In case you were wondering, this is what a disastrous week in government looks like…
The Citizenship Saga Concludes (right?)
We’re a little later than usual today, because we’ve waited patiently for the High Court to deliver judgment on the citizenship clusterf*ck that’s potentially claimed the jobs of seven politicians who are ‘accidentally’ dual citizens. (Check out our deep dive here.) The verdict is in.
Five of the seven are in trouble. Greens pollies Ludlam and Waters, who have already resigned, have been disqualified. One Nations Senator Malcom Roberts, who was most obviously ineligible, has also been disqualified. Liberal Senator Fiona Nash is also disqualified, and most damningly, so is the leader of the Nationals, the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
This means the government has lost their majority of the House of Representatives, putting them in serious peril of meaningfully passing any legislation.
We’ll do a deep dive when the dust settles on Tuesday. In the meantime, Barnaby is off to a by-election. He’s ditching his New Zealand citizenship and running again. It’s unlikely that Barnaby will lose the seat, which is considered very safe for the Nationals, but he did face an aggressive opposition from an independent, Tony Windsor, at the last election.
The Michaela Cash bungle explained
Earlier this week Australian Federal Police raided the offices of the Australian Worker’s Union. Why and how they got there is a matter of ongoing debate, but it’s ended up being one of the biggest political bungles of the year. Here’s the timeline:
- The Federal Police (AFP) raid the offices of the Australian Worker’s Union on behalf of the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) on Tuesday. The ROC is a watchdog commission put together by Turnbull to make sure unions are behaving themselves. The raid was to find documents that might indicate two dodgy donations ten years ago, with disastrous consequences for Bill Shorten (current Labor leader) – who was then head of the Australian Worker’s Union. The donations went to GetUp – an advocacy organisation that Bill Shorten was also on the board of – and to Bill Shorten’s own 2007 election campaign.
- By that afternoon, questions were being asked about what the hell had happened. The AWU knew about the raids ahead of time because television cameras turned up at their front door before the police did. Who tipped off the media? This revelation only boosted Labor’s argument against the raids – that it was political policing gone mad.
- On Wednesday, Employment Minister Michaela Cash, who’s in charge of the ROC, faced the Senate Estimates Committee. (This is where the Senate grills politicians from the lower house on how they’re spending taxpayers money. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that they happened to be sitting in the week this all went down. The photo at the top is of Cash mid-interrogation.) She was asked whether she knew about the raids or if she – or anyone in her office – had tipped off the media. She flatly denied the allegation.
- After a dinner break, Cash completely flipped. Buzzfeed had published an article naming one of her staff as the one who tipped off the media. The staffer immediately resigned. Labor has called – and keeps calling – for Cash’s resignation, but it doesn’t look like she’s backing down.
- It was then revealed that earlier that day Cash, the leaky staffer, and Turnbull had all met, where Cash reportedly confirmed to the PM that she didn’t tip off the media. Just how ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ or above board this meeting was, we’ll never know.
- Late on Wednesday night, the head of the ROC completely reversed his reasoning for the raid to begin with. Apparently, the documents in question had already been supplied to the Trade Union Royal Commission several years ago, which named several corrupt union officials – none of them were Shorten. So the only reason for the raid was an anonymous tip off that the AWU was destroying documents that had already been cleared.
Cash is still facing pressure to resign, and Senate Estimates are still battering away on the topic and trying to get the story straight.
Turnbull denies a referendum on Indigenous Voices
In December 2015, Bill Shorten and Malcom Turnbull jointly appointed The Referendum Council – a body designed to consult with First Nations people and then to deliver recommendations to the government on how to recognise the First Nations people in the constitution. In May of this year, after almost eighteen months, a lot of money and time, they delivered their recommendation. They said they didn’t want tokenistic action. They wanted real, meaningful change. They wanted a ‘voice to parliament’. Their chief recommendation:
That a referendum be held to provide in the Australian Constitution for a representative body that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament. One of the specific functions of such a body, to be set out in legislation outside the Constitution, should include the function of monitoring the use of the heads of power in section 51 (xxvi) and section 122. The body will recognise the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia.
This week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said that the referendum wouldn’t be happening, as such an exercise was doomed to fail. He has been unclear in providing evidence of this claim. He suggested the Referendum Council has acted outside of their brief by suggesting the institutionalisation of the Voice to the Commonwealth of Parliament. He too is currently being grilled by Senate Estimates, and – I think it’s fair to say – his defence is a scramble. Various indigenous leaders have described the refusal as devastating. The Referendum Council was not consulted before the public refusal of their recommendation.
We did a deep dive into Aussie indigenous affairs here.
Institutional Abuse Redress Scheme
In light of the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of children, the government tabled a bill this week to offer victims up to $150,000 in compensation for their suffering. The vast majority of the abuse uncovered by the Royal Commission was perpetuated by the Catholic Church.
Euthanasia Bill Passes
The Victorian Parliament passed a bill for ‘assisted dying’ after a fierce debate last week. The bill now passes to Victoria’s upper house.
Legendary rock and roll figure, Fats Domino, has passed away at the age of 79. He was, quite simply, brilliant. I thoroughly recommend turning off the news and YouTubing his performances to take you into the weekend.