Libby's View from CanberraNewsletter
The three best and worst things from the last sitting fortnight in Canberra.
- All week the Government refused to allow Labor to speak about the massive changes they are overseeing to Australia Post, which could have been in the worst 3 for the sittings! Those changes mean Aussie Post mail deliveries will be reduced to every second day in metropolitan areas, will extend the required delivery time to five days for intrastate letters and abolish the priority mail letter product. That will have an impact on jobs and services. Unable to even speak on the matter because the Government kept closing down the debate, Labor took the unusual step of having Labor MP, Ed Husic, ask Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, a question in Question Time. Here is his response.
- The Black Lives Matter protests in the US, in response to the murder of George Floyd, caused a spontaneous reaction here as protesters pointed out the 340 plus deaths in custody since the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission. To add insult to injury the Prime Minister claimed that colonial Australia “was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery…”In the Senate Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker claimed the Queensland Government “was the knee on the throat of businesses, stopping them from breathing.” Both are supposed to be leaders. Both are supposed to know something about history. Both later apologised, sort of. In the Senate Senator Patrick Dodson put the whole issue in perspective when he spoke about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.
- The Robodebt scandal has been a disaster for the government, the taxpayer but most appallingly, the hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients who have been harassed and hounded to repay false “debts”. The Government has been forced to pay back $721 million and may have to repay up to $1.5 billion. It still faces a class action for interest and damages. Shadow Minister Bill Shorten has led the campaign for justice for those affected. He explains why the Government knew what they were doing was unlawful since 2017.
- Canberra Labor MP Alycia Payne got more than she bargained for when she rose to ask the first question in one Question Time last week. Alycia asked the PM if he thought it was unacceptable that women currently living in Yass had to travel more than an hour to reasonable maternity facilities to give birth, with some forced to deliver on the side of the Barton Highway (which leads into Canberra from the Hume Highway). Rather than talking about the state of medical facilities, Scott Morrison shocked the Parliament by starting his answer with “That’s why we’ve committed $150 million to upgrade the Barton Highway” as if the state of the highway has anything to do with the proximity of decent medical facilities! You can laugh or despair at the exchange yourself right here.
- The Government ending the failed “free childcare” experiment is like going from the frying pan into the fire. There were many problems with the so-called “free childcare” package but abandoning it has just created a whole lot more. Many parents who have no jobs or reduced hours not going to be able to afford the re-introduced gap fees. Worse still, the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy for early education workers means many providers will have the triple whammy of reduced demand for places, reduced capacity for parents to pay fees and fewer staff as providers will have to lower staff numbers to remain viable. Early educators did their best in difficult circumstances. Labor Shadow Minister for Early Education, Amanda Rishworth MP said it all in this contribution to the Matter of Public Importance on June 10.
- The Government announced a HomeBuilder package to rescue the building industry. It’s a small and complicated package, aimed only at home renovations and new homes (to a limit of $25,000 with contracts needing to be signed by December). Nothing for bushfire victims. Nothing for social housing. Our Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare summed it up best in a Matter of Public Importance on 12 June.