GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: President Widodo visits the Capital
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Canberra this week and addressed the Australian Parliament.
- Nationals tensions continue to simmer following the resignation of Queensland MP Llew O’Brien from the Nationals party room and his elevation to the role of Deputy Speaker.
- The 12th Closing the Gap report reveals only two of seven targets to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians are on track to be met.
- The ban on people travelling to Australia after visiting China has been extended by another week and will be reviewed weekly going forward.
- Experts have warned Australia could experience its worst economic performance since the start of the Global Financial Crisis following the outbreak of Coronavirus and the recent bushfires.
- Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel said hydrogen could be Australia’s “hero” fuel source in addressing climate change and creating new jobs.
Indonesian President in Canberra
MPs returned to Canberra this week to close out the first sitting fortnight of the year. Parliament hosted the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, who addressed the House of Representatives. In his speech, Mr Joko described Australia as Indonesia’s best friend, and called upon the two nations to work together to address climate change, and spur development in the Pacific. Mr Joko’s address came just days after the Indonesian Parliament approved a free-trade agreement with Australia. In the Senate, a Labor-led motion designed to force the release of the Gaetjens Report into the ‘sports rorts’ saga and limit the capabilities of Senate Leader Mathias Cormann was narrowly defeated after One Nation senators withdrew their support at the last minute.
The fallout from last week’s Nationals leadership spill has continued, with Queensland MP Llew O’Brien resigning from the Nationals party room on Monday. Mr O’Brien has elected to stay in the Liberal National Party, ensuring the Government keeps its slim two-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Mr O’Brien has, however, flagged his intention to cross the floor on several bills. In a further blow to the Government, rebel Nationals MPs sided with Labor to elevate Mr O’Brien to Deputy Speaker in a secret ballot, defeating the Government’s nominee Damien Drum 75 votes to 67. Amid the ongoing tensions, Nationals Leader Michael McCormack has labelled himself a “fighter”, while the PM reportedly called for unity at this week’s joint party room meeting.
Closing the Gap report delivered
The 12th Closing the Gap report was handed down this week, revealing that only two of the seven targets designed to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians are on track to be met. The PM and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese both responded to the report in Parliament, lamenting the lack of progress by successive governments toward meeting the targets. Mr Morrison pointed towards new targets and an overhaul of the framework, to be led by Indigenous Australians. Later in Question Time, the PM stated he would not be bound by a timeline for holding a referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, despite Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt previously outlining his vision for a referendum during the current term of Parliament.
Coal group revealed
Meanwhile, media reports suggest that a group of up to 20 MPs and Senators from Labor’s right faction have been meeting to discuss issues including coal and climate change. Senator Don Farrell – one of several high-profile frontbenchers in the group – confirmed members are “interested in supporting coal workers”. Correspondence leaked from the group reveals frustration from the Shadow Minister for Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon, that questions submitted by members of the group for Question Time have been consistently passed over. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has downplayed the reports, insisting the Labor Party is united in its position that “climate change is real, that we need to act on lowering our emissions”.