The week in politics 21st August

This week in politics, the Prime Minister accused Labor of a xenophobic campaign against the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, announced plans to restrict court appeals for mining projects and read the riot act to members of cabinet over leaks to the media.



Political attention from the Opposition was focused on Union Royal Commissioner Justice Dyson Heydon.


Facing pressure, internal division and a problematic cabinet meeting this week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott turned his attack on the Opposition leader’s credibility in question time.


“That smirking phoney over there that assassin, the two time Sussex Street assassin.”


And the Government says Labor’s campaign against elements of the China-Australia FTA is xenophobic.


“The department will only enter into a project Labor agreement where it has been satisfied that Australians have been provided first opportunities for jobs. Where it has been satisfied Australians have been provided first opportunity for jobs. Let’s have no more racist lies. No more racist lies from members opposite.”


In his own cabinet all is not well.


On Monday night the Prime Minister read the riot act to Cabinet Ministers.


The most recent division are over feelings by some the Prime Minister had bypassed cabinet processes on the marriage equality issue and Mr Abbott’s decision to have a public vote on same sex marriage after the next election.


The cross party bill on same sex marriage was introduced by Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch.


“It is an issue that is very very important issue to many people in our society both within the gay community and the families and the friends and those who support the rights of those individuals, and with that Mr Deputy Speaker I commend the bill to the house.”


Leaks from the Government continued.


Frontbencher Eric Abetz isn’t happy about it.


“I talk to my colleagues face to face or not at all. I’m not one of those people that has unattributed comments in the media. 1, I think it’s gutless. 2, It’s a breach of the rules and so if somebody is gutless and in breach of the rules one really wonders why a journalist even bothers to repeat comments from such an individual.”


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pondered who was behind it?


“For the life of me I can’t understand why someone would do this on our side because all it does is play into the hands of the Labor Party. I see no useful purpose at all in this happening.”


In question time Opposition leader Bill Shorten took his chances.


“Can the Prime Minister confirm that government ministers have been directed to say that Cabinet is and I quote functioning exceptionally well when asked about cabinet leaks? Can the Prime Minister confirm that the government is functioning so exceptionally well that cabinet ministers immediately leaked this document?”

“What I’m not going to do is accept lectures on cabinet solidarity from the leader of the Opposition who backstabbed two prime ministers. He backstabbed two Prime Ministers”

Mr Abbott defended Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon who is facing attack from the ACTU and Labor.


“I rise in this parliament to defend the professionalism and the impartiality of a distinguished Australian.”


In Sydney, at the Royal Commission, Unions asked Justice Dyson Heydon to step aside.


At issue was Justice Heydon’s decision to accept an invitation to speak at the annual Sir Garfield Barwick legal address hosted by the New South Wales Liberal Party.


He later declined the invitation.


The Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, took the subject to question time.


TONY BURKE: “Prime Minister, is it the case that Dyson Heydon AC QC after he had been appointed Royal Commissioner accepted an invitation to speak at an event knowing full well it was organised by the Liberal Party?”

TONY ABBOTT: “This government fully supports the professionalism and the impartiality of Dyson Hayden QC.”


The Prime Minister’s focus has been promoting themes of growth, jobs and community safety.


He’s also announced plans to amend environmental legislation to prevent activists using the courts to stop projects such as the Adani-owned Carmichael mine in Queensland.


“Everywhere you turn the Labor party is against jobs it’s against jobs at the Adani mine in Queensland. It’s against jobs on the East West Link in Melbourne. It’s against the China Free Trade Agreement which will create. Everywhere you look the Labor Party is against jobs because Mr Speaker the only thing the Labor Party is interested in these days is protecting union rackets and appeasing the greens.”


The legislative change may not get through the Senate, because too few independent senators are prepared to support it.


Greens Leader Richard Di Natale says his party will opposite the legislation in the Senate.

“He wants to allow big multinational companies have their way, at the expense of the environment. Show’s you exactly where the government’s priorities are.”


The purchasing of real estate by foreign owners has been in the news a lot this year, with the Government implementing tougher penalties.

In Parliament, the Treasurer introduced further legislation and increased sanctions.

“Criminal penalties will be increased from $90,000 to $135,000 for individuals and will be supplemented by civil pecuniary penalties and infringement notices for less serious breaches of the residential real estate rules.”


The Government’s planned legislation to cancel citizenship for dual nationals involved in terrorism is due in the parliament next month.


Public community consultation begins next week.


It will be led by Government envoy Phillip Ruddock.


“It’s surprising how many people are aware of the Citizenship engagement and they do say to you as you meet with them how can we make people more aware of the shared obligations as well as the benefits of being an Australian citizen.


The Government is urging members of public to have their say at community events around the country.


The first event is in Sydney on Monday.