Update (and a recommendation for a follow, because it is full of fun facts)
While the bilateral talks between Malcolm Turnbull and Aung San Suu Kyi continue, it might be worth having a look at a couple of articles that ran very recently, highlighting there are those working on having the leader prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
The attorney general, Christian Porter, shut it down fairly quickly, but it is out there now.
And in what could become a running series of ‘passive aggressive parliamentary signs’:
How the Greens actually get to the point where they are talking about policy and not politics looks to be some way away
Speaking to Sky, Sarah Hanson-Young said the party needed Richard Di Natale “to step up and make sure the party is pulled together tightly and that we are refocused on making sure we have a good ground game and a good policy front for the next election”.
There is going to be a lot of analysis over this as people pick over the ashes over what happened on Saturday. I agree with our leader, Richard Di Natale, that the leaking against the candidate, Alex Bhathal, was in no way helpful or indeed a positive thing for our party to go through at the time and. as it turns out, it has cost us that byelection. My message to members of the party in Victoria is to have a good think how they pick themselves up from this, because it is not just about Batman, this impacts on all of us and this isn’t what the Greens pride ourselves on. We pride ourselves on a grassroots party, which has a joint and clear vision for the future, one where climate change is tackled up front, one where we invest in public services like schools and hospitals and one where we clean up politics, we get rid of these ridiculous, enormous donations from fossil fuel companies, the gambling industry and everywhere else that impact on politics so badly.
Hanson-Young says Di Natale has the “full backing of the party room”.
It is time that we got on with making sure we offer Greens voters and supporters the true genuine alternative that they desperately want.
Back to Senate business for just a moment.
Coming up in the next hour or so, the Greens will be moving an amendment to the junior minerals exploration incentive bill 2017, which, among other things, grants a tax offset to new thermal coal exploration players. Gas and oil are already excluded and the Greens think thermal coal should be too.
And the amendment forces Labor to decide whether it will back it [the amendment] or not. Which I don’t believe they plan on doing.
We can’t all be camera ready, all the time:
As we reported a little bit earlier, Tim Storer has taken up his Senate seat – let Mike Bowers take you there:
And his former party was there to see it
Kelly O’Dwyer will introduce legislation in the next couple of weeks to create a new deputy chair role for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
A second deputy chair will give Asic greater flexibility to manage the breadth of Asic’s new powers and increased responsibilities resulting from recent and upcoming law changes. It will also bring Asic into line with the structure of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
For the record, Peter Kell has been reappointed for another year (as of May) and John Price has been granted a two-year extension (from March). They are both commissioners.
Murray Watt was keen to get back to policy talk this morning.
The Labor senator stopped by Senate doors (which is literally a door we stand by waiting for senators to walk into work) and had this to say about his party’s tax dividend policy:
I think with the initial reporting on this, which was verging on the hysterical, I think that, understandably, my office and a few other offices had a few phone calls, but it wasn’t anything to make me concerned about the policy’s value. Once we got on the phone and started explaining to people they understood that it was a fair policy, that it was necessary to fix the big black hole in the budget that has been left behind by this government. And I think as time goes on and people understand why it’s been put into place and the benefits to all Australians, I think it’ll be OK.”
Where the Greens stand
While the Greens work out how its version of a purge works (one would assume it is nothing like the movie), let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
In Batman, as it stands, the Greens saw a 3.6% swing against them, with Labor winning just under 55% of the primary vote (54.63%). Labor’s primary vote was 43.08%, compared with the Greens’ 39.67%
The loss of the Batman byelection to Ged Kearney is a bigger problem for the party, with Kearney, unlike David Feeney, actually popular in her own right, not just for the party banner. Which makes taking the seat from her in the next general election a darn sight harder. (Alex Bhathal’s Twitter account has been playing silly buggers today*, and given what has been going on with the Greens over the campaign, I don’t think we will see her contest the seat for a seventh time.)
Which makes Richard Di Natale’s 2016 promise of eight lower-house seats within a decade that little bit harder. Because if the Greens can’t win Australia’s most progressive seat, how do they move forward?
Especially when you look at what has been happening with the Greens’ primary vote over the last few years. In 2010 it hit 11.76%. In 2013 it dropped to 8.65%. In 2016 it bounced back to 10.23% but, talking to Greens members, that was seen as a bit of a disappointment, given the party had expected to have at least two lower house MPs and a couple more senators added to its ranks at that election.
The Senate vote quota should be back to normal at the next election (14.3% – it was halved at the double-dissolution election) which will make holding the party’s nine Senate spots a challenge.
The recent Tasmanian election also wasn’t the party’s best showing, with primary support hitting 10.3%, from a tad over 13%. In South Australia, the primary vote dropped by 2.1%. That is not so unusual, given SA Best’s impact on the minor party vote, but the Tassie result had to raise some eyebrows.
None of those figures are terminal but it doesn’t point to an easy road for Di Natale, especially as the party attempts to work out how it moves forward, and what it looks like at the end of that reflection.
*Alex Bhathal’s Twitter account now appears to be back online.
You may have noticed Labor is in campaign mode (and has been since the new year ticked over).
We probably won’t be heading to the polls until next year, but to mangle Muhammad Ali’s much more eloquent words, you must run on the road before you dance in the lights, so preparation never hurts.
While I was staring listlessly at a wall, Queensland Labor went through quite a few preselections, where the left won over the right faction. And I mention Queensland, not just because of my home state bias, but also because there is quite a bit riding on which way Queensland swings in the next federal election.
For those interested, Ali France will take on Peter Dutton in Dickson, Jo Briskey in Bonner, Elida Faith will run in Leichhardt (all left faction members) and Zac Beers has been preselected in Flynn.
Annnnnnd Tim Storer is officially a senator.
He was walked into the chamber by Penny Wong and Mathias Cormann and (as the experts just reminded me) new senators get to choose their escorts, so Storer is keeping his options wide open.
Alan Tudge and Michaelia Cash have issued a joint statement on the new visa scheme (which sounds like a reality TV show):
A new visa scheme to attract highly skilled global talent and deliver innovation to Australia will be piloted from 1 July of this year.
The government recognises there is fierce competition globally for high-tech skills and talent, and that attracting these people helps to transfer skills to Australian workers and grow Australian-based businesses.
The Global Talent Scheme will consist of two components. Established businesses with an annual turnover of more than $4m will be able to sponsor highly skilled and experienced individuals for positions with earnings above $180,000 into Australia.
The employers will need to be able to demonstrate that they prioritise the employment of Australians and that there will be skills transfer to Australian workers as a result of the person being granted a visa.
The sponsoring business must have a track record of hiring and training Australians.
Technology-based and Stem-related startup businesses will also be able to sponsor experienced people with specialised technology skills.
Startups will need to be recognised by a startup authority and demonstrate they prioritise the employment of Australians.
In the both instances, a four-year temporary skill shortage visa will be issued with permanent residence applications available after three years.
The government will consult further on the details of the scheme over the next few months, before piloting it for 12 months, starting 1 July 2018. An industry advisory group will provide ongoing guidance for the pilot.
The media alert has been sent out for the bilateral meeting between Malcolm Turnbull and Aung San Suu Kyi and the Senate bells are ringing, so it is all happening!
The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, has been putting the Coalition spin on the Batman byelection on Radio National, crediting Ged Kearney as an “objectively strong candidate” but saying it could not be viewed as a comment on Bill Shorten’s franking credit policy.
He claimed Ged was “somewhat critical of the policy … suggesting there was room to keep changing it”.
Cormann said “the Greens have been at each other’s throat for most of the campaign” and that had put off voters.
“It’s a safe Labor seat … and the Greens were particularly unattractive at this election given the level of infighting on the ground in the lead-up to the election.”
Asked about meeting with One Nation on company tax cuts, Cormann said he continued to engage with Pauline Hanson. The bill will be introduced on Wednesday and Cormann said the Coalition’s intention is “to have this voted on in the next fortnight”.
He also confirms that the former Minerals Council chief executive Brendan Pearson has taken a temporary role in his office to “answer questions” about the company tax cuts – essentially lobbying the crossbench.
Several Turnbull government ministers have been out and about commenting on Peter Dutton’s claim South African farmers deserve special attention for immigration to Australia.
Mathias Cormann sounds like he is on Julie Bishop’s side in this stoush, while Tony Abbott takes Dutton’s.
On Radio National, Cormann said: “Our humanitarian program is non-discriminatory, and that means it is open to white South African farmers who feel persecuted on the same basis it is available to others.”
The same basis – that does tend to negate the claimed need for “special attention”. He added that Dutton had asked his department “for some options for what might appropriately be done”, but referred further questions to the home affairs minister.
On 2GB Abbott weighed in hard:
“It’s a very serious situation developing in South Africa. Four hundred white farmers have been brutally murdered.”
Abbott notes that South Africa’s new president has encouraged the parliament to pass laws allowing expropriation of land without compensation.
“If the boot was on the other foot we’d call it racism of the worst sort … Peter Dutton was absolutely right.”
Tony Abbott is enjoying his regular 2GB soapbox. We’ll bring you more on what he said in a moment, but in the meantime I am sure you’ll be shocked, absolutely SHOCKED to hear he agrees wholeheartedly with what Peter Dutton said about white South African farmers.
We are all still working out what this week will look like, and when I say we, I mean everyone who is now working in this building.
Senate-only sitting weeks are always a little weird. Yes, it is where the machinery of government gets done but, when there are no big-ticket legislation items, or fraught negotiations, it can all seem a bit tick and flick. A lot of laws get through here with bipartisan support, which is great for democracy and the running of the country but does not make for exciting blog posts.
Tim Storer will be sworn into the Senate today though. He was on the Nick Xenophon Team ticket at the last election but then spectacularly fell out with the party (well, Xenophon, which was the same thing) and then, through section 44 dominoes, ended up with the Senate spot. NXT tried challenging his appointment on the grounds that he was no longer in the party but the high court nixed that fairly quickly.
For other Senate goings on, you can head here.
Outside parliament, there was much pomp and ceremony for Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrival. Mike Bowers was there.
Good Morning and welcome to day 13
It’s a Senate-only week, so get ready to see all your favourite senators enjoying the spotlight without those pesky House of Reps MPs taking the spotlight.
Which also means we’ll be focusing on Senate QT for the next couple of days. Brace yourself for supplementary dixers.
Looking to politics, and it’s still all about Labor’s win in Batman. Ged Kearney will be with us next week, walking the Canberra hallways.
But the Greens are less than pleased with that outcome. Richard Di Natale has pointed the finger at the big party machine (which you could say is just politics) but he’s also turned the eye inwards, acknowledging that the calls were coming from inside the house.
He has vowed to expel those found to have leaked against the party during the campaign, which he said was sabotage. And, well, it was. But it is also indicative of the wider issues within the Greens, where the left and the even further left are battling for control. Where does that end? We’ll see.
Meanwhile, Labor’s dividend tax policy is all anyone is talking about. The byelection win has helped gird some loins moving forwards with it although, despite some declaring Batman was a referendum on the idea before the election, government MPs have now backed away from that claim.
And it’s all pomp and ceremony out the front of parliament for Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit. Ben Doherty reports that she asked for humanitarian help with the Rohingya crisis during a closed-door Asean meeting. Although as Doherty points out, Aung San Suu Kyi has also failed to say the word Rohingya publicly, as it is not a minority recognised by the Myanmar government:
More than 650,000 of the Rohingya ethnic and religious minority have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August, fleeing systemic violence from the country’s military, including murder, rape and the deliberate torching of villages.
We’ll have all the days events for you, and Mike Bowers is already out and about, so be sure to follow his day at @mpbowers and @mikepbowers. You’ll find me in the comments, or on Twitter at @amyremeikis. For those who like to see behind the scenes, you can find an update on the Instagram story attached to @pyjamapolitics.
And before we get started, I just wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes while I was ill. It was a rough couple of weeks and it’ll be a while before I am back to 100%, but thank you for all your messages and notes while I was off. I am pleased to report I am officially back on the coffee (but it is going to be some time before I am able to stomach anything stronger).
So, everyone ready for Senate-palooza?! Let’s get started.
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