It was an explosive week of Parliament, the first of very few in 2022. The government decided not to schedule too many sitting days this year because, when there’s an election year, a most secretive government doesn’t want too much scrutiny placed upon itself.
And, because it’s an election year, a funding freeze for the ABC has been lifted, which is a little bit awkward: the Liberal Party conference in 2015 voted to privatise the ABC (and SBS), and it’s one of the Institute of Public Affair’s top 50 items on its to-do list. And that’s aside from the 30 years of hardline attacks on the ABC by the Liberal Party, which have dramatically escalated since 2013.
So much time has been spent on the Religious Discrimination Bill, a Bill that not too many people care about, or even want – but Scott Morrison believes this Bill may provide him with a narrow pathway to victory at the 2022 federal election. But it’s off the table now: the government didn’t have the parliamentary competence to manage its own legislation.
The emphasis on a Bill that nobody wants is also instructive for the areas the government is not focusing upon: a national anti-corruption commission was promised over three years ago, but is nowhere to be seen. The Minister for Aged Care attends a cricket match, rather than face scrutiny at a Senate Estimates hearing.
Women’s safety issues are being left behind – and didn’t Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame give the Prime Minister an earful for this: women have had enough, they’re not going to smile and be silent. The powerful never easily relinquish power, but it’s a reminder of what can be achieved with effective advocacy.
And while the Prime Minister was very busy washing a young woman’s hair at a Coco hair salon – creepy! – the Labor Party is carefully preparing its economic agenda for when it returns to government. It will be difficult for Labor to win at the next election – as it is for any Opposition party – but they are ensuring that they are well prepared.
Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, believes the federal government has forgotten the “people” part of the economy and the pandemic has clearly shown that a healthy economy also needs a healthy community and workforce. The current problems in the economy: wage stagnation, a generational debt without a generational dividend, poor economic management, poor management of the pandemic – all need to be addressed, but better economic thinking needs to adopted if the economy is going to “build back better”, rather than a futile “snap back” to a pre-pandemic world, which might be unachievable anyway.
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