Scott Morrison Releases Robert Cornall Report Into Manus Island And Death Of Reza Berati

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, has released the report by Robert Cornall into last February’s riot on Manus Island and the death of Reza Berati.


The report says a Papua New Guinean man who worked for the Salvation Army led the beating that killed the Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Berati. A “brutal beating by several assailants” led to Berati’s death from a severe brain injury.

The report makes 13 recommendations. Morrison said the government would implement all of them.

The report says the violence on February 16-18 could not be attributed to any particular factor. It says frustration and anxiety about resettlement policies was one factor, aggravated by “the antagonism that had been developed between some transferees and PNG nationals employed at the centre and supporters in the local community. Some transferees treated PNG nationals employed in centre in a disrespectful and racist manner, and criticised their country”.

Statement by Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

Release of independent review of Manus disturbance

The Australian Government is committed to working with the Government of Papua New Guinea to implement the recommendations of the independent inquiry by Robert Cornall AO into the events of 16-18 February at the Manus Offshore Processing Centre (OPC), Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison said today. [Read more…]

Busting The Budget: Greens MP Condones Blocking Of Appropriation Bills By Senate

A NSW Greens MP, David Shoebridge, has advocated a parliamentary process that could see the Senate block the government’s Appropriation Bills, a tactic not employed since the constitutional crisis of 1975 that resulted in the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

ShoebridgeShoebridge today released a paper titled: “Busting The Budget – How to Stop the Abbott Budget”. The former barrister, who has been a member of the NSW Legislative Council since 2010, says the Senate could demand amendments to the Budget, as allowed under Section 53 of the Constitution.

Referring to Section 53, Shoebridge says: “In other words, the Senate can demand the Supply Bill be amended by refusing to pass it unless amendments are made. It can provide those amendments to the House of Representatives and force the Abbott government to either accept the amendments or see the budget voted down.”

Shoebridge says most functions of government would be able to continue, even if the Senate refused to pass the two Appropriation Bills. He says public servants are contracted to the Commonwealth and would receive the “necessary wages payments in due course”. He says: “The effect would be to delay the payment of public servants for the period of any impasse in the Senate.”

Shoebridge says the Senate can “choose the grounds on which to fight the budget” by refusing to agree to cuts to local government, social welfare, education, health and the environment. He says this will “force the Abbott government to either agree to these fair amendments or see its entire budget defeated with the consequential shut down of much of the government”.

What is Appropriation?

Governments cannot spend money without the approval of Parliament. Section 83 of the Constitution says that “no money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law”. [Read more…]

Christine Milne Delivers Greens Response To Federal Budget; Pledges To Oppose Key Measures

The Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne, has delivered her party’s response to this week’s federal Budget.

Speaking in the Senate, Milne committed the Greens to opposing key measures in the Budget, including changes to unemployment benefits for young people and university fees.

Milne said the Budget was written for “big-business, big miners, big polluters, big banks, who are all completely let off the hook”. She described the Budget’s spending cuts as “brutal”.

Milne said: “The Greens will stand with university students, school kids, families, pensioners, carers or the sick. We will stand with environmental campaigners, children not yet born, our precious threatened species, the places we love, and our magnificent rivers and groundwater storages. We will stand with you, against the Abbott Government. We will stand with you to kick this mob out.”

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Official transcript of Senator Christine Milne’s Budget Reply speech, delivered to the Senate.

In my 25 years in politics I have seen governments and budgets come and go. Governments like that of Tasmanian liberal premier Robin Gray who cooked the books and governments like that of John Howard who engaged in gross populism. Remember his rivers of gold, manna from heaven tax cuts as he squandered the benefits of the last mining boom and his previous decision to freeze the fuel excise to win an election.

I have seen governments ignore the challenges ahead, refuse to even mention climate change or the environment just as this Abbott government is doing and play instead to comfort zones promising that if they continue to do what they had always done everything will be ok, in spite of Einstein’s great observation that you can’t solve problems with the same mentality that created them and frankly that is our problem in this parliament. [Read more…]

ALP And Greens Condemn Government Over Audit Commission Report

The ALP and the Greens have both condemned the government, following today’s release of the National Commission of Audit’s report.


The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and the Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, have held a press conference in Sydney. Shorten described the Audit report as “a blueprint of Tony Abbott’s broken promise for his Budget”. He said it was a plan to put up taxes and cut services. [Read more…]

Liberals Clinging To Three Seats In WA Senate Election; Labor Thrashed As Greens Triumph And Palmer Surges

The Senate election re-run in Western Australia has resulted in swings against both major parties with the Liberals winning two seats and the ALP one. The Greens have significantly increased their vote and re-elected Scott Ludlam, whilst the Palmer United Party seems assured of winning a seat. The sixth position looks likely to be a contest between the Liberals and the ALP.

As counting continued late last night, the Liberal Party was assured of winning two of the six available seats on a primary vote of 33.71%, a fall of 5.49%. Senator David Johnston has been re-elected to a third term and Senator Michaelia Cash has been re-elected to a second term. [Read more…]

Liberals Win Outright Majority In Tasmania; Labor Crushed, Greens Punished

The Liberal Party will form a new government in Tasmania, following today’s election which crushed the ALP and punished the Greens.


Will Hodgman will become the first Liberal Premier of Tasmania since 1998, bringing to an end 16 years of Labor government. For the last four years, the ALP has governed in coalition with the Greens, first under Premier David Bartlett and then Lara Giddings.

The Liberal Party appears on track to win three seats each in Braddon, Bass, Lyons and Franklin and two seats in Denison, giving it 14 seats in the 25-seat House of Assembly.

Whilst counting is not finalised, the ALP is struggling to win more than one seat in four of the five electorates. It is likely to win two seats in Denison and hold at least 6 overall.

The Liberal Party is polling 57.39% of the vote in Bass, 58.84% in Braddon, 52.24% in Lyons, 49.76% in Franklin, and 37.72% in Denison. Statewide, the Liberal Party is polling 51.4% of the primary vote, an increase of 12.4%.

The ALP is polling 23.36% in Bass, 23.40% in Braddon, 27.66% in Lyons, 28.93% in Franklin and 34.18% in Denison. Statewide, it is polling 27.4%, a swing of 9.5% from 2010.

The Greens have lost over a third of their vote, falling from 21.6% to 13.5%, a swing of 8.1% since 2010. [Read more…]

Scott Ludlam Invites Tony Abbott To Western Australia: “We Want Our Country Back”

“We want our country back,” Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has told Tony Abbott, during a speech to the Senate in which he invited the prime minister to visit Western Australia during the Senate election campaign.


Ludlam, first elected to the Senate in 2007, is facing a difficult re-election campaign for the April 5 re-run of last year’s Senate election in Western Australia.

Ludlam advised Abbott “to leave your excruciatingly boring three-word slogans at home”. He listed a series of issues – Manus Island, the ABC, homophobia, working conditions, the shark cull and the NBN – to warn Abbott not to take the votes of Western Australians for granted.

“People have been keeping a record of every time you have been given the opportunity to choose between predator capitalism and the public interest, and it is bitterly obvious whose side you are on,” Ludlam said. He said that “every time you open your mouth the Green vote goes up.”

It’s “game on”, Ludlam said of the Senate election which has arisen out of the loss of ballot papers in last year’s poll. “We want our country back.”

Ludlam spoke to a deserted Senate chamber during the Adjournment Debate.

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Hansard transcript of Senator Scott Ludlam’s Adjournment Debate speech on March 3, 2014.


Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (22:09): Tonight I rise to invite Prime Minister Tony Abbott to visit the beautiful state of Western Australia. I do this in good faith, because we are only a matter of weeks away from a historic by-election that will not just determine the final makeup of this chamber after July but also will decide much more of consequence to the people of Western Australia, whether they are thinking of voting for the Greens or not. Prime Minister, you are welcome out west, but this is a respectful invitation to think carefully about what baggage you pack when you make your next flying campaign stopover. When you arrive at Perth airport, you will alight on the traditional country of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, who have sung this country for more than 40,000 years. This is 200 times the age of the city that now stands on the banks of the Derbal Yerigan, the Swan River. Understand that you are now closer to Denpasar than to Western Sydney, in a state where an entire generation has been priced out of affordable housing. Recognise that you are standing in a place where the drought never ended, where climate change from land clearing and fossil fuel combustion is a lived reality that is already costing jobs, property and lives. [Read more…]

Terri Butler Wins Griffith By-Election For ALP; Status Quo Result Sees 0.68% Swing To Liberals

Terri Butler will become the new Labor member for Griffith, following her by-election victory in the Brisbane-based electorate vacated by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.


At the close of counting tonight, Butler had recorded a two-party-preferred vote of 52.33%. This is a swing against the ALP of 0.68% since the September 2013 general election.

The ALP’s primary vote fell 1.38% to 38.98%, the first time it has ever fallen below 40% since the electorate was created in 1934.

The Liberal National Party candidate, Dr. Bill Glasson, polled 43.57% of the primary vote, an increase of 1.35%. He received 47.67% of the two-party-preferred vote.

The Greens candidate, Geoff Ebbs, polled 10.19% of the primary vote, an increase of 0.01%.

The other eight candidates polled poorly, amassing a total of 7.25% between them.

Claiming victory, Terri Butler told supporters that the result “sent a strong message” to Tony Abbott to keep his “hands off our Medicare”. She said voters had also reacted to budget cuts by Queensland’s Newman government.


Accompanied by Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Bill Glasson told LNP supporters: “We’re not conceding tonight but it’s obviously going to be difficult to get across the line.” However, his long, rambling speech to campaign workers had concession and valedictory written all over it.

There are reportedly around 10,000 or more postal and pre-poll votes which will not be counted until next week. They may narrow the result further but are unlikely to change the outcome.

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The Meaning Of The Griffith By-Election

by Malcolm Farnsworth

Liberal and Labor spokespeople were quick to “spin” the result of the by-election tonight.

The ALP claimed victory and said the result was a warning to the Abbott government. The new Labor member for Griffith, Terri Butler, told reporters that voters had told her the Abbott government wasn’t what they expected.

Liberals, on the other hand, said Abbott would be buoyed by the result which saw a further swing against the ALP in the aftermath of difficult decisions on the car industry and SPC Ardmona.

The truth is that in politics a win is a win is a win. Elections are about getting bums on seats and the ALP has ensured that it will still have 55 bums on the green leather when the House of Representatives meets next week for the first session of 2014.

We have been told ad nauseum in recent times that a government has only once taken a seat off the Opposition in the history of what is now 147 by-elections since 1901. That was in 1920 under highly unique circumstances. Oppositions have occasionally lost seats to independents and minor parties but overall it is absolutely true that a win for Glasson tonight would have been a big story indeed. Instead, memories of the by-election will fade quickly.

The swing against the ALP of 0.68% is statistically insignificant. The result is best viewed as a repeat of last year’s result. Both elections had 11 candidates, yet the two results are remarkably similar. Overall, it was a vote for the status quo.

The result is also not surprising because the electorate has basically been a Labor seat since Ben Humphreys won it in 1977. The ALP has now won Griffith at 14 of the past 15 elections, losing it just once in 1996 when the Keating government was defeated.

However, the ALP has little to crow about. There was a swing to the Coalition. On current figures, the ALP’s primary vote has fallen 14.11% since 2007. Its two-party-preferred vote has fallen 9.99% in the same period.

For the first time ever in Griffith, the party recorded a primary vote of less than 40%. At the close of counting, it was 38.98%. This is the third successive decline in the ALP’s primary vote since Kevin Rudd won the seat with 53.09% in 2007. It fell to 44.08% in 2010 and then to 40.36% last year.

The ALP’s national primary vote last year was 33.38%, its lowest since the 1930s. The Griffith result is not as bad as that but the the trend is in the same direction. And this comes after a federal election in which the ALP managed to win just 7 seats on the primary vote, compared to 51 seats for the Coalition. The existential issue for the ALP remains the question of its declining base vote.

It’s intriguing to note that the Greens vote fell 5.21% last year to 10.18%. Tonight, it sits on 10.19%, whilst the ALP shed a further 1.38%. The electorate seems to have confirmed its general election decision in the case of both parties.

The government is correct to point out that it is unusual for an opposition to go backwards in a by-election. Given recent polls show the Coalition struggling, it’s worth asking why the ALP slipped back further tonight, albeit whilst still winning.

The reasons are unclear. It may be the result of losing Kevin Rudd’s personal vote – a mere 1%? It may be annoyance at being forced back to the polls by a member who resigned just nine weeks after being re-elected. On the other hand, a defeated prime minister is likely to be forgiven for departing the political scene.

The swing may be related to the decreased turnout. Whilst we don’t have an accurate figure as yet, it appears that the voter turnout rate may be around 75-80%, compared to the average 93-95%.

The ALP will claim its win is a warning to Abbott but this is nonsense. When it had every reason to expect a swing against it, the government has improved its position.

But a victory is always better than a defeat. If Butler turns out to be a diligent local member she may be able to lift the primary vote in future elections. Better to be an incumbent in these circumstances.

The Labor strategist Bruce Hawker repeatedly pointed out tonight that Griffith is now in the top 20 of the highest income electorates in the country. He said the electorate is gentrifying. That may be so but it simply highlights the difficulty Labor faces with voters across the nation. This by-election provides no evidence that the ALP knows how to stem the tide.

The Labor supporters who have sought comfort in the “one-term Tony” slogan and portray the Abbott government as struggling and at risk are, at the very least, utterly premature. The electorate cast its judgment on the Rudd-Gillard years five months ago and there’s no sign in this by-election that they regret their decision. It’s reasonable to assume that voters will continue for some time to cut the government some slack as it goes about its business.

The ALP will return to parliament next week with 55 members and a new face. They won.

The Coalition will not see Bill Glasson sitting on the government backbench. They lost.

But the ALP will still be confronted by a government with a floor majority of 29. And long after the Griffith by-election has been forgotten, the real electoral battle for this year will be shaped by what Treasurer Joe Hockey produces in his May budget.

Tasmanian Election On March 15; Giddings Sacks Greens Ministers And Recalls Parliament

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings has called a state election for March 15.


Parliament will be recalled on January 28 to vote on a bill to facilitate the Bell Bay pulp mill.

Giddings has also sacked the two Greens ministers, Nick McKim and Cassy O’Connor, bringing to an end the formal Labor-Greens alliance established by former premier David Bartlett after the 2010 election.

The Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Will Hodgman, welcomed the election and accused Giddings of attempting to whitewash the last four years of the Labor-Greens alliance government.

The Greens leader, Nick McKim, said the Greens had brought stable government to Tasmania and allowed the government to run full-term. He said the Greens were the only party thinking of Tasmania’s future and not playing politics.

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  • Tasmanian Election Brief – Hawker Britton
  • Plan For A Brighter Future – Liberal Party Budget Statement
  • Federal, State and Territory election dates since 1945

Giddings said the ALP had decided that it would never again enter into an alliance with the Greens, regardless of the election outcome. “There will be no power-sharing arrangement with the Greens,” Giddings said. [Read more…]

Clive Palmer Releases Memorandum Of Understanding With Motoring Enthusiast Party

Clive Palmer has released the text of a Memorandum of Understanding his party has with Senator-elect Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party.

The document, dated October 6, says “each of the parties intends to work together and where it is practicably to vote together in the Senate”. The parties express “a desire to cooperate and assist each other as may be appropriate”.

The agreement permits each party to vote in Parliament in accordance with their policies, principles and conscience.

The document lists four points numbered 1, 2, 4 and 5. It itemises three statements as A, B and D. [Read more…]