Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke seeks to move a no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
It's that time of day where we head home to snuggle up with a copy of the House Practice and think about life.
Before we do, what did we learn?
- We're not likely to see a Sir John Howard any time soon;
- Or a Sir Malcolm;
- Tony Abbott has improved his view of Kim Beazley over the years;
- Bronwyn Bishop ain't afraid to name people; but
- Whatever you do, don't say "Madam Speaker";
Andrew Meares, Alex Ellinghausen and I will see you tomorrow morning for the swearing-in of the new Governor-General.
Now, an update on that "right-wing Kool-Aid drinker".
"Attorney-General George Brandis says cabinet made a collective decision to release an exposure draft on changes to race hate laws, but has not denied that he was forced by colleagues to water down his original proposal.
He has also played down suggestions that he was at loggerheads with Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs – who has criticised the government's proposed changes – and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, who disagreed with Senator Brandis's suggestion this week that people have the right to be bigoted ..."
The other Sir Tony has also written about the far-out scenes in Parliament this afternoon:
"For long moments, Bronwyn Bishop appeared so stone-still she might have been Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of salt as she gazed upon the frightful city of Sodom.
Madam Speaker, immeasurably offended, her lips pursed till they all but disappeared, was being accused of bias and incompetency so gross she was beyond redemption ..."
Some notices as we round the corner to home time.
Earlier this afternoon, we reported that the Senate had moved to disallow TPVs for a second time.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has issued a statement, arguing that Labor and the Greens have joined together to "fulfil the people smugglers' promise of permanent visas for illegal boat arrivals".
Describing the vote as "reckless," Morrison said the Coalition would not be providing permanent visas to "illegal boat arrivals".
Leaving Parliament, Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has called on Bronwyn Bishop to stand down.
"It would be better for the Parliament if she did."
Thomson suggests Deputy Speaker Bruce Scott should sit in her place.
For his part, the Nationals MP had no comment.
He called for a "little bit of love" in the House instead.
On days like this I can't help but feel like I've got the safest seat in the House.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott during Question Time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Don't think we're not joking about moving this no-confidence motion. Even though we're about 35 seats away from a majority.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during Question Time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
If I don't get a go in this no-confidence debate, I might pop.
Labor MP Anthony Albanese during Question Time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
If I don't laugh, I might cry.
Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke during Question Time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Don't worry Abbs, I've got this one under control.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott talks with Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
The house has adjourned until budget day.
The bells have rung and Madam Speaker has left the chamber.
You may be interested to remember back to November last year when Bishop was made Speaker.
Here, she made a point about how she would act impartially and uphold the traditions of the place.
If your heart is racing after Labor's attempt today to move a motion of no confidence in Bronwyn Bishop, there will be plenty of time for everyone to calm their farms.
From this evening, neither house of parliament will sit until budget day on May 13.
(With a six week break, you can fit in a lot of yoga and camomile tea.)
"That's the trouble with losing an election, you tend to lose your sense of humour."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott came outside Parliament House to meet cyclists from the Starlight Children's Foundation Tour de Kids in Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Tony Abbott has appeared outside Parliament for a Starlight Foundation event.
He is of course asked about question time this afternoon.
The PM begins by calling Labor's actions in the House "pretty juvenile".
But he argues Bronwyn Bishop has done "a very good job over the past six months".
"I think she is going to bring style and a touch of humour [to parliamentary proceedings]."
Why isn't Labor laughing?
"They have no sense of humour. And that's the trouble with losing an election, you tend to lose your sense of humour."
The PM also says MPs need to accept the Speaker's rulings so Parliament can function.
"I know what its like to be on the receiving end by tough treatment by the Speaker," the PM says, adding that he was once himself kicked out for calling Kim Beazley a "sanctimonious windbag".
"I happen to have a much higher opinion of Mr Beazley, now that he's our Ambassador in Washington."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott came outside Parliament House to meet cyclists from the Starlight Children's Foundation Tour de Kids on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
To give you a sense of how unusual it is to be named, Albo was named in the Federation Chamber (the main committee room) in March 2002 for refusing withdraw a comment about "lies" during the children over board affair.
In 1919, Labor MP Michael Considine was named and suspended for a whole week after he refused to withdraw expressions like calling the government "a gang of murdering thieves".
Other MPs are also expressing their views on QT just gone.
Refuge of the weak to blame the umpire. Labor leadership 'we wuz robbed' routine in QT a pathetic distraction from important issues #sooks— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) March 27, 2014
99 #qt ejections - but a Lib ain't one of them— Ed Husic (@edhusicMP) March 27, 2014
McGowan has taken to the Twits to defend her decision to vote in support of Madam Speaker.
I appreciate feedback on vote, supporting speaker was right call from my perspective. Democracy A&W in Indi, keep the twts coming #inditalks— Cathy McGowan (@Indigocathy) March 27, 2014
The government easily won the vote to "keep confidence in" Madam Speaker this afternoon, given their healthy majority.
But it is interesting to see where the crossbenchers ended up.
Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie voted with the government.
Adam Bandt voted with Labor.
Clive Palmer and Bob Katter did not vote.
If you'd like to relive the zaniness and dysfunction from this afternoon, here is a video, fresh from the House.
Labor targets Speaker Bronwyn Bishop
Question time dissolved into chaos on Thursday when the Opposition attempted to move a no confidence motion against the Speaker.PT4M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35kuc 620 349 March 27, 2014
All week in interviews and doorstops, Labor has been arguing that Bronwyn Bishop is not impartial enough.
For the government's part, people like Christopher Pyne and even the PM have been arguing that Labor is bullying Madam Speaker.
They have even used the "misogyny word".
Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke seeks to move a no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Yesterday during question time, Madam Speaker got really cranky with the Labor tactic of laughing loudly.
This saw Labor frontbencher Julie Collins kicked out. And did nothing to soothe the vibe in the Green Room.
As Matthew Knott reported earlier this week, on Wednesday, Labor put a motion on the notice paper about Speaker independence.
They have not done anything about it, but it has been sitting there (a little ominously).
The motion asks the House to endorse past statements by Coalition MPs, including the PM, on Speaker impartiality.
There has been consternation without Labor ranks that Bronwyn Bishop continues to sit in party room meetings.
And indeed, that she has even been reported to have contributed during political debates there.
This crazy question time did not come out of nowhere.
Even if it seemed like it.
Tensions have been rising and rising between Labor and Bronwyn Bishop.
How do you think that went?
Madam Speaker during question time on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
At 3.13pm, Tony Abbott draws an end to question time, but not before noting of Bill Shorten:
"If only he had the class of his mother-in-law."
(Yes, Albo protests and yes, the PM ends up withdrawing this.)
Prime Minister Tony Abbott departs question time on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Shorts then comes back to Abbs with a question.
Even John Howard believes that the PM's plan to play Knights and Dames is anachronistic.
Why won't the PM get his priorities right and focus on the people who have been losing their jobs since you got elected?
"The only people who are obsessing about honours are [the] members opposite," the PM replies.
"This is not the fifth term of the Howard government."
This question time is rowdier than rowdy.
A Dixer to Joe Hockey on the state of the budget breaks down when Madam Speaker rouses on Labor's Ed Husic.
"The member for Chifley will desist or leave, the choice is his. If you don't know the meaning of desist, look it up."
Labor protests, arguing this is a reflection on a member.
"If the member thought that meant he wasn't literate, I withdraw it," B-Bish replies.
Chris Bowen protests again. And things get shouty:
"Insults are sometimes traded in this house. They should never come from your chair. You should withdraw without reservation!"
(Madam Speaker rules that there is no point of order.)
What did Mark Dreyfus do after he was sent out?
He went back to his office to watch the motion of no confidence on the TVs there.
He tells The Pulse that all he said was "Madam Speaker!" in response to Bronwyn Bishop denying Tony Burke a point of order.
Dreyfus noted that B Bishop has been refusing the points of order from Burke (the senior Labor procedural person) "with great frequency".
The shadow attorney-general adds that there is no precedent in 113 years of federal parliament for naming someone for calling out "Madam Speaker" or "Mr Speaker".
He notes that it is a "very, very serious step" to name an MP.
This includes a crossbench question from Andrew Wilkie to the PM about the conditions for children detained on Christmas Island.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott returns to his seat after voting in a procedural division to deny the Opposition a no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares
The motion is voted down 83 noes to 51 ayes.
(And we should clarify that was the motion to suspend standing orders to then talk about the no confidence motion ...)
And we go back to question time.
MPs vote on a procedure division on Labor's no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares
The former Leader of the House says he is absolutely puzzled as to why Mark Dreyfus was kicked out.
He says he checked to see that Dreyfus didn't say Ma-dame Speaker (in a joke about dames).
"But there was not."
"What we see from those opposite and we see in this chamber every day is the born to rule mentality of those opposite ..."
The bells are then rung for a vote.
Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time in Parliament House Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Albo is up to second Tony Burke's motion.
"We all know that this is a position that you coveted for years and years.
How sad is it that having achieved this ambition you have chosen the low road of partisanship rather than the high road of independence that this office demands?"
Throughout, Bronwyn Bishop is maintaining a fierce exterior.
Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question. Photo: Andrew Meares
Pyne adds that he holds the record for "being ejected from this place".
(He sure does.)
"I never complained."
Pyne says it is appropriate that Dreyfus was kicked out.
"The member for Isaacs is a bully and an aggressive one at that."
The Leader of the House then points out, "I am no sook."
Leader of the House - and big Bronnie fan - Christopher Pyne rises to speak in defence of Madam Speaker.
"I rise to defend your position," he says.
He says that when it comes to the vote, the government will regard it as a vote of confidence in the Speaker, not against her.
He promptly labels Burke's work a stunt.
"If I stand to raise a point of order, you wait until the minister has completed before you hear the point of order," Burke further complains.
"Australia knows bias when they see it."
"You're effective as a warrior for the Liberal Party, but that is not the job you chose to take on ... the parliament deserves more than that. And the parliament cannot have confidence in a Speaker who refuses to be impartial."
Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
"It is acknowledged on both sides of this house and throughout the country that you are a formidable parliamentarian. That is acknowledged.
It is acknowledged that for the entire time in Opposition and when you have sat on those benches, you have been one of the people who has been able to come to the despatch box and launch scathing and effective attacks on us as the Labor Party.
...But we cannot support you continuing to behave that way when you want to sit in the Speaker's chair," says the manager of opposition business.
Burke points out that "never before" in the history of the Commonwealth has someone been named for calling out "Madam Speaker".
Clearly he been preparing for this.
It is not just about today.
"We have spent months watching you laugh at every joke from the ministers at the expense of members of the opposition. But somehow that is an appropriate way to conduct the role..."
Tony Burke then begins a long and angry recitative against Madam Speaker.
"It's the impartiality of the way you do the job that is at issue," he says.
98 people have been thrown out "by you".
All were from Labor.
"No speaker [since] federation has a record like that."
Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke seeks to move a no confidence motion against Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
In response, Madam Speaker pointed out that Labor was as shemozzle during debates and divisions this morning.
"Earlier today the opposition called a division on a second reading speech because they only had one member in the house ..."
Pyne does not allow Burke to move the resolution against B-Bish and so the Manager of Opposition Business moves to suspend standing orders.
Immediately, Tony Burke gets up to move a resolution that he says has not been moved since the '40s.
"That the house has no further confidence" in the Speaker.
On the grounds that:
- in the discharge of her duties, she has revealed serious partiality in favour of government members;
- that she regards herself merely as an instrument of the Liberal Party;
- that she constantly fails to interpret correctly the standing orders of the House; and
- for gross incompetency in the administration of parliamentary procedure.
Kids, this is what they call high theatre.
The vote is ayes 82, noes 54.
Dreyfus kicked out for 24 hours.
Mark Dreyfus reacts as he was named by the Speaker during question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
If this vote is successful (and it will be based on the majority the government enjoys), Dreyfus will be kicked out for the rest of the day.
There is confusion on the Labor benches about why Dreyfus has been treated so.
As one MP just texted in, all they heard MD say was "Madam Speaker".
"Then the bullet!"
BS lobs another "twisted priorities" number TA's way.
But before he can answer, Mark Dreyfus is "named" by Madam Speaker.
It leads Christopher Pyne to "move that the member be excused from the service of the House".
A vote is now underway on this very question.
Mark Dreyfus "trembles" after he was named by the Speaker during question time in Parliament House Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
"I call the honourable member for ... Wannon."
(Madam Speaker needs a bit of help to remember Liberal MP Dan Tehan's electorate for the next Dixer)
It is a real cupcake of a question when it comes.
Would the Treasurer outline the government's plans to grow the economy and create jobs?
"Our plans are clear," comes the answer.
"We're going to fix the mess. Tough decisions will have to be made."
Next up is Chris Bowen to Joe Hockey.
I refer the Treasurer to his statement in the House, that if you get on with the job of fixing the budget, you have a chance of fixing the economy.
Why then has the Treasurer's budget priority been to double the deficit by adding $68 billion in new spending and changed economic assumptions?
"I just want to deal head-on with this great fiction," Hocks begins.
There was no surplus, under Labor. Instead, there was a "legacy of debt and deficit".
"It wasn't just for the period they were in government. It is for as far as you can see in the years ahead."
The primo dixer is from Karen McNamara (Dobell) to the PM on how fixing the budget will strengthen the economy.
"They just don't get it, they just don't get it," TA says of the opposition.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott talks with Madam Speaker Bronwyn Bishop during question time in Parliament House Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
It's from Shorts to Abbs on "twisted budget priorities".
Your government's priority has been to abolish the national debt limit and double the deficit. That will add $68 billion for a new spending and changed economic assumptions.
PM, doesn't this demonstrate your government's short-sighted, twisted budget priorities?
But no, the PM replies.
Our priority is scrapping the carbon tax and the mining tax and boosting investment and family incomes.
And stopping the boats, and re-starting the ABCC
"Our priority is stopping the boats and it is working!"
The Senate has been alive and kicking today.
Immigration correspondent Sarah Whyte reports that for the second time, the Upper House has supported a motion to disallow temporary protection visas (which ban asylum seekers from applying for permanent visas).
This occured through the support of the Greens + Labor.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has labelled today's disallowance a "great win".
We wait to see what the government's response is.
(For anyone out there thinking that the Senate's two strikes = double dissolution time, the Senate has been disallowing a regulation, not a law - so no cigar.)
In other environmental news, SMH environment editor Peter Hannam writes that a Labor-led committee has put pressure on Bill Shorten and co. to boost the ALP's greenhouse emissions targets.
A six-member Senate committee examining the Coalition's Direct Action policy recommended the government "immediately adopt" minimum cuts of 19 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.
Both Labor and the Coalition are only committed to a 5 per cent cut.
This comes after the Climate Change Authority made a 19 per cent recommendation.
Greens leader Christine Milne said the inquiry puts the spotlight on both major parties' goals, particularly Labor's.
''This does start to put pressure on Labor to justify their inconsistent positions,'' she said.
''We need to find out whether this is Labor party policy or just that of its representatives on the committee.''
The House has moved on to discuss the government's Green Army bill.
As part of the Coalition's plan for environmental action, teams of ten "will be deployed across the country to help communities deliver local conservation outcomes".
It kicks of from July 1 2014.
Labor's Tony Zappia says the policy is "nothing but a farce".
This inches us closer to a trigger for a double dissolution.
But don't get too excited.
I reckon there's more chance that George Christensen will turn vegetarian than a DD.
The House has just voted to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, 82 votes to 53.
Andrew Leigh is a very prolific politician. He has written and edited four books, including Battlers and Billionaires last year.
His frontbench colleague Jenny Macklin has also just signed a book deal.
Following recent efforts from Chris Bowen and Kim Carr, Macklin has signed up to write about the social policy achievements of the Rudd and governments.
Books by Julia Gillard, Bob Carr and Greg Combet are also in the offing.
After everything that's happened, can you blame them from wanting some catharsis?
Leigh is also telling the NPC that inequality has risen dramatically in the last generation.
''To put this in stark terms: since 1975, real wages for the bottom tenth have risen 15 per cent, while wages for the top tenth have risen 59 per cent.
"Put another way, if cleaners and checkout operators had enjoyed the same rate of wage growth as financial dealers and anaesthetists, those low-wage workers would be earning an extra $14,000 a year."
Leigh, who is the member for Fraser in Canberra, says that the rise in relative inequality is driven from a number of sources, including advances in technology, globalisation and the decline of unions.
Andrew Leigh, assistant shadow treasurer, is speaking at the National Press Club.
He's talking about Australian egalitarianism and the threat it faces from rising inequality.
Gareth Hutchens tells us that one remark has just got a laugh:
"We're a country that happily dispensed with knighthoods a generation ago, and no sensible person would suggest that the land of 'mate' should become the kingdom of 'sir.'"
(There is no ban on laughing at the Press Club.)
Eleven aircraft and five ships are involved in the effort, which is split into two search areas.
Weather in the seach area is expected to deteriorate later today.
But Defence chief David Hurley remains upbeat.
Greens MP Adam Bandt adds his voice on the proposed CEFC abolition.
He argues that the Coalition is "living on a planet where apparently, global warming doesn't exist."
The CEFC debate is sure turning up some pearlers.
Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite has just called the proposed abolition "bad public policy at its best".
It will "guarantee" that we leave our kids and our environment "worse off".
We should perhaps point out that Labor and the Greens are opposing the abolition of the CEFC.
The body was set up by the Gillard government to help finance clean energy projects.
Liberal MP Jane Prentice is now on her feet, arguing that abolition of the CEFC will save millions.
"It is every day Australians who are footing the bill for the carbon tax."
In the House, the debate has moved back to the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Labor's climate change spokesman Mark Butler has spent a significant proportion of the last half hour complaining that there is only half an hour to debate the bill.
Last time the bill went through the lower house, it was as part of a package of 11 bills, so it did not get individual attention, he said.
The debate has now moved on to about an hour of "consideration in detail of the bill".
As the name suggests, this is to consider the text of the bill in detail. But proceedings are a bit more informal than the second reading stage.
We are expecting this part to go for about an hour, before a vote around 1pm.
And now, the very serious issue of laughing in the House.
Tony Wright writes on Madam Speaker's concerns about Labor using "infectious laughter" as a new tactic in question time.
We know that the government is concerned with free speech.
What about free laughter?
The video of the incident in question time yesterday is below.
Laughter crackdown in Parliament
Labor MP Julie Collins is thrown out of Parliament for laughing as the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop accuses the opposition of employing a new parliamentary tactic.PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35jik 620 349 March 27, 2014
Do do reckon "Sir Christopher" sounds better, or "Sir Chris"?
Treasurer Joe Hockey and the Leader of the House Christopher Pyne during a divison to suspend the standing orders in Parliament House on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Speaking of Sir Pete, the Australian Republican Movement reckon that the rebirthing of knighthoods is a healthy thing for the republican cause.
ARM national director David Morris said that the PM's announcement "have given us a big shot in the arm".
"We won't get a republic while Tony Abbott is Prime Minister but he may help us get there."
You do have to wonder, though, if the royal visit to Australia next month will undo any progress that has been made over knights and dames.
I mean, Kate Middleton will be here! And she will be wearing pretty clothes and not saying anything!
Even if it means parading in the rain.
The Federation Guard conduct a rehearsal on the Great Veranda on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
As is turns out, the Federation Guard are just a diligent bunch.
They are rehearsing ahead of the ceremony for Sir Pete tomorrow.
The Federation Guard conduct a rehearsal on the Great Veranda on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
With Quentin up in Queensland and Peter Cosgrove yet to be sworn in, should we be worried about the soldiers out the front of Parliament House this morning?
Could this be Coup Thursday?
The Federation Guard conduct a rehearsal on the Great Veranda on Thursday ahead of the swearing-in ceremony for Australia's 26th Governor-General. Photo: Andrew Meares
Up in NSW, Premier Barry O'Farrell has had a bit to say about bigotry.
Remember earlier this week when George Brandis said that "people do have the right to be bigots"?
SMH state political editor Sean Nicholls reports that BOF has opened an exhibition documenting the history of the Chinese community in Sydney this morning.
Here, he said the work was important because of the "issues that are happening at the federal level".
''In commendably seeking to protect freedom of speech, we must not lower our defences against the evil of racial and religious intolerance,'' the Premier said.
''Bigotry should never be sanctioned, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Vilification on the grounds of race or religion is always wrong. There's no place for inciting hatred within our Australia society.''
Briggs points out that the community of 2,000 people is tasked with delivering complex national services like customs.
He notes that even though those on Norfolk Island have a strong tie to their history, "the reality is, they are Australians".
Labor's Warren Snowden speaks in reply and says that Labor agrees.
"We know Norfolk Island has a very important place in our national story," he begins.
"But this report from the ANAO ... we need to be very concerned."
Briggs says that the PM has asked him to develop a discussion paper on possible reform options for Norfolk Island.
He has written to all residents on the island for their ideas about delivering essential services.
There has been a "strong mood for reform" in the responses received so far.
Norfolk Island currently sits outside the Australian tax and welfare systems.
Briggs says that the island would not be brought into the welfare system if it did not chip in to the ATO.
Labor's move to suspend standing orders to talk about schools funding is easily voted down.
So, after all that SSO-ing (first from Pyne on the Clean Energy Finance Corp and then Bill Shorten) we are now on to other matters in the House.
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs is delivering a statement on Norfolk Island.
The financial position of Norfolk Island has long been problematic.
But Briggs talks of an Australian National Audit Office reports that finds the situation has "deteriorated ... and is increasingly more difficult".
Budget deficits of $7.4 and $7.8 million are forecast and there is a lack of proper financial controls.
The hospital is out of date, the electricity network is at risk of collapse.
And roads and broadband are poor.
In other words, poor Norfolk Island is a basket case.
But back to the House, where Education Minister (and Leader of the House), Christopher Pyne, is responding to Labor's SSO on schools funding.
He begins by pointing out that opposition education spokeswomen, Kate Ellis, is not in Canberra today.
"She knows that Labor doesn’t really have their heart in this motion," he says.
Ellis is in fact in WA as part of Labor's campaign for the Senate election.
(She is due to discuss "the uncertainty of federal government funding for early childhood education in WA" at Ashdale Primary School at 12.30pm Canberra time.)
Still on social services, earlier this morning, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews introduced a bill to the Reps to index the income threshold for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CHSC) to the consumer price index.
This was a Coalition election commitment to "allow more retirees access to the CHSC and reduce the fear of losing the card".
Introducing the bill this morning, Andrews said that the new indexing would kick in on September 20.
Currently single seniors need a taxable income of less than $50,000 to qualify for the card, which provides discounts on things like PBS medicines and GP visits.
The topic of the health card came up earlier this month, when it was reported that the Commission of Audit's interim report has questioned the fact that superannuation income is considered tax-free when it comes to qualifying for the card.
The government has not said either way what it will do re: the Audit Commission, with the PM only saying that the government would "keep our [election] commitments".
As Shorten thunders on about "twisted priorities" in the House, in the Mural Hall, ACOSS and housing groups are calling for budget certainty on the future of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the National Rental Affordability Scheme.
"This morning, we want to talk with you ... about how vital it is for us to finally tackle properly the crisis in affordable housing," ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie says.
There is a current Senate inquiry into affordable housing and groups such as ACOSS, National Shelter, the Community Housing Federation of Australia and Homelessness Australia are calling for a "co-ordinated national agenda", led by the federal government.
There has also been significant disquiet amongst the sector - and state governments - that the current national partnership on homelessness runs out on June 30.
Earlier this month, Tony Abbott has said that the government will not "let people down".
Glenda Stevens from Homelessness Australia says that staff in the sector are still stressed and concerned for their clients.
"We need more affordable and safe housing. The need is now. The need is for tonight."
The vote to bring on the debate about the CEFC is passed 77 to 53.
But now, Bill Shorten is up, trying to suspend standing orders to bring on a debate about school funding.
Labor is trying to get a guarantee that states will retain their current levels of education funding when they receive additional federal funding through the Gonski reforms.
This has a direct WA Senate election link, where the state has cut the schools budget.
The Clean Energy Finance Corp abolition bill passed the House for the first time last year, but it was rejected by the Senate in December.
After a required three month wait, it was then reintroduced to the Reps last week, getting people a bit excited because it sets up a potential trigger for a double dissolution.
If a bill is rejected twice by the Senate, then the Governor-General can dissolve both houses simultaneously.
Leader of the House Christopher Pyne consults the notice paper as the Leader of the Opposition seeks to move a suspension of standing orders on Thursday. Photo: Andrew Meares
In the Green Room, Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne has moved to suspend standing orders.
He would like the House to debate the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
And he wants a vote at about 1 pm today.
Labor and the Greens are not happy, Chris.
Greens deputy Adam Bandt argues that in the current parliament "you have a right to be a bigot but not to scrutinise legislation".
Malcolm Turnbull, committed republican and minister-about-town, has not been as straight-faced.
Last night at a Parliament House event for Free TV, he observed that in the past, the media had many knighthoods (Sir Frank, Sir Keith etc).
But the Communications Minister cautioned that the PM has indicated that this time, media barons will not be included in the elite group. Although they can keep the "media baron" thing.
Turnbull also said the honours revival wasn't a hit to the republican movement.
There are many "distinguished republics" who have knighthoods," he said. Like Guatemala, for example.
He also mused about the difference between 2014 and 1983 (when the last knighthood was awarded)
"Is it really so long ago?" he asked.
After all, Daryl Somers won the Gold Logie in '83.
(And there's your answer.)
Turnbull pokes fun at the knights and dames
The knighthood honours system isn't a throwback to imperial times, but in line with many great republics like Guatemala, Turnbull jokes at a Free TV event on Wednesday.PT3M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35jq2 620 349 March 27, 2014
Nationals MP Mark Coulton was also on the House of Reps doors.
"There's been a lot of drama about [AKs and ADs]. It's four people a year," he said.
"Nothing wrong with being a fogey from time to time."
The member for Parkes said he was not laughing at the PM.
Does it pass the pub test?
"I reckon. Depends what pub you're in, I guess."
I am sure you are all wondering what Andrew Laming, the Liberal member for Bowman in Queensland has to say about knights and dames.
This is a man who can drink a beer while doing a handstand, after all.
He is a republican, "but I think it's wrong to ... assume [knights and dames are] a retrograde move."
As a libertarian as well, Laming points out that if you don't want an AD or AK , you don't have to accept one.
"You can say no."
(So there you go, John Howard.)
The debate also continues on Tony Abbott's surprise Tuesday afternoon decision to revive knights and dames in the Australian honours system.
As Phil Coorey in the Australian Financial Review reports, former Prime Minister John Howard does not agree with Abbott's decision.
JH says he stands by his long-held view that going back to knights and dames would be "somewhat anachronistic".
He has also indicated that he would not accept a knighthood if one were ever offered.
"George has really drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid."
Attorney-General Senator George Brandis on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Welcome to Canberra on this rainy Thursday.
We have awoken to the news that Attorney-General George Brandis was rolled in cabinet earlier this week on the Racial Discrimination Act.
As Peter Hartcher and James Massola report, Brandis was forced to water down his proposals for changes to the act during a lengthy cabinet meeting on Monday night.
One minister told Fairfax Media, "George has really drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid".
The A-G has been obliged to settle for a draft version of the bill only. This comes after several backbenchers, including Ken Wyatt, raised concerns about changes to Australia's race hate laws.
Also today, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh is at the National Press Club, the Clean Energy Finance Corp will be debated in the lower house, while the Senate looks at registration fees for marriage celebrants.