GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: A Parliament united amid divisive debates
17 August 2018
- The latest Newspoll has shown a weakening of both the Coalition’s primary vote and the PM’s popularity rating.
- MPs and Senators have returned to Canberra as Federal Parliament resumed following the long winter break.
- Senator Fraser Anning’s controversial first speech has been condemned by political leaders from all sides.
- The NEG has received the backing of the Coalition party room but several Government MPs have publicly aired their ongoing concerns with the policy.
Latest Newspoll results
The latest Newspoll results have shown a drop in overall support for the Coalition as well as the personal approval rating of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. While the two-party-preferred vote remains unchanged at 51-49 in favour of Labor, the Coalition has suffered a two-point fall in its primary vote to 37 per cent while Labor’s primary vote also fell a point to 35 per cent. This is the 38th consecutive Newspoll win for the ALP. In the preferred PM stakes, Malcolm Turnbull continues his strong lead over Bill Shorten but his margin has dropped by four points in the past fortnight to 12 points.
Parliament heats up after long winter break
Politicians have returned to Canberra this week after Parliament’s long winter break came to an end. Rather than a symbolic slow thaw, the start of the spring sittings saw sparks fly and emotions heat up. Labor lauded its four victorious Super Saturday MPs, including returnees Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson and Justine Keay and newcomer Patrick Gorman. All four were officially sworn in, along with the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie. In the Senate, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon officially resigned, paving the way for NSW Upper House member Mehreen Faruqi to take her seat. In other political retirement news, ALP frontbencher and Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann has announced she will be retiring at the next election, citing personal reasons.
A rare moment of solidarity
One Nation turned Katter’s Australian Party Senator Fraser Anning delivered his now infamous first speech on Tuesday, prompting a rare moment of solidarity as leaders from across the political spectrum united to condemn the speech, which called for an end to Muslim immigration. Politicians praised Australia’s proud history of multiculturalism and reaffirmed their support for a non-discriminatory immigration policy. Emotional speeches were made in both chambers of Parliament with Prime Minister Turnbull saying the Senator’s comments were “justly condemned and rejected by us all” before leaning across the despatch box to shake Bill Shorten’s hand.
Euthanasia bill defeated
On the legislative front, debate in the Senate was dominated by the private senator’s bill that would have given the ACT and NT the right to legalise euthanasia. All sides allowed their members to vote according to conscience and the bill was narrowly defeated. Meanwhile, a vote on the Government’s proposal to reduce the threshold at which students pay back HECS loans saw Nationals Senator Steve Martin cross the floor to oppose the bill, which was ultimately passed.
Another NEG battle won but energy war still looms
Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has notched another win as he continues his campaign to implement a National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The Coalition party room formally endorsed the signature government policy on Tuesday following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting. Several backbench MPs spoke out against the NEG, raising concerns about emissions reductions commitments and doubts about its ability to bring down prices. Reports suggest up to eight Coalition MPs, including former PM Tony Abbott, have reserved their right to cross the floor on a vote on the NEG, posing a threat given the Government’s slim one-seat majority on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Following the party room meeting, Minister Frydenberg secured backing from his state and territory colleagues to release for consultation the legislation required to implement the NEG, a process which will take a month. While Federal Labor has so far refused to articulate its final position on the NEG, the Victorian Government continues to be the biggest state-based threat, refusing to back away from its demands.
Overnight reports suggest the PM may be willing to take stronger intervention on pricing elements of the NEG, in order to placate those MPs concerned about reducing the cost of power. This may come in the form of a ‘standard electricity price’ set by the Government, although Treasurer Scott Morrison warned it would need careful design. While this may resolve the issues some MPs have with the NEG, others reportedly remain determined to cross the floor unless the Government decouples the 26 per cent Paris emissions reductions targets from the NEG.
The Federal, Victorian, Queensland, WA, ACT, NT and Tasmanian Parliaments are sitting next week.