GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Action-packed week in Canberra
- Labor continues its lead over the Coalition in the latest Newspoll, 53 to 47 per cent.
- The Government suffered a defeat in Parliament over new medical evacuation laws for offshore detainees.
- Question Time in the House of Representatives on Thursday lasted a record-breaking 150 minutes as the Government attempted to avoid a vote to establish a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector.
- The Government has shelved its proposed ‘big stick’ energy legislation and will instead take the policy to the election.
Ahead of the first parliamentary sitting week of the year, Sunday night’s Newspoll revealed an unchanged two-party preferred vote, with Labor continuing its lead over the Coalition 53 to 47 per cent. Prime Minister Scott Morrison improved his approval rating by two points to 44 per cent, ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on 35 per cent. Border protection was the key battleground this week as both parties move further into campaign mode with only a handful of sitting days left before the 2 April Budget and subsequent federal election.
Border protection battle
As a dust storm engulfed Canberra on the first parliamentary sitting day of 2019, the Morrison Government suffered a historic defeat over controversial new ‘medevac’ laws that will give doctors more power to determine whether offshore detainees should be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. Labor and the crossbench joined forces to pass the legislation, defeating the Government 75-74 in the House of Representatives – the first time a government has lost a vote on its own legislation in more than 70 years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the changes will “weaken our borders” and reignite the people-smuggling trade. Labor and the crossbench have accused the Government of scaremongering, stating that the new rules will apply only to those currently located on Nauru and Manus Island, rather than new arrivals. The PM has committed to reversing the laws should the Coalition prevail at the next federal election, and announced the Government will re-open the Christmas Island detention centre.
Question Time was allowed to run well over on Thursday afternoon, provoking allegationsfrom Labor that the Government was attempting to avoid a vote on the establishment of a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector. Greens Senator and disability advocate Jordon Steele-John earlier moved a successful motion in the Senate for the proposed inquiry. Between the Senator’s heckling of the Prime Minister over the tactical delay, and the confrontation between former One Nation Senator Brian Burston and Pauline Hanson’s Chief of Staff James Ashby, there was plenty of action in Canberra this week.
Energy plan shelved
The Government has elected not to bring its proposed ‘big stick’ legislation before the Parliament during the remaining sitting weeks, sidestepping the prospect of an unwelcome amendment to the law that would block government investment in new coal plants. With support from Labor, the Greens and the crossbench in the Lower House, the amendment would potentially have cost the Government its second defeat this week. The Government will instead take the policy to the next election.
Announcements from Canberra
Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA) has welcomed a $1.6 million grant for a pilot project to provide psychosocial support to women living with ovarian cancer and their families. Together with Health Minister Greg Hunt, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the funding at OCA’s annual Parliamentary Breakfast event in Canberra on Wednesday. The PM also joined Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge this week to announce a new City Deal for South East Queensland.