He looks forward to Labor’s strategy for the end of the year. He says the party will examine media reforms and measures to strengthen democracy. Labor will have the first meeting of its national policy committee on Friday, he says.
It’s all about confidence, he says.
We will go in 2020 with confidence. Confidence that we can hold this Government to account. Confidence that we can defeat legislation. Confidence that we can present an alternative vision for this nation and an alternative vision that’s based on fairness, that’s based on creating wealth but also is concerned about its distribution. Confidence that we can deal with climate change with a plan which creates jobs, lowers emissions and lowers emergency prices.Confidence that we can stand up for Australia’s view in international forums.
Albanese says when Scott Morrison says “quiet Australians”, he really means “shut up and listen to me”. This prompts some applause.
We won’t be quiet. Australians won’t be quiet. It’s not our nature as a people. We’re up-front. We’re bold. We talk about things. We put forward our view.
Albanese is now paying tribute to Labor’s Senate team for their work opposing the union-busting laws which were defeated on Friday. He tells caucus that the people in this room “made a difference”.
Every single senator spoke and last Friday I went to Australia’s largest union – the nurses and midwives – and there we celebrated what was a great victory for working people. But also I want to say that it says something about this movement. We don’t shy away from our connection with the trade union movement. I’m a proud trade unionist. Without trade unions, we wouldn’t have the working conditions that enable us to enjoy the Australian way of life that we all enjoy today.”
Albanese is now talking about Labor’s calls for a royal commission into veteran suicides. He speaks of meeting Julie-Ann Finney, the mother of a former sailor who killed himself after suffering PTSD.
I spoke to Julie-Ann Finney this morning. It was a difficult conversation with her. She is a remarkable woman and an incredible advocate and there is no one who could sit in a room with her and have a discussion and not come to the view that I came to.
She said today that for her, ‘a royal commission – I quote her and I asked for her permission to do that – … is an act of love, compassion and gratitude for her son.’ That’s the way that these people feel.”
Albanese pays tribute to Bill Shorten and Linda Burney for the work they did to oppose the robodebt system.
He then turns to aged care.
The fact that 16,000 older Australians who were entitled – had been ticked off – to get home care died while waiting for that care. And of course we know the bloke who ripped the money out of aged care was Scott Morrison, as treasurer.”
Albanese describes Scott Morrison as “an ad man with no plan”.
An ad man who dismisses any form of accountability. Who regards democracy as an inconvenience.
This mob shut down debate, shut down questions from the media … dismissing them as just gossip or just in the bubble, don’t want to be accountable. And the fact is that we have a job to hold them to account, hold them account on behalf of working people.”
Albanese addresses caucus
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, is addressing caucus. He says Labor is moving forward.
“That’s more than you can say for this economy,” he quips.
Albanese says working people are struggling.
What’s the government’s response? They’ve never had it so good. That’s the approach we see, the arrogance, the hubris, that we see every day in question time.”
I’ve lost count of the Angus Taylor controversies, but at least two new ones emerged yesterday. One was sprung by Labor in question time. It says Taylor failed to declare an interest in a company named GFA F1 Pty Ltd. Taylor has a partnership interest in the company through a separate venture, Farm Partnerships Australia, which he has declared appropriately. But he hasn’t named an interest in GFA F1 on his pecuniary interests register. Labor isn’t alleging there is any conflict of interest.
The second issue to pop up was on the stranger side. In Taylor’s first speech to parliament, he spoke of his memories of Christmas while studying at Oxford. He remembered “a young Naomi Wolf”, now a well-known US author and journalist, wanting to remove a Christmas tree from the common room “because some people might be offended”. Taylor described his outrage at this form of “political correctness”.
Wolf subsequently raised the small issue of her not actually being in Oxford at the time of Taylor’s memory, and accused him of an “anti-semitic dogwhistle”.
“I was a Rhodes scholar in Oxford 1985-88,” Wolf said on Twitter. “Angus Taylor recalls me in a fever dream at Oxford in 1991 among those warring on Xmas. I was in NYC. Plus I love Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa. Flattered to be on this mythological hate list.”
Mark Butler has just been on Sky News, talking about these various controversies.
On Taylor’s defence of failing to declare an interest in GFA F1:
The corollary of what he said is that a resources minister would only be obliged to disclose the fact they had BHP shares if they have a sufficient number of those shares to control the company. That is utterly ridiculous.”
On the Oxford student story:
So again Angus Taylor has misled the parliament. It just gives you the sense that this guy makes stuff up.”
Of course, the issue continuing to pose the most trouble for Taylor is that he relied on a falsified document to attack Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, for her travel-related emissions.
WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, is also in Canberra this morning. He’s trying to raise Australian support for the imprisoned Julian Assange. He’ll be speaking at the National Press Club a little later.
Assange is on remand in London’s maximum security Belmarsh prison while the US seeks to extradite him for soliciting, obtaining and publishing secret documents. The trial is set down for February.
Hrafnsson says the case should concern all journalists. He told the ABC earlier:
It sets a very serious precedent. It means that no journalist anywhere in the world is safe if the empire decides that some publication is an embarrassment, they can go after that journalist. and they will do, that is absolutely a certainty.”
Assange has already won support from unlikely quarters. Barnaby Joyce has voiced his support for Assange, as has the former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
We hope that many more will come on board as well.
It is helping. It is very important to hear these voices and to get their input and to show that this goes noticed.
We see this as not a partisan issue. This is a cross-party fight where we hope that everyone comes on board despite their differences, because it’s of upmost importance.”
Nationals Damian Drum and Michael McCormack have been down to see the Murray-Darling Basin protesters out the front of parliament.
And boy, did they cop it.
The farmers’ frustrations were there for all to see. Mike Bowers was there and reports that the anger was palpable. Sky News had to apologise to viewers for all the swears, so you know it was bad.
Drum was trying to calm everyone down. He says the public is now on the side of the farmers, after apparently abandoning them following reports about the Menindee fish kills earlier in the year.
Now they’re saying no, we want to put the farmers first, so right now is the opportunity. We can take the sentiment that exists in Melbourne, the sentiment in Sydney, in Brisbane.”
A protester, John Russell, is berating McCormack for not crossing the floor against the Liberals to stand up for farmers. The Nationals won’t exist after the next election if they don’t show some spine, he says:
Where’s the passion? I haven’t seen any passion from you. You’re like a poker player.”
Also in that interview, Mark Dreyfus denied any suggestion that Labor’s referral of Angus Taylor to police was a “political stunt”.
Absolutely not. The referral to the NSW police is because, on the face of it, it looks like a criminal offence may have been committed. It wouldn’t be necessary to make this referral … if Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison properly disclosed just what happened in Angus Taylor’s office.
On the face of it, Angus Taylor has misled the parliament. It’s an obviously forged document and we don’t know where it came from. It’s scandalous that neither Angus Taylor nor Scott Morrison has launched an investigation.”
Labor urges government to call royal commission on veteran suicides
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has called for a royal commission into the shocking rates of veteran suicides in Australia. Albanese says:
The fact is we’re not doing enough in this area and that’s why the call for a royal commission is reasonable. This is one that’s been led, not by politicians; this has been led by the families of veterans.”
The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has been on Sky News also discussing the urgent need for a royal commission. He says the situation cannot be allowed to stand.
There’s a shocking rate of suicides among our veterans. These are men and women who have served our country overseas and we can’t continue with the situation where we have a much higher suicide rate than the general population.
The right way to investigate this is with a royal commission … That’s what we need to get some answers.”
Another frantic day as the year draws to close
Just a quick summary of what we’re expecting from today.
- Labor will continue its pressure on Angus Taylor over the controversy now engulfing him, the prime minister and the attorney general. Taylor relied on a falsified document to attack Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore. The revelations prompted a police referral from Labor, and NSW police have set up a taskforce to investigate. The scandal was moved along further by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, who called the NSW police chief, Mick Fuller, a personal acquaintance, to check up on the investigation. We now know Christian Porter, the attorney general, was also on that call. The Coalition has accused Labor of “vexatious” and frivolous referrals to police.
- The medevac repeal legislation will be debated again by the Senate today. The independent senator Jacqui Lambie still holds the critical vote, and faces lobbying from both sides. Lambie is yet to make her position clear. New figures were conveniently leaked to the Australian this morning suggesting more than one-third of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru have applied for transfer under the laws.
- As we mentioned, Ken Wyatt, minister for Indigenous Australians, is under pressure over reports that he handed a contract to the company of a Liberal donor and former candidate without tender. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age suggested the contract was awarded contrary to internal advice.
- The Murray-Darling Basin plan protesters are still camped out the front of Parliament House. The protests are placing pressure on the Nationals. Many of their traditional constituents are furious with the government’s treatment of the basin, and want the basin plan scrapped or paused.
- Labor is also calling again for a royal commission into veteran suicides, saying it is unacceptable that those who served Australia face a higher suicide rate than the general population.
Stay with us. We’ll keep across all the developments as they happen.
Ken Wyatt contract controversy kicks off busy day in parliament
Hello dear readers. Welcome to another day in the mad house.
It’s Christopher Knaus here again, filling in for Amy Remeikis. I’ll be here with you all week.
There’s plenty on. The Murray Darling Basin protestors are still in Canberra in relative force. We’re expecting another day of debate on the medevac repeal bill. And there’s likely to be follow-up to the revelation that Christian Porter was in the room for Scott Morrison’s controversial call to NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller but did not seek advice about what he said was a “simple” and “basic” call. The call related to an active investigation into cabinet minister Angus Taylor following revelations in the Guardian that he relied on falsified documents to attack the Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore.
But the major story of the morning concerns Ken Wyatt, the minister for Indigenous Australians. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age have reported that he awarded a $2.2m contract to a Liberal donor-linked company. The contract did not go to tender, and had the company conduct Indigenous eye surgeries at double the market rate. It was awarded despite internal objections, the papers reported.