Federal Politics

Politics Live: July 16, 2014

Battle of the scare campaign

Old scare campaigns about the Commission of Audit and the carbon tax were refreshed in question time on Wednesday.

So it is time we headed for the Canberran hills, where we will spend a sleepless night, wondering how long the Senate will sit this week.

But before that, what did we learn?

 

We will see you tomorrow. Bright, early and packing a sleeping bag ... just in case.

 

 

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in question time on Wednesday: Photo: Andrew Taylor.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott in question time on Wednesday: Photo: Andrew Taylor. 

The House inches towards a final result on the PBS bill to increase the price of drugs.

There will be no problems passing it, given the government's majority.

In the meantime, Labor is unhappy about the amount of time for debate on this today and says the government - via Health Minister Peter Dutton - has not even tried to answer its questions in the House (deja vu, non?)

In the Senate, there is debate on a Migration Amendment (not the carbon tax).

Just back on James McGrath for a moment, we should note that the new Senator also thinks that Triple J should be sold.

Sell Triple J, says Senator

The left wants to build "gulags for words and thoughts" says Senator James McGrath in his maiden speech.

Canavan - who has three children and a fourth on the way - says it is "rubbish" to say that paid work is more important than a home life.

Or staying home to look after the kids, as his wife does.

 

Senator Matthew Canavan is congratulated by Senator James McGrath after delivering his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Matthew Canavan is congratulated by Senator James McGrath after delivering his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

As an economist, Canavan talks of the importance of bringing down the cost of doing business.

He calls for a new national productivity agenda.

And he praises fossil fuels for making human existence more luxurious.

Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 
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"Barnaby is someone who dreams with open eyes," Canavan says of his former boss.

Joyce - who has now gone to the lower house - has come back to the Senate to hear Canavan's speech.

 

Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

McGrath is followed by a second Queensland LNP senator.

Matthew Canavan says it is a privilege to follow his "great friend".

Canavan was chief-of-staff to Barnaby Joyce until last year.

He is also a former KPMG executive and Productivity Commission director.

Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator Matthew Canavan delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

McGrath says that he likes the ABC but is no fan of its "leftist" "inner city" bias.

He adds that unless it makes inroads to "restore" the balance, it should be sold and replaced with a regional and rural broadcasting service.

In a defence of free speech, he says that people have the right to make homophobic comments (he does not agree with those views, but that's democracy).

I wonder what Penny Wong would make of that?

 

 

Senator James McGrath is congratulated by Senator Cory Bernardi after delivering his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator James McGrath is congratulated by Senator Cory Bernardi after delivering his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

McGrath tells the Senate that he has made mistakes in his career.

He helped Boris Johnson get elected in 2008 but was later sacked for an allegedly racist comment.

 

Senator James McGrath delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator James McGrath delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

New LNP senator James McGrath is giving his first speech in the Senate.

He says his life has been about "confiscating" power from the government and giving it back to the people.

And that he comes from the "great blancmange" that is the Australian middle class.

He also started the "Capitalist Club" at high school.

Senator James McGrath delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senator James McGrath delivers his first speech. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 
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In the House, the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is being debated.

As part of the budget, this amends the National Health Act 1953 (the Act) to "increase patient co-payments and safety net thresholds for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS)".

From January 2015, the general patient co-payment will increase by $5.00.

For concession holders, it will increase by 80 cents.

 

The upper house has found the time, however, to agree to a motion moved by Greens Senator Larissa Waters on Wicked Campers (a campervan hire company in Australia that has come under fire for the slogans on their vans):

1. The Senate notes the litany of sexist, misogynistic, and racist slogans which have been used by Wicked Campers on their hire vans including:

  • “In every princess, there’s a little slut who wants to try it just once”
  • “Fat chicks are harder to kidnap”
  • “Save a whale … harpoon a Jap”
  • “Women are like banks – once you withdraw you lose interest”
  • “A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done”

2. The Senate condemns the use of such slogans and calls on Wicked Campers to remove slogans which are sexist, misogynistic, or racist from their vans.

Manager of government business Mitch Fifield said that while the government supported the motivation behind the motion, the Coalition was "disappointed by the explicit language in the motion".

"We do believe it could be presented to the Senate differently."

 

 

Just repeating an earlier message:

It looks very, very unlikely that the carbon tax will be repealed today.

Even if the Senate gets time to come back to the debate this evening, after first (maiden) speeches, the tabling of documents and committee reports ... there will not be enough time to go through all the divisions to get to a vote.

 

Before question time, and after the carbon tax repeal debate in the Senate, Penny Wong spoke on a matter of public interest (where Senators can pick their own topic).

Wong was inspired by two sporting-related events at the weekend.

Ian Thorpe's interview with Parky.

And Channel Seven commentator Brian Taylor calling Geelong AFL player Harry Taylor "a big poofter".

Wong told the Senate she was "moved" by Thorpe coming out and "angered" by Taylor's comments.

"Homophobia is never acceptable," she said.

And she hit out at those who think that comments like Taylor's are a bit of a joke. And that people should not be so thin-skinned.

"It isn't a joke to be on the receiving end of words like poofter. Or many other words like it ...

"It's no joke to live with the fear of being rejected, or vilified or persecuted because of who you are ...

"It isn't a laugh to a young person growing up, working out who they are, surrounded by an atmosphere of hostility."

 

Homophobia is never a joke: Wong

Labor Senator Penny Wong praises Ian Thorpe, and takes aim at football commentator Brian Taylor.

There is movement at the Senate committee front.

Matthew Knott reports that the Abbott government is set to dissolve a Senate committee scrutinising the NBN and replace it with a committee that monitors the rollout of the NBN but is dominated by Coalition members.

The current committee, established after the last election, has three Coalition senators, three Labor senators and one Greens senator.

The new committee would have five Coalition members, three Labor members and one minor party member.

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Some recommended reading for your afternoon:

Jacqueline Maley on Clive Palmer.

And that habit he has of calling female journalists "madam" and "my dear".

That and the reports he bullied Clerk of the Senate, Rosemary Laing.

Does Palmer have a woman problem?

Rose Powell also reports on the death.

It is understood the soldier was 44 and on a survival training exercise.

Just before the finish of question time, the Department of Defence released a statement about the soldier reported to have died in New Zealand:

Defence can confirm that an Australian soldier has died during a training activity in Mount Cook, New Zealand on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at approximately 1pm (NZ local time).

As the situation is developing, Defence is unable to release any further detail of the incident at this time.

Defence will provide updates in due course.

And ah, a bit of awkwardness here for Labor.

Chris Bowen was due to lead a Matter of Public Importance debate in the House.

But he has just been kicked out for an hour during QT.

Tony Burke requests that Bowen be allowed back in.

Madam Speaker says no.

"On that basis ... the MPI is withdrawn," Burke replies.

 

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen leaves under 94a during question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen leaves under 94a during question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

With this, Tony Abbott calls an end to question time.

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