Dummies guide to the next fortnight of Parliament
Explanations of the mechanics of politics can be an exercise in making people feel stupid.
Politicians, their advisors and political journalists will obfuscate around questions regarding what is actually going on with the passage of a certain bill, the likelihood of it passing or what the hell amendment #22/3 actually means.
The key to understanding the secret to this indecipherable code is that much of the time those speaking have no idea what is going on either. But given that they’re in control of the country (or in journos’ cases tasked with explaining it) they rarely give the honest answer of: “yeah, I’m lost at the moment”.
Although much was made of Senator Nigel Scullion’s stuff-up in missing the first crucial vote against the alcopops legislation when the Coalition was supposed to scuttle it, what’s more surprising is that it doesn’t happen more often.
Take the alcopops legislation as an example: that particular afternoon there were several confusing amendments voted on that not all senators attended (they were paired off others missing the votes), and even after Scullion missed the first vote there was another vote allowed supposedly killing of the legislation.
Except of course it didn’t kill it off. The Government was still able to reintroduce it and only to kill it off itself by introducing brand new alcopops legislation that allowed it to collect the excise once again – assuming it gets past the senate this time.
See what I mean?
If you want to think about politics as sport don’t think about it as football game that kicks off at two in the afternoon and finishes at four.
Rather think of it as a cricket test match that has no five-day limit and the presence of English time wasting trainers and twelfth men on the ground is not only allowed, it’s an art form.
So having bagged out others’ attempts to explain the process of important bills currently before Parliament I submit my own less than perfect program of important legislation for the two sitting weeks ahead.
The alcopops legislation:
This aforementioned tax is the political equivalent of a Bold and the Beautiful episode that has you screaming at the television for them to reveal that Taylor is still alive thus making Ridge’s 10th remarriage to Brooke invalid.
Except the show is really boring, stars Nicola Roxon and Peter Dutton instead of Brooke and Ridge and its script is even worse than B&B.
After almost year of painful public debate over the issue the Government had the bill rejected in the Senate, it then reintroduced it, in then killed that off and reintroduced a new bill which validates the old revenue and allows it to keep
There is nothing left to say about alcopops other than: PLEASE PUT US OUT OF OUR MISERY.
Thankfully the Liberal Party are likely to acquiesce to this request by letting the new form of the legislation through. The Nationals are likely to continue to vote against it as will Senator Steve Fielding, but it looks like the 70 per cent tax hike on alcopops is likely to get the nod.
Now let us never speak of the alcopops tax again.
This will obviously be the star of the sitting show and has taken a more confusing turn since emergence of the Coalition and Nick Xenophon’s plan B for a “baseline and credit” scheme.
So as it stands the Coalition, Xenophon, Fielding and the Greens are all against the ETS legislation and all for different reasons.
The prospect of this legislation getting bogged down in some kind of Senate quagmire of the next couple of weeks and months is a very real one.
Be prepared for more explanations by the enigmatic Penny Wong over the coming days the importance of “cap and trade” over “baseline and credit”. You’re gonna wish you were back with alcopops by the end of this one – at least there was alcohol then.
The sexier side to this legislation is that the as Coalition will not back it as is it could be a double dissolution trigger under section 57 of the Constitution.
This of course is reliant upon the ETS being blocked later by Coalition and Malcolm Turnbull’s recent behaviour suggests that he isn’t planning on doing this.
Whilst this is widely, and correctly, interpreted as Malcolm Turnbull wishing to avoid what could be a disastrous election, don’t think Kevin Rudd will be hoping to rush off to an early poll either.
Early elections are generally unpopular and double dissolution elections can be strange and unpredictable beasts. For instance do you think that the Kevin Rudd wants to be dealing with a Senate controlled by the Greens when it comes to an ETS or emissions target?
So whilst there is likely to be a bit of a pants dance in the next few months over the ETS, its rejection this time around is unlikely to mean the end of the bill or Kevin Rudd’s first term.
Changes to the Private Health Insurance Rebate and Medicare Surcharge:
Malcolm Turnbull did vow to oppose the changes in the budget that would see single people earning more than $74,000 a year and couples on more than $150,000 a year have their 30 per cent rebate reduced on a sliding scale and eventually cut out.
This is accompanied by an increase in the Medicare levy surcharge to 1.5 per cent for those in that bracket if they drop their private health insurance: so the carrot gets smaller while the stick gets bigger.
Nick Xenophon wants a Productivity Commission inquiry into the whole thing and the Greens don’t want the increase in the surcharge for those who choose to drop their health insurance.
While this is a rolled gold broken election promise from a then Opposition that promised to not to touch the private health insurance rebate, the Government is likely to win this fight for many of the same reasons that the Coalition is no longer fighting Labor on alcopops.
For the Coalition it’s just too many battles on too many fronts and distracts from a more focussed attack on the ETS.
The gut feeling on this one says it’s likely to get up within the next two weeks.
Happy Parliament-watching folks.
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