This week has been another busy one politically with stuff happening on a local and global stage that is of interest. Locally you had the by-election results finalise for Cheltenham and Enfield with two comfortable wins for the Labor Party. Also locally you had the Federal Parliament return for it’s first of two sitting weeks before the April Budget, there you had the Government lose a substantive vote on the floor of Parliament for the first time since 1941. You then had the government filibuster question time for the longest time ever to avoid a vote on having a Royal Commission into the treatment of the Disabled. Internationally you had the May Government lose another vote on Brexit and Donald Trump declare a state of emergency on building the Mexican wall. This blog will cover each of these issues in depth.
First I will cover the by-election results. The first seat covered was the seat of Enfield. That was a reasonably safe Labor seat of around 8 percent. The final by-election result is given by (1): So the Labor vote increased by about 7 percent which is a positive result for them. I thought Saru Rana would do better as effectively the stooge Liberal candidate but to finish third by such a comfortable margin would be disappointing for Liberal HQ. Gary Johanson would be pleased with getting 20 percent of the vote as a former mayor in the area. The Greens basically stayed put in this electorate which they would be disappointed by with SA Best and Liberal votes up for grabs.
|Total Ballot Papers:||20,044|
Two Candidate Preferred
In the Cheltenham by-election the Labor Party held this seat on a safe as nails 16 percent margin. The by-election result is given by (2). Again the Labor vote increased with the lack of a Liberal candidate with their vote going up 6.2 percent. The Liberal Democrats did well to get into second although some of that vote would be people confusing the Liberal Democrats with the Liberals. It does also match the performance in WA where the Liberal Democrats picked up the slack of Liberal voters when they didn’t run in the federal by-elections last year. The Greens did have a good showing in this seat with their vote more than doubling from 6.5 to 14.6 percent.
|DE JONGE Rob||IND||
|Total Ballot Papers:||20,615|
Two Candidate Preferred
Now on a federal level the Government lost a vote on the floor of government on the Medivac bill. (3) has an explainer on what the bill is, essentially it allows doctors and not the Minister to have ultimate say over who enters the country for medical attention. How this works is if Peter Dutton wants to veto a refugee coming from Nauru to Australia on medical grounds then a medical panel can veto that from happening and allow the refugee to come to Australia for medical care. Now this bill looked like it might apply to all current refugees and to future refugees who come to Nauru and the government ran an effective scare campaign over the summer that this bill would restart the boats. That made the Labor Party skittish and so they proposed a number of amendments to try and make the bill tighter. The amendments from Labor were to allow the bill to only apply to current refugees not future ones, allow the minister to stop the transfers from people convicted of serious criminal cases, lastly the Minister gets 72 hours to make the decision on whether to grant approval to the refugee getting medical attention. Now the Liberal’s have a few arguments against this bill in amended form. Firstly the bill was unconstitutional as it was a money bill that started from the Senate when they generally start from the Lower House. This was avoided by the Labor Party making the panel voluntary meaning there wasn’t a money aspect to the bill. I would think doctors willing to voluntarily work on this panel are probably more likely to agree to more compassion on refugee treatment is an attack on the bill that the government could make. Secondly the Liberal Party believe that there are currently refugees on Nauru that are being charged with serious offences and they could now come to Australia under this bill as a current member. Lastly the Liberal’s are trying to run a nuance argument saying after the election the Labor Party will change the bill to apply to all members and that will restart the boats and allow anyone in who are currently charged with a serious offence. To me the government are running an unnecessary scare campaign and the politics have moved on since 2013! I think the government talking so much about boats restarting may actually become a self fulfilling prophecy that may cause some boats to start coming again. Now I am in favour principally with a strong border protection policy because I don’t want to see deaths at sea but I think the Coalition are over playing this issue probably because everything else has failed and they have run out of tricks.
Also in Federal Parliament was the call for a Royal Commission on disability abuse in the Disability sector. The government voted against the motion in the Senate but then when it went down to the Lower House (the message from the Senate never actually came) the Government decided to run the longest ever question at over 2.5 hours to run down the clock on action being able to be taken to vote on such a motion. Now this Royal Commission according to the government at first is not needed because the Royal Commission into aged care facilities is already covering the treatment of disabled people in aged care facilities. That doesn’t cover the whole cohort of people with a disability and so I think a Royal Commission into the disabled care sector is very much needed, even in my limited knowledge on the area I have heard personal stories of people being abused in disabled communities that would be beneficial to have the light shone on in a Royal Commission. The government are now flagging they will pass the motion next week but they will not necessarily act straight away to call a Royal Commission meaning they don’t want to lose another substantive vote in Parliament but don’t want to call a Royal Commission yet, this is going to lead to a well deserved protest on the steps of Parliament House next week.
Moving onto International Politics and I will first cover the Brexit vote in the UK Parliament. The new proposed deal was essentially the same as the deal that was voted on previously except with an implicit mention of ruling out a no deal Brexit. This you would have thought would have been more acceptable to Labor MP’s as a no deal Brexit is what they want but they for the large part stuck with playing the negative opposition of just opposing everything. What hurt the government though was the Pro Brexiteers who abstained from the vote because they don’t want a delayed Brexit and aren’t afraid of leaving the EU with no deal. So what happens next, well Theresa May goes back to Brussels to continue to argue her case of a change to the backstop. The problem for May is she has no negotiating power now with a lack of a majority of her party backing the deal and with them still not wanting to negotiate on the removal of a backstop.
Meanwhile in the USA Donald Trump has finally declared a State of Emergency on getting funding for his wall. From (4) what declaring a State of Emergency does is allow the president to shift appropriated money from Congress to another area of funding in this case shifting 8 billion dollars from other measures and the State of Emergency to building his wall which is more than the 5.7 billion dollars he initially asked for. Now this drew opposition from a few places. On the Democrat side they complained about the abuse of power and separation of powers from the Presidential level to the Senate level, they are planning on setting up litigation measures against the Presidents actions. On the Republican side of the ledger they are worried about the separation of powers too as well as the precedent for a President of a different persuasion to do the same thing in the future. For me it is a worry that the President has not got his way and declared a State of Emergency on such a small issue, something not used since 9/11 and this is certainly not an issue of 9/11 proportions. I am also concerned about the precedent it sets for a Democrat President to do the same thing on an equally minor issue. It will however play well to his base and I sense Donald Trump’s strategy at this point is to just ensure those who voted for him last time do so again because he knows he isn’t getting a large amount of voters to vote for him this time that did not do so in 2016.
Thank you for reading my blog. I will be back at the end of next week to sum up the second sitting week of Federal Parliament.