Politics wrap: November 29, 2012
6.20pm: Well folks.
Seasons greetings. Wear fluffy slippers when you kick the cat. Don't give up on politics, even if that seems hard sometimes. Use the summer break to recharge and prepare for a year next year that's going to make 2012 look like a teddy bear's picnic.
We on The Pulse Live have so many people to thank.
First, and most importantly the audience. What a bunch of legends you are.
We are very grateful to Mark Baker, who supported this project from the beginning with huge enthusiasm. More recently to Tom Allard, who runs our operation in Canberra. Thanks Tom.
To the crew on The National Times, Ori Guererra and Fergus Shiel in Melbourne, and Michael O'Reilly in Sydney. Special thanks to Gabe Hooton, who moderates our comments.
To our homepage folks in Sydney and Melbourne, and the video team. Thank you.
To Carlos Monterio, who has solved so many technical problems for us. We salute you.
To our colleagues in Canberra in the Age and Herald bureaux. Saints. (We are looking at you Damien Bright!)
To the politicians and staff we deal with every day. Politics has embraced The Pulse Live, even when we are annoying and obnoxious, and we are incredibly grateful.
Our US election team of special correspondents - Kath Cummins, Mark Textor, Andrew Leigh, Josh Frydenberg, Mary Cannane and William Powers (and Nate Silver, who didn't know he was floating our boat) and of course to Nick O'Malley and Paul McGeogh.
The Pulse Live wouldn't happen without Andrew Meares and Alex Ellinghausen and Chris Hammer, my colleagues, co-conspirators and friends.
Thank you so very much.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
6.09pm: Pulsers in Canberra might want to come along tomorrow to the Walkley's Conference at the National Film and Sound Archive.
Andrew and I will be participating in a panel on digital journalism.
We'll be yapping about The Pulse. Come, say hello.
6.07pm: So there it is.
6.03pm: The feedback from The Pulse Live audience is overwhelming.
The political moment of the year?
By popular acclaim.
The Prime Minister's misogyny speech.
5.51pm: Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi.
Impossible to do a red carpet without genuflecting to future marriages with the family cat.
5.43pm: Speaking of what she said.
Andrew Meares went down a few moments ago to take the pulse of the Prime Minister.
What she said. Today, you wouldn't dare countenance any other view.
5.35pm: The What She Said Award - to Workplace Minister Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten agreed whole heartedly with his leader, Ms Gillard, even though he had no idea what he was agreeing with.
It really was magnificent. This remix by the Young Liberals.
5.26pm: The Age's wonderful Tony Wright has done a rapid file on Question Time.
The Bruiser and the Bloodnut.
As cage fights go - and this was an event built to the proportions of a massacre in pre-fight publicity - it was a pretty bloodless affair.
In the absence of a knock-out, it had to be decided on points, and the challenger, Bruiser Abbott, having talked big before the bout, failed to get the nod. He just couldn't find his killer punch.
Bloodnut Gillard walked away with not much more than a barked knuckle, spitting out her mouthguard and hollering ''he's got nothin'! Nothin'!''
5.18pm: Independent Bob Katter has moved on to his attempt (telegraphed yesterday) to scuttle the Gillard Government's Murray Darling Basin reforms.
The BobKat is in the chamber, shouting wildly.
Why are those orchards dead?
(I don't know Bob. I don't know.)
National Bruce Scott, in the Speaker's chair, chastises Mr Katter mildly. Could you please return to your substantive motion?
Now the vineyards are dead.
5.13pm: Great audience feedback on the awards - thanks a bunch.
A number nominated NSW Independent MP Tony Windsor's moment from this year where he blasted Mr Abbott on climate change. The only thing you wouldn't do to get the job was sell your arse.
(Mr Abbott has always denied saying this to Mr Windsor.)
We'll award the off-the-long-run moment to Tony Windsor.
5.05pm: Mr Abbott has released the terms of reference for the judicial inquiry he wants on slush-gate.
The parameters of the inquiry are as follows:
An independent inquiry to inquire into and report on:
- The incorporation of the Australian Workers’ Union Workplace Reform Association Inc. (“the Association”) in 1992, and in particular whether misleading statements were made to the Corporate Affairs Commission of Western Australia in relation to the constitution, objects and purposes of the Association.
- The conduct and activities of the Association and of its officers.
- The operation of all bank accounts held in the name of the Association or operated on behalf of the Association or its office bearers, and in particular the payment from such bank accounts of monies for unlawful or improper purposes and the subsequent use of such monies.
- The circumstances surrounding the purchase of the property at 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, Victoria, in 1993 and in particular the financing of the transaction.
- The preparation, execution and use of a Power of Attorney granted by Ralph Blewitt to Bruce Wilson.
- The source of monies used to finance renovations to the property at 36 St Phillips Street, Abbotsford, Victoria, in 1994 and 1995.
- The sale of the property at 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy in February 1996, and the application of the proceeds of that sale.
- Any other matters incidental to these terms of reference.
4.57pm: Last day of parliament. People want to talk to me. Confounding! Don't they know I have to file every ten minutes!
More awards shortly.
4.33pm: The Prime Minister ends her valedictory by noting she's looking forward to the contest in 2013.
Politicians. Who can fathom them?
4.20pm: The Prime Minister is on her feet delivering her Christmas valedictory.
It's a nice speech, as these speeches always are. Ms Gillard chokes up briefly as she remembers her father, who died earlier this year.
We'll listen as they talk, but we want to pop back to our own Pulse Live Awards for a bit.
We want to doff our caps to Sam, Tony Abbott's advancer and fluoro enabler.
A vital role.
To Sam Jackson-Hope. The cheery valet award for 2012.
3.43pm: The political year was destined to end this way: these two leaders are now so defined by their conflict, their mutual antipathy, this rolling cycle of contention, that it is impossible to imagine them doing anything else in the last Question Time than glowering across the dispatch box, waiting to see who blinked first.
Mr Abbott is always looking for the twist in the tale; the knock-out blow.
Ms Gillard rises in these big moments. She's absolutely fixed and resolute in a fight. Determined not to yield.
Draining and diminishing and corrosive at one level, this dynamic - but fascinating at another.
3.38pm: We missed the tail end of Question Time just then. It's done.
But you didn't miss much, truth told. Having opened with drama and moment and tactical flourish, it just ground towards the end.
Ms Gillard determined to take it home, and the end the political year on her feet, defiant.
3.37pm: There's Question Time in a shot.
Bless Andrew Meares.
3.34pm: Apologies. I didn't go to sleep. We just lost live publishing capacity for about twenty minutes.
Fingers crossed, we are back in business now.
3.01pm: Ms Bishop wants to know if documents were witnessed properly in accordance with requirements set out under the law.
The Prime Minister:
In terms of the question before the chair, I have answered about how I witnessed documents as a lawyer - and there is the nature of sleaze and smear - that what you do is you come in and you just try and engage in these broad brush statements.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition well knows, working as a lawyer, you witness hundreds and hundreds indeed thousands of documents across a legal career.
Now anybody can engage in this sleaze and smear. I could stand here and say the Deputy Leader of the Opposition never properly witnessed a document during her legal career, not once, not ever.
2.49pm: Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop now.
My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of her confession to Slater & Gordon in her exit interview of conduct which appears to be in breach of the WA ..
Labor's Mark Dreyfus is on his feet objecting to the use of the word confession.
Speaker Burke wants the question rephrased.
Ms Bishop changes confession to statement.
Isn't it interesting that the leader of the Opposition had fifteen minutes to make an allegation out and didn't go to these matters that the deputy leader raises.
There she is with sections of the legislation, waving them around, pretending again to be Miss Marple.
She's needing to make sure she doesn't run into a television camera in Parliament House because she the doesn't want to front up to (her) lack of honesty about her dealings with Ralph Blewitt.
2.40pm: Back into normal questions now.
Three questions from Mr Abbott on slush-gate.
They are all essentially the same question. How can the Prime Minister persist in claiming that she had nothing to do with the incorporation of the AWU association, when the exit interview shows clearly that she argued the case to the Corporate Affairs Commission, she argued the case for its incorporation.
Ms Gillard says stop misrepresenting words on a page. There's no evidence for your contention. Put up or shut up.
2.25pm: Here is the Prime Minister.
Mr Abbott went out this morning and accused me of commiting a crime, she says.
Has Mr Abbott produced any evidence that I've committed a crime?
Now, there is a problem with all of this for the Leader of the Opposition. We've seen this movie before. When leaders of the Opposition overreach and go out and falsely accuse a Prime Minister of committing a crime, we have seen this movie before.
And if he wants to see how the movie ends, turn round and look at the member for Wentworth, because we saw in the Godwin Grech affair what happens to a Leader of the Opposition who accuses a Prime Minister of a crime and cannot back it up.
Ms Gillard goes through what the Slater & Gordon transcript says. She says it confirms she wrote to the relevant authority to say the AWU association was not a trade union.
Well, whatever view people take of the facts of this matter, I've never heard anybody contend that the association is a trade union. Saying it's not a trade union is a simple matter of fact, a simple matter of fact.
The leader of the Opposition is now handcuffed to an allegation against me that I committed a crime, and he is handcuffed to the fact that he does not have any evidence of that.
Now, a decent man, a decent man would apologise for this ... a decent man would recognise that he has gone too far, that he has made an error, that he has relied on a false report, that he cannot prove what is being said.
2.19pm: Mr Abbott wants a judicial inquiry, and has the terms of reference on hand. (Almost like he came prepared!)
So I say to the Prime Minister and to members opposite - let's get to the bottom of this. Let's have the bottom of this.
Let's have the judicial inquiry. Let's have the judicial inquiry that Mr Ian Cambridge, the then national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, was calling for at the time and has been calling for ever since.
Mr Abbott asks MPs opposite to consider Ms Gillard's moral claim to the leadership.
So the question for members sitting behind the Prime Minister today - is she a fit and proper person to hold the prime ministership of our country? That is the question that they need to ask themselves. Madam Speaker, they can shout all they like today, but that is a question that will play on their consciences over the next couple of months, until this Parliament comes back.
Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister has clearly been preparing for this moment.
I think we know what we can expect from the Prime Minister. We can expect more of the bluff and the verbal intimidation that she has practised throughout her career.
I have this piece of advice for the Prime Minister - this is not about gender.
This is about character and, Prime Minister, you have failed the character test.
2.12pm: Mr Abbott is deliberately keeping his tone of voice measured.
He's not shouting. He's speaking quite slowly.
She knew all along that this was a slush fund - a slush fund for the re-election of union officials.
She was party to the creation of a slush fund, on her own admission in her exit interview with Slater & Gordon. Madam Speaker, this whole exercise was a sham to facilitiate a fraud.
And the Prime Minister's involvement in it was this - she gave the advice, she made the representations that enabled the association to be incorporated that facilitied the fraud.
Now, at the very least this is conduct unbecoming. It's unbecoming of a legal partner. It is unbecoming of a future Prime Minister of this country.
Mr Abbott says he'd be prepared to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt.
The problem is that where we have had the opportunity to test the Prime Minister's assertions against the documents, against the record, her assertions have turned out to be gravely lacking in truth and in substance.
So the charge, Madam Speaker, is that the Prime Minister has been at the very least a dodgy and unethical lawyer. She's been an incompetent and an untrustworthy Prime Minister, as has been demonstrated abundantly by the evasions and the obfuscations that we have so consistently seen from this Prime Minister in the Parliament this week.
2.09pm: The Opposition has taken up the invitation to have this suspension debate.
Mr Abbott is on his feet.
Ms Gillard had three clients at Slater & Gordon.
Her boyfriend, his self-confessed bagman and their union.
If there was nothing wrong here, if there was nothing to hide here, why did the Prime Minister never open a file?
2.05pm: The Prime Minister is suspending the standing orders.
(Attack being the best form of defence apparently.)
It also forces Mr Abbott into the frontline attack.
Speaker I move that so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would allow the leader of the Opposition to address the House for a period of fifteen minutes to substantiate his claim that the Prime Minister has breached the laws of WA or if he cannot do so, to unreservedly apologise.
That following the leader of the Opposition's address, the Prime Minister be given fifteen minutes to reply. Speaker, Australians are rightly sick of sleaze and smear.
1.56pm: The pokies package, amended, is belting through its final votes now.
Here are the cross benchers voting with the government.
And here comes the Prime Minister for Question Time.
1.46pm: The lack of certainty about what the Prime Minister actually said to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission concerning the AWU association won't stop an outbreak of aggressive simplicity in Question Time in about ten minutes time.
I think that's a safe prediction.
Last time this parliamentary year - the hour of slug-fest, it cometh.
1.37pm: Climate Change Minister Greg Combet is on Sky television.
Mr Combet says writing to the Western Australian corporate affairs commission to advise that body that the AWU association was not a trade union is not vouching for anything.
What is the allegation of wrong doing here? Can anyone really say?
1.20pm: Here is the relevant section from the new bit of the Slater & Gordon transcript that has surfaced in the newspaper reports today.
This excerpt is sourced from The Australian newspaper, which also reported the development. You can view the section of the original source document here.
This interview is between Slater & Gordon senior partner Peter Gordon and Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner at the firm.
Peter Gordon: And last Monday I think you gave to Paul Mulvaney a follow-up which demonstrates that Slater & Gordon had drafted model rules for, for that, had submitted those rules to the relevant Western Australian government authority, that there'd been a letter from the authority suggesting that it might be a trade union and therefore ineligible for incorporation under that legislation, and that we had prepared a response submitted on Wilson's instructions to that authority suggesting in fact it wasn't a trade union and arguing the case for its incorporation. My recollection is that all of that happened in or about mid-1992. Is that right?
Julia Gillard: I wouldn't want to be held to the dates without looking at the file, but whatever the dates the file shows are the right dates, so ...
Peter Gordon: Yes. And to the extent that work was done on that file in relation to that it was done by you?
Julia Gillard: That's right.
So, this information suggests Ms Gillard told the WA Commission that the association Mr Wilson was seeking to have incorporated was not a trade union.
We don't have the letter she wrote.
We don't know how she framed this argument.
12.48pm: Here's the latest news wrap on the AWU slush fund and what all our protagonists are saying about it from breaking news reporters Judith Ireland and Jonathan Swan.
12.32pm: So where does that leave us on the substance of this slush fund saga?
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister is now effectively accepting that Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Commissioner regarding the AWU association.
When she was asked about this in parliament earlier this week - did she write to the WA Commissioner effectively vouching for the association - Ms Gillard replied thus:
The claim has been made but no correspondence has ever been produced.
12.27pm: More from the Prime Minister's spokesman.
The Opposition’s central claim goes to the Prime Minister’s knowledge of alleged fraud. The unredacted transcript shows those claims to be empty and false. It is worth restating that any correspondence in this matter would have been received or sent in Julia Gillard’s capacity as a lawyer acting on instructions. As the Prime Minister has noted, the application to incorporate the Association was lodged by its office bearer, Mr Ralph Blewitt.
The decision to incorporate the Association was made by the WA Commissioner of Corporate Affairs. The Prime Minister has not done anything wrong. No evidence has been produced that she did anything wrong. The only misleading statements in this matter have been made by Julie Bishop when she denied multiple contact with Ralph Blewitt, and denied she’d made accusations against the Prime Minister she had made several hours earlier; and by Tony Abbott this morning.
Tony Abbott this morning accused the Prime Minister of misleading the West Australian Corporate Affairs Commission, and of breaking the law. These assertions are completely unsupported by the evidence. The unredacted transcript says only that the Prime Minister stated that the Association was not a trade union – a fact that is clearly true. Tony Abbott needs to produce evidence to support his unsubstantiated claim, or follow his Deputy into a humiliating backdown. Today, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne made serious claims against the Prime Minister with no evidence. This is exactly the same thing that killed Malcolm Turnbull’s career.
12.20pm: The Prime Minister has this morning written to the chief executive of Fairfax Media, Greg Hywood, concerning Mark Baker's news reports on the AWU slush fund this morning.
In her letter to Mr Hywood, the Prime Minister says the reports are false and misleading to readers.
There are also comments from a spokesperson.
Concerning the letter to the WA Corporate Affairs Commissioner referenced this morning, the response is: So, the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Commissioner? So what? She did what lawyers do. Act on instruction. Provide legal advice. So, the Prime Minister can't remember writing one letter from 20 years ago. So what? Lawyers write thousands of letters in their careers. And what does the transcript show? That the PM said the association wasn't a union. So what? It obviously wasn’t. In fact, the unredacted transcript backs up what the Prime Minister has been saying. The transcript supports the Prime Minister’s account that she had nothing to do with the Association once it was incorporated. The transcript also supports the Prime Minister’s account that she didn’t have anything to do with setting up bank accounts operated by the Association.
Noon: Merry Christmas from the Abbott clan.
11.43am: Once he was the Attorney-General. Then he supported Kevin Rudd too enthusiastically.
Now, Robert McClelland is a humble Labor backbencher from the NSW Right. Mr McClelland is delivering a little hymn of praise in the House of Representatives right now about clubs, and the positive role they play in communities. Mr McClelland is making his contribution in the pokies debate.
Clubs have always been worried about problem gambling he says. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise.
11.30am: To guide your thinking on the big moments, Andrew Meares has produced a wonderful gallery of the political year for 2012.
Click on the image of the Prime Minister to view the best of Andrew and Alex Ellinghausen.
11.16am: We'll come back to the awards over the course of today.
Let's get our heads back in the game. Here's some vision of your elected representatives on the doors: to resign, or not to resign.
Don't forget to turn off your auto-refresh if you want to review these videos.
10.59am: Also very popular in the 'what-the' stakes.
That sprint from the chamber by Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne to negate the vote of Craig Thomson.
Congratulations to Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne - inaugural winners of the Usain Bolt award.
Run, Abbott, run, Abbott, run run run.
10.47am: I've asked the Twitters to chime in on big political moments for 2012.
Some great suggestions coming through.
Labor man Craig Emerson's completely birko Whyalla wipe out moment is rating well.
This moment never gets old.
Ladies and gentlemen, and blog watchers, our first Pulse Live Award for 2012 goes to Craig Emerson - for services to the Australian music industry.
It's a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.
10.31am: Perhaps we could re-enact the procession as a mark of respect?
10.23am: Last sitting days.
They can go off with a bang.
The Gillard Government on the final sitting day for 2011 popped Liberal defector Peter Slipper into the Speaker's chair. That was last year's shazam.
Mr Slipper has of course moved on from that lofty position. One Liberal wag suggests today is a Slipperversary.
10.15am: Treasurer Wayne Swan has been stopped by the cameras on the parliamentary forecourt.
Should the Prime Minister resign? That's absolutely ridiculous, Mr Swan says. Voters want their parliament to focus on policy issues - schools, the NDIS - not smear.
10.07am: Green MP Adam Bandt.
Less than thrilled. We sense some hard bargaining in play here on the pokies package (see our post at 9.30am).
Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie (left) Mr Bandt (centre) Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon (right.)
9.56am: The last day.
Turkeys with all the trimmings.
Make sure you get amongst it.
Comment below, or hit Twitter and break out our hashtag #thepulselive
9.51am: The bollocking the Prime Minister gave me yesterday was this big.
Labor's Steve Gibbons - in big trouble yesterday for Tweeting that the Opposition leader was a douche bag and the deputy Opposition leader was a narcissistic bimbo - has a laff in the chamber with crossbencher Craig Thomson.
9.47am: And here's the morning news wrap on the AWU.
Mr Pyne declares the Prime Minister must go.
9.44am: While they argue amongst themselves, here's the Prime Minister introducing the NDIS legislation.
9.39am: Procedural skirmishes are underway in the House.
The Opposition is trying to suspend the standing orders to bring on consideration of shadow immigration spokesman Scott Morrison's private members bill to restore temporary protection visas.
So far that's proved unsuccessful.
9.30am: The Gillard Government's pokies reforms are another significant moving part today.
The New South Wales Right is restive, and the package is still in the balance.
I'll let Richard Willingham bring you up to speed:
- The government's poker machine reforms remain in the balance after key independents moved towards further softening of the proposed rollout of plans to give punters the option of presetting how much they are willing to lose.
- The government's bill would require venues with more than 20 machines to have voluntary pre-commitment on all its machines from 2016, with smaller venues given longer.
- Amendments already circulated by independent Tony Windsor push the deadlines for compliance back by a year.
- But members of the NSW Right lead by Chief Government Whip Joel Fitzgibbon have put pressure on both the government and the crossbenchers to extend the transition period to two years.
- Labor sources last night believed that it had the support of Mr Windsor, Craig Thomson, Rob Oakeshott and Peter Slipper, but it would need another crossbench vote: either Andrew Wilkie or the Greens' Adam Bandt.
- The demands of the group left Mr Wilkie and the Greens with the decision of supporting the further dilution or sinking pokies reform completely.
9.20am: Little bit of history in this lovely chamber shot from Alex Ellinghausen.
The Prime Minister is at the dispatch box. Six Coalition MPs watch on as the NDIS is introduced.
9.15am: The Prime Minister, on the NDIS.
Few actions in public life give me greater pleasure than introducing the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill does today.
The scheme to be established by this bill will transform the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. For the first time they will have their needs met in a way that truly supports them to live with choice and dignity.
It will bring an end to the tragedy of services denied or delayed and instead offer people with disability the care and support they need over their lifetimes.
9.07am: The manager of Opposition business Christopher Pyne has gone to the doors of parliament to urge the Prime Minister to resign.
Her position is untenable, he says.
The Prime Minister is ignoring Mr Pyne - and is now in the House introducing legislation for the national disability insurance scheme.
It's an important day for people with disabilities and their carers.
8.58am: Opposition leader Tony Abbott was up and about early.
Given this new information on the AWU slush find saga, the Labor Party needed to be searching its soul today. The Prime Minister had made false representations to the West Australian corporate affairs commission - and this would appear to be in breach of the law.
This has always been about the judgment, character and integrity of the Prime Minister. Mr Abbott said it's impossible for this government to deal with systemic trade union malfeasance when senior figures are participants in the process.
8.50am: Here's the Prime Minister, arriving to face the music.
Andrew Meares was down kerbside with his camera.
8.40am: We've opened at a screaming pace.
Just when you fancied the momentum was going out of the Slater & Gordon/AWU saga, fresh material.
Mark Baker in Fairfax newspapers this morning:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard enabled the incorporation of a union slush fund from which her boyfriend later stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by formally denying to authorities that it was a trade union organisation.
A newly released document confirms that a letter Ms Gillard wrote to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 rejected the commission's assertion that the Australian Workplace Reform Association was ineligible for incorporation because of its union links.
The document also confirms that Ms Gillard, then a salaried partner with Slater & Gordon, drafted the rules for the association - without opening a formal file, without consulting the senior partners and without taking advice from expert lawyers within the firm.
The revelations contradict Ms Gillard's claims at media conferences and in Parliament that she played a limited role in the formation of the association, from which Mr Wilson and his crony, Ralph Blewitt, later misappropriated more than $400,000.
A smoking gun, says the Opposition.
Ms Gillard has been asked all this week if she vouched for the AWU association with the West Australian corporate affairs commission.
The Prime Minister has danced around this point.
8.30am: The only peaceful moment we are going to get today, so I'm going with it.
Welcome to the finale for 2012.