GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Return to the Capital
13 September 2019
- Federal Parliament resumed this week after a five-week break. On the agenda: union activity, drug testing of welfare recipients, the economy and anti-corruption measures.
- The latest Newspoll has delivered a bump in the primary vote for both the Government and Opposition, while Labor Leader Anthony Albanese continues to lag behind Scott Morrison as preferred PM.
- The PM attended a series of events in Canberra and welcomed Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to Australian shores.
- Liberal MP Gladys Liu has faced criticism over alleged links to the Chinese government.
- Former Liberal MP Sarah Henderson has been preselected to fill the Senate vacancy left by Mitch Fifield. Ms Henderson narrowly lost her seat of Corangamite at the May election.
- Mr Morrison is headed to Queensland today to meet with locals affected by recent bushfires, if conditions allow.
MPs returned to Canberra on Monday for the first sitting day after a five-week winter recess, with the state of the economy front and centre. The latest Newspoll has revealed a one-point bump in the primary vote for both the Coalition and Labor, and an unchanged two-party preferred result of 51-49 per cent, in favour of the Coalition. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s approval rating has slipped further south, now trailing Scott Morrison by a 20-point margin as preferred PM. Labor went hard on the economy early in the week, using economic data released over the winter break to question the Government’s economic management. The PM hit back, saying the Government is focused on growing the economy and taking aim at Labor’s election platform.
The PM has accused Labor of attempting to “smear” recently-elected Victorian Liberal MP Gladys Liu, following calls for her resignation over alleged links to the Chinese government. During what Mr Morrison described as a “clumsy” interview on Tuesday, Ms Liu was unable to recall whether she held membership of a chapter of the China Overseas Exchange Association, after the ABC published a Chinese government online record listing her name as a council member between 2003 and 2015. In a statement issued the following day, Ms Liu said she “should have chosen her words better” and would be “learning from this experience” as a new MP.
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 to spruik the Government’s plan to extend the cashless welfare card trial and drug test welfare recipients. The PM also delivered a keynote speech at the Master Builders Australia National Leaders’ Summit and attended a breakfast event for World Suicide Prevention Day in Canberra. He welcomed the Prime Minister of Fiji to Australia for discussions on climate change, illegal fishing, trade and investment, and measures to strengthen international cooperation on defence and security. According to Mr Morrison, “Australia is committed to stepping up our engagement with Fiji and the Pacific more broadly to address common challenges and deepen longstanding ties in our region”.
This week’s parliamentary agenda featured continuing debate over the Government’s ‘union-busting’ Ensuring Integrity Bill, amid calls from Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie for the removal of controversial union boss John Setka from the Victorian branch of the CFMEU. Senator Lambie confirmed she will support the bill unless Mr Setka resigns, arguing he will “be removed anyway” if the legislation passes. The Government is also seeking support from the independent senator for its plan to drug test welfare recipients, a move condemned by both Labor and the Greens. Senator Lambie has once again thrown her support behind drug testing for politicians and bureaucrats, and called for improved mental health and rehabilitation services in exchange for her winning vote. In other news, the Senate passed a Greens bill to establish a federal anti-corruption commission following a narrow vote, 35 to 32. While the proposed legislation is not expected to pass the Government-dominated Lower House, it reflects growing calls for greater action on corruption.
Looking ahead, the Federal, NSW, Queensland, WA, ACT and NT parliaments will sit next week.