Barnaby In Trouble
The story that was at the tail end of our coverage last week is this week’s headline. Deputy Prime Minister, Nationals Party Leader and Akubra-wearing-relatable-politican-at-the-pub Barnaby Joyce has faced escalating pressure to resign this week, after it was revealed he had an affair with a former staffer, who is now pregnant. Joyce is now in a committed relationship with his new partner.
After a week of hubbub and backroom talks, the current news is that Barnaby will take a week’s personal leave. The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has announced new rules banning all sexual relationships between ministers and staff. For now, Barnaby seems to have survived the week without losing his job. He still faces pressure from all sides:
  • The Senate passed a motion calling for the Deputy PM to step down.
  • It’s hard to prove that Barnaby Joyce has broken any ministerial rules (except the new ones that the PM introduced just yesterday). However, it’s been revealed that during a personally turbulent six months last year, he lived rent-free at a mate’s place in Armidale. There are questions about whether Barnaby asked for this. If so, he breached ministerial rules because it would be a gift. Barnaby insists he didn’t. Questions remain.
  • There was clearly a number of meetings held within the Nationals Party this week, and ultimately, they’ve decided not to de-throne Barnaby as leader. Barnaby Joyce is, historically, a remarkably successful politician, and holds strong favour with many voters who would otherwise drift towards One Nation.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan
We did a deep dive into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan earlier this week, and you should check it out. The Senate voted to reject the plan to reduce the amount of water being returned to the environment in Queensland and Northern New South Wales in a bid to save two hundred jobs in irrigation-dependent communities. This triggered the New South Wales environment minister to declare that the state would be withdrawing from the Plan altogether, possibly causing its entire collapse. There’s more changes for the Plan in the pipeline (so to speak), due to be debated in the Parliament in May. So we’ll here a lot more about it then.
Parliament Actually Did Stuff
Parliament sat this week – and stuff does happen in Parliament, I promise. It just doesn’t get reported on all the time. Here’s what happened this week:
  • There will be a strengthening of laws around preventing image-based abuse, or revenge porn. The law means that the ‘eSafety Commissioner’ now has the power to issue removal notices to abusers, asking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat to take down images or video or the corporations will face big-time fines.
  • The government will provide $18 million over three years to the United National Development Programme to support stabilisation efforts in Iraq.
  • Parliament paused to pay tribute to the ten year anniversary of the apology to the stolen generation. Malcolm Turnbull responded to the Closing the Gap report, which has improved somewhat from last year, but is still woefully behind, meeting only three of its seven targets.
  • The ‘cashless debit card’ bill passed Parliament, allowing for the expansion of trial sites into the WA Goldfields. The card is for welfare recipients, and doesn’t work if you try to spend money on booze or gambling.
  • Immigration Minister Peter Dutton called for greater cuts to migration to stop over-crowding in cities. Particularly, he wanted the ability to pick and choose migrants who “make a good contribution”, and not those who were “going to be a burden”.
  • Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, has said Labor would pursue an “Indigenous voice to parliament” without the support of the government, in favour of the Uluru Statement which Malcolm Turnbull has rejected. The voice to Parliament is a key recommendation of the statement, and ties into the heart of Indigenous affairs, which we’ve covered previously.
  • Labor has also declared a plan to pledge $280 million to building a research institute for the education sector, to keep teachers up to date with the most current research.
Trump and the Porn Star
Porn actress Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 by Donald Trump’s personal lawyer just before election day, effectively silencing her from talking about an alleged 2011 affair with Trump. But the lawyer’s shopping for a book deal now and yapped to the New York Times about it, so apparently the non-disclosure agreement is off, and Stormy can talk publicly about what happened. So stay tuned for that, because I’m sure we could all bear to listen to more stories about Donald Trump’s erotic past.
South Africa has a New President
Jacob Zuma, 75, stepped down from the presidency of South Africa this week, after days of defying orders from his party and the parliament to leave. Zuma is facing corruption allegations. He is replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces an uphill battle. Not the least of which is Cape Town running out of water, which we did a deep dive on a last week.
School Shooting In Florida

Seventeen people are confirmed dead after a school shooting by a teenage gunman at a Florida High School. So far, there have been eighteen shootings at US schools – more than one a week.

I am reminded of the shooting at Virginia Technical University – astonishingly ten years ago now – and the memorial poem by Nikki Giovanni. This poem, although spectacular, didn’t stop another ten years of shootings. Just like the apology to the Stolen Generation has not done all that we have hoped for for the Indigenous people of Australia. I love this poem, because it represents all of it – we are proud, we are ashamed, and there is work to be done. We will prevail.

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Photo at the top thanks to Mike Bowers and Guardian Media Services.

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