Federal Politics

Politics Live: June 4, 2014

With that, it is time we ventured homewards to wonder if our own houses could be used as a ballet school.

But before that, what did we learn today?

 

Alex Ellinghausen and I will see you tomorrow.

Until then, remember, it's not good enough just to have slogans. You need arguments too.

(Someone should make a slogan out of that.)

 

 

 

Treasurer Joe Hockey has been addressing the nation from the Blue Room at parliament, in front of banners advertising "Australia's Economic Action Strategy".

He disagrees with Wayne Swan's analysis of the GDP figures

"We have a very solid foundation for future growth," Hockey says.

"But, as I've said on many occasions, future growth must be earned and these national accounts prove that our Economic Action Strategy is absolutely right."

In response to questions, he says that the government's budget forecasts are still "exactly right".

 

Estimates again continues late into the evening.

DFAT, Education, Treasury and Social Services will all be answering things and taking other things on notice.

It's a scrutiny smorgasbord.

The Foreign Affairs committe today has been exercised by the overseas travel of not current, but former PMs.

In a response to a question on notice, we have learned that since last December, Kevin Rudd has asked Australia's overseas posts for help (on things like airport transportation, advice and company at meetings) eleven times.

This, the Coalition argues, is a surprisingly high number.

Or, as Liberal Senator Sean Edwards said: "it's taking the proverbial".

Is this because the forme PM is angling for a job with the UN?

We should note that Julia Gillard has also been asking for diplomatic help.

Since last December, she has asked for assistance six times, including airport help, country briefings and company at "high-level" meetings.

Malcolm Fraser has asked twice and John Howard has asked once.

 

Can we point we point you to a a story about the Australian Ballet School's budget win?

Fairfax Media reported today that $1 million from the May budget allowed the school to buy a $4.7 million Melbourne mansion as its new residence.

The school's chair Leigh Johns says the mansion is part of the institution's "duty of care" to students.

Here's a pic of Arts Minister George Brandis standing in front of the "sold" sign.

 

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Parkinson tells the estimates committee that there is a "reality gap" in the Australian economic debate.

He says that he and Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens have both argued that government spending needs to be cut.

"It's actually in the hands of the political class."

(AKA, what more can I say?)

Liberal senator and "pipe bomb" carrier Bill Heffernan is now asking Parkinson questions about the sharing of tax information.

During this, the Heff is pulled up for saying "bloody"

When he asks why, he is told it is "unparliamentary".

"Bloody hell," says the man who has been a senator since 1996.

Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson is appearing before the Economics Committee.

But he is not being asked about the GDP figures or the budget.

He is being asked about that dinner at Wild Duck last week.

Parkinson tells Penny Wong that the food had been ordered for four people (Turnbull, ParkinsonLiberal Party's vice-president Tom Harley and businessman John Fast) last week, before Palmer showed up.

He was also sitting at the other end of the table to Palmer.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is not happy about the topic.

"I'd love it if you asked some questions about the budget."

(I am getting deja vu here about Wong's complaints about the Bob Carr Diary questions earlier today.)

Treasury Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson and Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann during estimates. Photo: Alex ...
Treasury Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson and Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann during estimates. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

After watching out for Morrison, Turnbull has done an interview with 2GB Radio in Sydney.

Here, he told Ben Fordham that he had dinner with Tony Abbott in Canberra on Sunday.

"Tony and I are very close. We talk a lot on a range of issues," the Communications Minister said.

He also said that the Prime Minister "is completely secure in his position".

When pressed by Fordham, Turnbull acknowledged that people did stop him in the street, suggesting he should be leader.

Turnbull said he thanks them but declines the idea.

The Coalition is a team and there is not a "cigarette paper" of difference between Turnbull and the PM.

 

I'm not sure what they were worried about. 

Yes, Ewen Jones has been thrown out twice, but Coalition bootings are still a statistically rare event.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison during question time. Photo: Alex ...
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison during question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 
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They say that in politics you always have to watch your back.

But here's an example of the backwatching being shared.

During QT, Scott Morrison's heckles caught the eye of Madam Speaker.

But then this caught Malcolm Turnbull's eye, who stepped in to warn his colleague.

 

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

Last night's Australian Mint appearance before estimates yielded some tres interesting insights about money.

Did you know that demand for coins is declining?

And that there is a proposal for a review into the "coin array" for Australia, which will look at the 5 cents?

In fact it costs 6 cents to produce a 5 cent coin!

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has decreed this to be "not sensible".

Also not sensible is the number of coins that disappear every year.

Some 255 million coins are lost each year, with a value of about $110 million.

So look down the back of the couch, Australia!

Dan Harrison has been watching the Department of Social Services appear before the Community Affairs committee.

He reports that Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, has provided an update on the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

And the Minister has a good story to tell.

Fifield said in the third quarter of the scheme's operation, the average cost of support packages had been brought down to $35,000 which was the amount budgeted for.

(In the first quarter of the scheme, the average package cost was 30 per cent higher than budgeted for, fuelling fears of a cost blowout. In the second quarter, average package costs fell, but were still 15 per cent higher than budgeted.)

Fifield also said the National Disability Insurance Agency had lifted its game in bringing people into the scheme. In the first and second quarters, the numbers of people getting support was only about half the targets. But by the end of the third quarter, the scheme had 6861 participants, about 80 per cent of its target.

"I do want to place on record my admiration for the staff of the agency for the incredible effort they’ve put in, not only in getting the trial sites up and running, but also for keeping a weather eye to the sustainability of the scheme and to delivering the scheme within the funding envelope that’s been agreed between all jurisdictions," he said.

 

What a difference a day makes.

Clive Palmer has written to Peta Credlin to say it was a "matter of great regret" if his words "caused her any personal anguish" on paid parental leave.

He is in Brisbane today (yep, we know, parliament is happening in Canberra).

Palmer says he sent the letter yesterday at 9am.

But he is sticking by his PPL critique.

He argues he is standing up for stay-at-home mothers.

"I said [Credlin] was eligible if she got pregnant. And what I was saying was because she is an outstanding woman who gets a high salary. She would be eligible."

 

At 3.10pm, Warren Truss brings an end to question time.

 

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Peter Dutton has been dixered on Medicare.

This sees him come back again to call Jenny Macklin the mother of the co-payment.

Macklin jumps up draw Madam Speaker to the fact she has already denied she ever supported a co-payment.

"Under the statement I made earlier today, there is no cause for intervention. The Minister has the call," Bishop replies.

Macklin can make (another) personal explanation later if she likes, to dispute Dutton's claim.

It is efficiency at work.

Not.

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Health Minister Peter Dutton during QT. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Health Minister Peter Dutton during QT. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

Its 3pm, so about time the government talks about frontbencher and former academic Andrew Leigh.

Malcolm Turnbull has been asked about the NBN.

The Communications Minister talks about "Conrovian electrodes" involved in converting Leigh's opinions [on some issues] from pro-Coalition to pro-Labor ones.

"Can you imagine the thought reform the member for Fraser has had?" Turnbull says. 

"It is very hard to force somebody who is highly intelligent to be stupid all the time."

Turnbull reckons that Labor must be saying: "if only we had got him from the AWU, not the ANU".

We should also note that a dixer to Scott Morrison about Operation Sovereign Borders just now was too much for Labor shadow Richard Marles.

He has been kicked out.

Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles leaves the chamber. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles leaves the chamber. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

As Warren Truss answers a question about the federal budget and cuts in the Queensland budget, Gareth Hutchens reports on a decision from the Fair Work Commission:

The FWC has decided to lift the minimum wage by $18.70 a week for Australia's lowest paid workers.

The decision will affect over 1.5 million employees who are reliant upon award rates of pay or the national minimum wage.

It means full-time workers who currently receive about $622 a week will see their pay increase to $640.90.

It also means the national minimum wage will rise by 3 per cent.

"Over the past five years, the rate of growth in average earnings and bargained rates of pay have outstripped the growth in minimum wages for award-reliant workers," Commission president Justice Iain Ross has said today.

"This has reduced the relative living standards of award-reliant workers."

Last year the minimum wage rose by $15.80 a week.

 

After another Bowen to Hockey number on the PEFO, we have a dixer to Christopher Pyne about education.

Will the Minister inform the House how the government's higher education reforms will fairly share the cost of tuition fees for education between the tax payers of Australia and students, in regional Australia ...?

Pyne says that the government is reforming higher education in Australia so "young people from all walks of life will get the opportunity to go to university".

Another question to Pyne - from Labor's Clare O'Neil about how many members of the Coalition cabinet were beneficiaries of a free or manageable HECS education - proves a little rowdier.

He quotes Paul Keating saying there is no such thing as a free education.

And then notes that in the UK, where fees were deregulated, there are more students from poorer backgrounds studying.

"Get off your green left agenda and start standing up for students from low SES backgrounds like I am!"

Treasurer Joe Hockey during question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Treasurer Joe Hockey during question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 
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