I don’t want to alarm anyone unduly, but it does seem that the Australian parliament has actually just passed a piece of climate legislation.
Labor’s evocatively-titled “Safeguard Mechanism” bill, which will progressively crimp the emissions of the nation’s 215 biggest polluters, is now awaiting the viceregal rubber-stamp after the Greens this week got on board. (Here’s an explainer on what the safeguard mechanism actually is.)
If you rummage deeply enough among your climate war neural scar tissue, you will of course recall that the Safeguard Mechanism was originally the Coalition’s policy proposal, shrewdly adopted by Labor at last year’s election and now briskly disowned by its birth parents.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has now backed it in. He didn’t manage to get the government to ban all new coal and gas projects like he wanted, but he has promised to fight each individual one tooth and nail, so that’s something we can all look forward to.
The deal between Messrs Bandt and Bowen was sadly not commemorated with sprigs of wattle and a registry signing like the unforgettable Julia Gillard-Bob Brown civil union of yesteryear.
There was an unmistakeable “quiet second wedding” vibe to this one; Brett Worthington explains why here.
More things actually happening shock
Again, not to freak you out, but something more substantial than “everybody bustling about pretending to be a constitutional lawyer” has finally happened on the proposed Voice to Parliament.
The legislation to trigger the referendum has now been introduced to the House of Representatives. Voice architect Pat Anderson took out line of the week when she said that Voice advocates now have their “bare arses on the barbed wire“.
A reminder: this is the mechanism bill, not the referendum itself.
Amateur constitutionalists have of course been hard at work critiquing and commending the draft wording of the referendum question. But a real one — former High Court justice Kenneth Hayne — this week told the Law Report he thought it was fine.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, Premier Peter Malinauskas convened a special sitting of parliament to pass its own version of the Voice. It’s not a race, mate.
Speaking of election issues…
Climate and integrity, climate and integrity, WOMEN, climate and integrity. This week the Parliament passed new laws obliging employers to disclose their gender pay gaps — information that will be publicly available through the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and allow about 4.5 million employees around Australia to be either deeply horrified or pleasantly surprised. Stand by for some VERY awkward moments at the water bubbler.
Meanwhile, on the integrity front, the government has appointed someone to head up the National Anti-Corruption Commission. And it’s — gulp — a man whose day job is WAR CRIMES.
Given his demonstrated preparedness to remonstrate with trained killers for chopping bits off people, Justice Paul Brereton should find the NACC a breeze. Who’s going to be the first to get NACC-ed? Stand by for news as it comes to hand.
But wait, there’s less
Okay, so let’s not get carried away by these rogue instances of parliament actually doing things. Labor’s promised $10 billion Housing Future Fund, which is supposed to be bankrolling 30,000 affordable homes over the next five years, is hopelessly mired in negotiations with the Greens and beginning to look a distinct risk of not happening.
And while parliament’s denizens weren’t busy not passing housing bills, some of them were indulging in what I can only describe as ABSOLUTE SCENES. Let’s begin with the House of Representatives, where on Tuesday a division (vote) was called that required Coalition MPs to side either with Labor or the Greens.
Disinclined to support either, a group of Liberals decided on the spur of the moment to sprint from the chamber instead. What is the collective noun for Liberal MPs these days?
Maybe it should be a “crash”, like rhinos, because as shadow treasurer Angus Taylor, shadow defence minister Andrew Hastie, shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien, shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan, former deputy speaker Llew O’Brien, Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell and the Member for Flinders Zoe McKenzie (you can’t miss her on the opposition benches, she’s the lady one) attempted a stampede for the door, they managed to injure one of the chamber attendants as she tried to comply with Speaker Milton Dick’s verbal instruction to “Lock the doors!”
The federal Liberal Party is doing what it can to repair its image with women, clearly evidenced last week by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s enthusiastic attendance at the Chief Executive Women’s famed annual dinner.
Will the party’s “problem with women” be assisted by the spectacle of half a dozen Liberal bros actually knocking one over in her place of work? Hard to see how.
Speaker Dick absolutely lost his mind at them and they all apologised. The attendant is bruised but okay, and one hopes she received at the very least a GARGANTUAN bunch of flowers.
Meanwhile in the Red Room of Pain
The Senate had its own dramas this week. There’s been a bit of grumbling from the conservative benches about the Greens’ habit of acknowledging country at the beginning of speeches. Some feel that one acknowledgement a day is enough and to do it repeatedly is wasting time, which is pretty steep coming from a chamber whose reputation for timewasting is ancient, noble and richly-earned.
Anyhow, when Green-turned-Independent Lidia Thorpe commenced a speech yesterday with an acknowledgement, Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes muttered something along the lines of: “How many times do we have to listen to this?”
Whereupon Senator Thorpe did her nut. “Is that racism?” she asked former defence minister Linda Reynolds, who was in the president’s chair for the session but found herself almost immediately outgunned by the livid outrage of senators Hughes and Thorpe. Senator Reynolds did not issue a ruling on whether it’s racist to grumble during an acknowledgement of country. But it certainly was a nasty look, in a chamber with a very compromised history on its dealing with Indigenous women.
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Before we leave the Upper House, it’s worth noting that the man we nearly elected prime minister two decades ago — Mark Latham, now leading One Nation in NSW, and moonlighting as a walking experiment in human dishevelment — has achieved something seriously impressive this week. To wit: he said something that even his federal leader Pauline Hanson reckons is a bit much.
Mr Latham is out of temper, probably because the NSW election didn’t quite deliver the Latham-slide of his lurid dreams. And look, it does take a bold strategist to decide — less than a year after the Liberal Party so memorably crashed and burned in NSW trying to weaponise anti-trans sentiment — to go to another election yammering about trans people. Different election, same result. Incredible.
Anyhoo, Mr Latham yesterday took to Twitter to respond to gay Independent MP Alex Greenwich’s description of him as “disgusting”, unleashing a description of a sex act that was so laced with hate that most outlets would not repeat it.
Senator Hanson wants him to apologise, but he seems to have gone to earth. Middle Earth, possibly.
I still call Australia ‘The Respondent’
So, this is a weird one — even by the standards of this week, during which it was announced that Australian scientists have lab-grown a woolly mammoth meatball.
Clive Palmer — another serial non-prime minister whose electoral success at the 2022 federal election rivals even Mark Latham ’23 for underwhelm — is consoling himself by suing the Commonwealth for $300 billion. Not a huge surprise (The Yellow One loves a spot of litigation).
But the real kicker is who he’s engaged as his lawyer: none other than Christian Porter, whose old job used to be protecting the nation from hostile legal action.
Now, obviously we all know the old line about the cab-rank rule, and that barristers are obliged not to refuse a client, within reason.
But which cab rank is Mr Porter lining up at? In recent times he’s provided services to underworld figure Mick Gatto, and a Russian oligarch suing the government over sanctions imposed by *checks notes* the very government of which Mr Porter himself was a part.
Oh well. I guess “Let’s Make Australia Broke Again” has quite the ring.
Are you still paying attention?
I was so busy getting a cup of tea then losing my glasses then checking my email then doing a deep dive into Russian oligarchs that I nearly forgot to tell you that the parliament has initiated an inquiry into ADHD!
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John has captained the campaign for this inquiry. One hopes the committee secretariat will be understanding and flexible in its enforcement of the submissions deadline. Shout out to everyone out there with beautiful, wild brains.
Interest in members? Register here
The Register of Members’ Interests is always a reliable source of entertainment and the Member for Leichhardt, former croc-wrangler Warren Entsch, has got into a spot of bother this week over failing to disclose the Airbnb business his wife Yolande runs from their farm.
Photographs of the Romantic Rainforest Retreat (where a night of North Queensland lovin’ sets you back $145) show a tempting bedroom scene complete with novel and reading glasses and a rustic wooden bench gussied up with a couple of pillows and a bottle of wine.
Tearing our minds reluctantly from speculation about exactly what lubricious exertions might be possible upon the Entsch Bench, we should mention that the issue seems to be not that the couple is hosting a love pad, but that Mr Entsch did not cite his status as a tourism provider while chairing an inquiry into regional tourism. But hey, he’s a lover not a citer.
Sorry for concluding with such a dreadful pun. Shine on, you crazy diamonds. I’ll see you in Budget Week!
Thanks as ever to my intrepid colleagues in the ABC Canberra bureau, and my newsletter co-conspirator Brett Worthington.