was a deliberate strategy that cost Australian industry at a critical time in our economic history.
"So began a decade of missed opportunity."
(One senses a homily coming about the risks of an Abbott Government.)
Self publishing. A case study.
I've written in the past about renewed efforts by politicians to by-pass the mainstream media in order to spread their message. Technology gives all political parties many options: social media, YouTube, blogs .. take your pick. Any politician these days can be master of their message without the filter of a journalist to clutter things up.
Have a look at this outing from shadow treasury spokesman Joe Hockey. This follows up his Question Time efforts from yesterday on Labor and the surplus.
Very interested in thoughts from Pulsers on this trend.
Fair cop? Propaganda? What say you all?
Just in, from the desk of Rupert Murdoch.
Chinese still hacking us, or were over weekend.— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) February 6, 2013
Closing the gap.
If you missed the debate earlier, do yourself a favour. Catch some video highlights, thanks to Chris Hammer.
Mr Burke, inquires Mark Riley from the Seven Network, did you ever have any concerns about Mr Obeid - the way he did business. If you did have concerns, didn't you have an obligation to raise them?
Mr Burke says he did not have concerns about Mr Obeid, who was not in fact that powerful or influential.
Back to the ski-lodge.
Why did you do this?
If you have people you know who have a place, sometimes you go there.
Environment minister Tony Burke. Photo: Andrew Meares
Mr Hawke has exited stage right.
Mr Burke is copping a grilling on "Eddie who" and the ski lodge.
He suggests he has no regrets on accepting hospitality from Mr Obeid. Mr Burke says Mr Obeid has never lobbied him on a policy issue. Mr Burke says he's never been to an Obeid beach house.
Ok then, how about Kevin Rudd. Should the government make better use of him?
Mr Burke says he thought Mr Rudd was great on the Seven Network on the Sunrise program last week.
Completely helpful to the government.
Charisma alert. Photo: Andrew Meares
Bob Hawke is speaking to the media after his visit to the House this morning.
He's with the Environment Minister Tony Burke. Mr Hawke says he has full confidence in Mr Burke and the government. (This of course concerns Eddie who and the ski-lodge.)
Mr Hawke is asked about Prime Ministerial authority. Has Julia Gillard got it?
She's demonstrated a capacity to make tough decisions.
What does that mean?
Mr Hawke nominates the Prime Minister setting the election date and her captain's pick of Nova Peris for the Northern Territory senate.
They were tough decisions.
Meanwhile, in Melbourne.
With his wife Zoe by his side, former federal Labor MP Craig Thomson has this morning faced a Melbourne court to be formally charged with 154 fraud offences, including allegations he used his union credit card to pay for prostitutes.
Mr Thomson, 48, who is now sitting as an independent in Parliament, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a brief filing hearing on the charges.
He was arrested last Thursday at his NSW Central Coast office and charged with fraud and theft offences relating to the alleged misuse of entitlements when he was national secretary of the Health Services Union.
Read Mark Russell's news story here.
Craig Thomson rubbishes fraud case outside court
Independent MP Craig Thomson accuses police of being unable to produce witnesses to support 154 fraud charges against him.PT1M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dxpc 620 349 February 6, 2013
Well that was terrific wasn't it?
Thoughtful, authentic speeches by both the leaders.
Reasons to suspend cynicism.
Here's Kevin Rudd - he of the apology - watching on.
Kevin Rudd during the closing the gap statement. Photo: Andrew Meares
There is a new spirit in this land. There is a new spirit that reaches out to embrace indigenous people in this country.
This is very different from when the Prime Minister and I were young.
The Opposition leader pays tribute to his friend Noel Pearson; to business leaders who are rolling up their sleeves on indigenous disadvantage.
Mr Abbott says he can bear witness to progress in schools in Cape York.
He says if elected to high office, he will make good his promise to spend time in remote communities. Public servants, he says, should do likewise.
Mr Abbott says the test of progress is not the laws we pass, the money we spend, the programs we implement - it's whether children are at school and adults are at work.
Real change does not happen in this building although it may start here.
Real change happens in all the places Australians live.
Our lives should be ours to make. Noel Pearson's cry: our right to take responsibility, should echo around this chamber.
It should always be at the forefront of our mind as we consider how to make out country whole.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott responds to the Closing the Gap statement. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott is on his feet now.
Mr Abbott says Paul Keating was right about indigenous disadvantage.
But doing right by indigenous Australians is not a Labor issue or a Liberal issue. The Coalition has a proud record on reconciliation, he says. Apologies are important, but so is progress.
Mr Abbott welcomes Ms Gillard's candour in this closing the gap report. There has been progress, and there has been slippage.
He backs Ms Gillard's stern reprimand to the Northern Territory government over winding back alcohol restrictions. I share the Prime Minister's concern, Mr Abbott says.
He says it is easy to spend money, but harder to get results.
Are the children at school and is the ordinary law of the land being enforced?
Ms Gillard is now making the case to recognise indigenous people in the Constitution.
I believe that constitutional recognition is fundamental to the process of Reconciliation so that all Australians can feel pride in our Indigenous heritage and understand its centrality in our national story.
Without it, that story will remain incomplete and the soul of our nation will remain unhealed.
But she says that task will not be easy.
I am determined that the referendum will be held only when the nation is ready.
Now here is the expected warning to state and territory governments currently intent on winding back some of their alcohol restrictions.
The Prime Minister warns that Canberra will take action in response to any irresponsible policy changes that threaten to forfeit our hard-won gains.
Today I call on the Country Liberal Party to reinstate the Banned Drinkers Register, immediately. I call on the Liberal National Party to exercise extreme caution in reviewing remote community alcohol restrictions in Queensland, too.
Every Australian who puts the interests of Indigenous children first and the alcohol industry second will support this call. Let's always remember, closing the gap is not inevitable.
Keeping it closed is not inevitable either.
We must guard our gains and never allow a backward step.
Ms Gillard says the picture is less promising in literacy and numeracy. This, she says, is a source of personal disappointment.
Year 3 Reading actually declined in 2012 after improving between 2008 and 2011. Overall, only three out of eight indicators in reading and numeracy are tracking as expected and the other five will need considerable work.
So NAPLAN will continue to challenge us with its annual output of hard, clinical data. I cannot conceal that these literacy and numeracy results are a source of personal disappointment.
Last year's optimism gives way this year to a starker realism.
Encouraging progress is also being made on two other closing the gap targets. In 2008 the nation set itself the challenge of halving the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020. In 2006, just 47 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 20 and 24 had a Year 12 or equivalent qualification.
In the 2011 Census that had risen to 54 per cent, a level of progress that puts us ahead of schedule to meet our closing the gap target. Yet compared to the 86 per cent rate in the non-Indigenous population, it's clear that substantial further improvements will be needed if our target is to be met in 2020.
Another closing the gap target is now also within sight. In 2008 leaders pledged to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade. I can report that real progress is being made and, if current trends continue, our target will be met.
This is a precious human achievement.
Babies will live who might have died.
Infants will thrive who once would not.
And the tragic reality of Indigenous children dying before their fifth birthday at twice the rate of other Australians will become a sad relic of history.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivers the Closing the Gap statement in the House of Representatives.
Speaker, this is the fifth such Statement since the task began in 2008.
Already we know that some targets, like life expectancy, will be enormously challenging to meet, even with almost two decades still to run.
On others, progress has been encouragingly swift.
Across the board, our sources of data and information are stronger than ever before.
The report I make today is especially significant because this year, the very first of the target deadlines established five years ago falls due.
In 2008 we pledged to deliver access to early childhood education to all four-year-olds in remote communities within five years.
Well, the five years are up.
I'm proud to say – we've got it done.
This target is on track and will be met on schedule.
Here is the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, presenting the closing the gap statement.
Ms Gillard is outlining Labor's record on indigenous affairs.
Speaker, closing the gap is a plan of unprecedented scale and ambition.
Ms Gillard says some of the targets will be enormously challenging to meet.
Don't forget to get involved in today's conversation.
Comment here on the blog, I'll try and get back to at least some of you! Or if you tweet, add the hashtag #thepulselive
Craig .. who?
Eddie .. who?
The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has her eye resolutely on closing the gap, as you can see. Pulse Live photographer Alex Ellinghausen was there.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard hosts a morning tea for Closing the Gap representatives at Parliament House.
It's also Craig day.
Reporters are on the scene in Melbourne waiting for the former Labor MP Craig Thomson's first court appearance on matters relating to his time running the Health Services Union.
The Australian Financial Review's Mark Skulley tweets thus.
In melb mag courtwaiting for Craig Thomson - first matter is bloke representing himself on charge of failing to give way— Mark Skulley (@MarkSkulley) February 5, 2013
More of ski lodges and the like shortly. We need to transit over to the House of Representatives for a moment or two.
Mr Burke is on his feet speaking of portfolio matters - the Kakadu National Park.
Watching on from the floor of the chamber is former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who pursued World Heritage listing for the park.
Hawke in da House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Eddie who? Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
Good morning Pulsers and welcome.
The political day in Canberra will begin officially shortly with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, delivering the annual report on closing the gap.
You can read Michael Gordon's news preview here.
The morning news cycle is pre-occupied with ski lodges: which senior federal Labor ministers stayed in The Stables, a three bedroom ski lodge owned by the Obeid family.
Environment Minister Tony Burke and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (pictured) have hit the airwaves early.
Eddie .. who?
HOST: Tony Burke are you a friend of Eddie Obeid?
MR BURKE: We were in the same parliament.