Tuesday, 28 February 2017

By Stefanee Lovett


The second parliamentary sitting day of the week was overshadowed by the arrest of a 42-year-old man in the regional NSW town of Young, accused of intending to provide ISIL with technical capability to develop missiles. It’s a potent reminder that the scourge of terrorism is an Australia-wide problem, and not just a metropolitan issue. In parliamentary news, the Opposition continued to hammer the Government over the decision by the independent Fair Work Commission to reduce particular penalty rates for certain employment sectors on Sunday trading.

In other news, Senate Estimates provided an opportunity for executives at Australia Post and the Human Rights Commission to answer questions of national relevance. The major parties held their respective party room meetings today with the Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, telling the ALP Caucus “Malcolm Turnbull’s only achievement this year as Prime Minister has been to make Peter Dutton look like a candidate for the leadership.”

Question Time struck a familiar flavour to the previous day, with an orchestrated and disciplined attempt by the Opposition to lay blame of the reduction in some penalty rates at the feet of the Government. The Government, while still talking energy affordability and reliability, also talked up the growth in the Australian cattle and tourism trades as markers of success under its stewardship.

1.The Opposition used all nine of their questions, in varying guises, to attack the Government over the penalty rates issue. 18 questions in a row over two sitting days on the same topic is a sign the Opposition see this issue as critical to its chances at the next election.

2. The Manager of Opposition Business and Member for Watson, the Hon Tony Burke MP, used an obscure part of practice, standing order 90, to ask the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, Mr Andrew Laming MP, whether that committee would be reviewing penalty rates as part of its scope. While the question’s merits were debated between the Manager of Government Business, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and Mr Burke, kudos should be paid to the Speaker, the Hon Tony Smith MP, for allowing the question to be in order and ensuring a vibrant exchange of orderly debate in the House.

3.Member for Banks and Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Mr David Coleman MP, used a Dixer to ask the Minister for Human Services, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, a question pertaining to welfare and taxation compliance in Centrelink. This was an interesting tactic given Shadow Minister for Human Services, the Hon Linda Burney MP, had moved the suspension of standing orders earlier in the day to debate Centrelink’s handling of private client data and the alleged leaking of data to the media. This is evidence the Opposition feel they’re on strong grounds to attack the Government, both in the House and at Senate Estimates this Thursday.

4.Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, provided the House with a rare moment of bipartisan jocularity when he channelled the Oscars and hurled cinematic-themed insults to the Member for Lilley, the Hon Wayne Swan MP and the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP. Cries of “more, more” were heard across the dispatch box when he resumed his place on the Government front bench.

1.Police today have arrested a 42-year-old man in the New South Wales regional town of Young in relation to terrorist offences. The Australian Newspaper reports “they [AFP] will allege he has sought to advise ISIL on how to develop missiles.”

2. Member for Dawson, Mr George Christensen MP, today resigned from his role as Chief Nationals Parliamentary Whip stating “my continued outspokenness on a variety of issues was obviously incompatible with the position of Party Whip in the long term.”

3. Australia Post Managing Director, Mr Ahmed Fahour AO, used one of his last appearances at Senate Estimates, before his resignation in July, to criticise Senator Pauline Hanson. Fahour rebuked Senator Hanson for her “ill-informed” and “hurtful” comments about his Islamic faith.

4.A Fairfax article today has cited the Australian Bureau of Statistics Wage Price Index and confirmed the three months to December 2016 saw a 20 per cent jump in company profits, while in the same period, Australian wages fell 0.5 per cent — the largest decline since mid-2009.

Today’s legislation focus included:

1.Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017

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