Federal Politics

Politics live: November 19, 2013

'Australia should not be expected to apologise'

Tony Abbott says he regrets any embarrassment caused by revelations Australia has spied on the Indonesian leadership, but tells parliament he won't apologise..

"Australia should not be expected to apologise for the steps we take to protect our country."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrives for Question Time on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrives for Question Time on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

As they say in the public transport system, it's been a trip. What are the lessons from today? 

  • Multiple tweets are not just for over-excited teenage girls (or journalists). SBY isn't shy of 140 character messages either;
  • But Tony Abbott is not intimidated by a social media storm. Australia will not apologise for or really comment on its phone tapping;
  • Nor will public servants and military officers talk about "on water" matters;
  • Life is pretty sweet if you are a cavoodle; and
  • Parliamentary debate is alive and well. Christopher Pyne thinks those on the Labor side of the House are "boobies".

 

Until tomorrow.

Estimates committees will again thunder into the night. But before we go, Lucy Battersby has been listening to the communications hearing, where NBN chair Ziggy Switkowski is appearing. 

Dr Switkowski has told the committee that getting premises connected to speeds of at least 25 megabits per second by the end of 2016 - as proposed by the Coalition during the election - was a "very, very tight timetable". 

What would the NT News would make of that?

 

You are never safe in the press gallery.

The Pulse understands that News Corp asked Guardian Australia's editor-in-chief Katharine Viner (who is in Canberra today) for a photo.

This comes after her website, along with the ABC, broke the story about the Australia-Indonesian phone tapping.

Viner declined, but News still wanted a pic and have been waiting to snap her, paparazzi style, when she exits the Guardian's bureau.

I wonder why?

 

A News Corp Australia photographer loiters in the press gallery outside the office of Guardian Australia, waiting to ...
A News Corp Australia photographer loiters in the press gallery outside the office of Guardian Australia, waiting to photograph Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

The Australian Electoral Commission is facing the finance and public admin committee.

You can't imagine this is much fun for commissioner Ed Killesteyn in light of those missing WA votes.

Speaking of the missing 1370: "I haven’t ruled out referral to the AFP, that’s dependant on what [independent investigator] Mr Keelty finds," Killesteyn says.

 

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In other estimates happenings today, Noel Towell reports that Eric Abetz - the Public Service Minister - says he does not know who gave the order to sack three top public servants on the Coalition's first day of government.

And Dan Hurst writes that the head of the ABC, Mark Scott, has defended the broadcaster's decision to reveal Australia had tapped SBY's phone.

It was in the public interest, Scott argues, despite the difficulties it might cause the Australia-Indonesia relationship in the short term.

 

"Four score and seven years ago ..."

Kamahl recites the Gettysburg Address, at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Kamahl recites the Gettysburg Address, at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

Psst ... Tony ... I need to whisper because this is an operational matter.

Senator Michaelia Cash speaks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott during the White Ribbon Day Breakfast at Parliament House. ...
Senator Michaelia Cash speaks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott during the White Ribbon Day Breakfast at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 

Lt Gen Campbell, under questioning from Senator Hanson-Young, has said that no boats have been bought from Indonesia so far, noting that the Indonesian government is not happy with the policy. 

Senator Michaelia Cash - Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection - has also said there are no plans to buy boats at the moment.

"We are not looking to purchase the boats, however the option does remain open to us," she says. 

(see also Tony Abbott's question time effort on this at 2.49 pm)

 

 

In non-Estimates news ... Kamahl is in Kanberra!

The crooner is in town to give a recitation of the Gettysburg Address, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abe Lincoln's efforts.

(NSW Nationals senator John "Wacka" Williams is involved in the organisation of this.)

 

Kamahl arrives to recite the Gettysburg Address on the 150th anniversary, at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Kamahl arrives to recite the Gettysburg Address on the 150th anniversary, at Parliament House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen 
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Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is now quizzing Lt Gen Campbell.

She is not impressed about the lack of information being providing to Senate Estimates.

"Maybe we should have scheduled the immigration hearing on a Friday," she says.

And in titular news:

Senator Hanson-Young keeps getting in troubs from the chair for addressing the OSB commander as "Angus Campbell" (instead of "general").

For a policy area that deals in people, there are a lot of numbers involved with asylum seeker boats.

Lt Gen Campbell says there have been 32 "disruptions" under OSB (that's boats prevented from leaving countries such as Indonesia or Sri Lanka). That has stopped 1301 people from coming to Australia.

All of those people would have paid some money at this stage to come here.

Carr takes a new line: Are you concerned about your involvement in the political process?

"I am not involved in the political process," Campbell says, "let me repeat that". 

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell before Senate Estimates. Photo: Andrew Meares
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell before Senate Estimates. Photo: Andrew Meares 

Kim Carr is trying to pin Campbell down on who determines whether an incident is "serious".

Did Morrison make the decision re: seriousness this time?

"We're having a conversation that is moving in parallel but not connected," Campbell replies (after all, to discuss who deems this incident serious is to concede that an incident has occurred).

Moving in parallel but not connected. Photo: Andrew Meares
Moving in parallel but not connected. Photo: Andrew Meares 

Labor's Kim Carr begins questioning by asking about the boat that had the bow issues (see 12.27 pm post).

Lt Gen Campbell says the protocol about reporting boats needs to be "respected".

It is "not appropriate to be giving incidental advice about arrivals" or circumstances "on the water".

Lt Gen Campbell assures the committee that where a serious incident arises "they are reported at the time".

This is very similar to Scott Morrison's answer during question time (see 2.28 pm post).

Carr points out that ripping out a bow and the rescue of about 40 asylum seekers "could be regarded as a serious incident".

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell appeared before a Senate Estimates committee. Photo: Andrew Meares
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell appeared before a Senate Estimates committee. Photo: Andrew Meares 
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Operation Sovereign Borders is now before Senate estimates.

Commander Angus Campbell is repeating much of the argument he presented at last Friday's press conference, where he argued that information about boat arrivals should be controlled, because people smugglers use the news to promote their business.

He says that 13 boats have arrived under OSB, carrying more than 700 people.

"It's a very complete statement," observes Liberal senator Ian Macdonald.

 

 

 

As we digest the fact that Tony Abbott has said he will not apologise to Indonesia (despite that flurry of SBY tweets), while Bill Shorten has called for more apologetic and active action, the Indonesian media have had their say. 

Fairfax Media's Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard reports that revelations of Australian spying have prompted a furious reaction from Indonesia's media on Tuesday.

The story has been splashed on the front page of every major newspaper.

"Australia is not a good neighbour," was the headline in Kompas.

Islamic-based newspaper Republica's headline reads: "Wire tapping damages diplomacy".

Does anyone think I look like the kid from Home Alone here?!

Treasurer Joe Hockey during question time at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Treasurer Joe Hockey during question time at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares 

That's it for question time.

Both sides put significant efforts into making the other one look clueless today. Arguably the most rowdy QT of the parliament so far (early days, I know).  

From Labor we had: What's with the boats and the non-buy backs? What are you doing to childcare?

From the Coalition there was: What's with the extra 14,500 job losses? You stuffed up the NBN, hey? P.S. you have no idea about the mining/ carbon tax (economy).

And still, no one has been kicked out.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott bows to the Speaker at the conclusion of question time. Photo: Andrew Meares
Prime Minister Tony Abbott bows to the Speaker at the conclusion of question time. Photo: Andrew Meares 

Malcolm Turnbull has just found a way to bring crocodile puns in the chamber!

He was asked a dixer about the progress of the NBN in the Northern Territory, following the big switch to NBN there under Labor in July.

According to Turnbull, five premises have been connected in build up areas of the NT.

"The Northern Territory News should have this on the front page ... Madam Speaker, as you know, they love to have sightings of UFOs on the front page. There are more of them than there are active customers...

... And they do like crocodiles as well and what could be a bigger croc than Labor's claim that connection to the NBN is free!"

What a croc! Photo: Andrew Meares
What a croc! Photo: Andrew Meares 
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