Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tony Abbott primed for a double dissolution on carbon pricing

Tony Abbott will have the first half of a constitutional trigger for a double-dissolution election in place by Christmas, after announcing plans to present his carbon price repeal legislation this year.

The move keeps open the chances of another election in the first half of 2014 if the eight bill package is rejected in December as expected and then rejected a second time by a hostile Senate in March or April.

The Prime Minister released an exposure draft of the package on Monday along with a commitment to introduce the legislation as his government's first order of business when Parliament convenes for four weeks from November 12.

The government claims removal of the carbon price would send household energy prices tumbling, saving the average household $3000 over six years from July 1, when it would come into effect.

Failure to pass the repeal legislation before July 1 would either delay the scrapping substantially, or require any legislation passed subsequently be retrospective.

The government's urgency comes despite repeated Labor commitments to combine with the Greens to block any repeal in the Senate, the configuration of which does not change until July.

Mr Abbott said he wanted to give new Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, whom he described as "nothing if not a political pragmatist", a chance to repent because the election had shown clear public support for scrapping the carbon price.

"The people of Australia understandably want lower cost of living, and they want more secure jobs," Mr Abbott said.  "This bill gives them both. That's why the pressure on the Labor Party in the end not to oppose this bill, I believe, will be irresistible.  "Australian households will be better off to the tune of $550 a year.

"When this bill is passed, the government estimates that power prices will go down by 9 per cent, gas prices will go down by 7 per cent, and that means that the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower."

Asked whether he wanted the Senate vote before Christmas, Mr Abbott said: "The short answer, if you like, is yes."

"But I'm only the PM," he added with a wry smile. "I realise that the Senate operates in accordance with its own rhythms and patterns. I would like the Senate to consider this matter as quickly as possible."

Mr Abbott would not repeat statements by other members of his government that the carbon price repeal would inevitably lead to a double dissolution if frustrated by the Senate.

The government preference for a vote in both houses before Christmas suggests the Prime Minister wants, at the very least, the threat of a snap poll and the political bargaining leverage that comes from keeping the option alive.

Under the provisions of the constitution designed to resolve deadlocks between the two houses of Parliament, a prime minister can ask the governor-general to dissolve both and order a fresh election if a bill is rejected or otherwise amended in an unacceptable way, twice over a greater than three-month interval.


ALP still tearing itself apart

What you expect from a party of haters

Disquiet within the parliamentary Labor Party over the leadership contest and selection of the shadow ministry is threatening to boil over, with some MPs furious about the public presentation of harmony while in reality, the process had been "brutal and treacherous".

The depth of feeling has brought claims of dishonesty and vote selling for jobs in the caucus ballot, and an allegation that a parcel of votes was delivered to the ALP's headquarters by the Right faction last Friday, just an hour before the membership election closed.

Left faction MPs loyal to unsuccessful leadership aspirant Anthony Albanese claim the Victorian Left faction chieftain, Kim Carr, voted for Bill Shorten in the secret ballot, despite his denials.

Another eight members of the Left's 36 MPs also broke ranks for Mr Shorten, giving him sufficient votes in the caucus to overcome a 60/40 vote in the rank-and-file ballot in favour of Mr Albanese.

Fairfax Media understands that the leadership ballot got off to a rocky start because Mr Albanese, the former deputy prime minister in the second Rudd cabinet, had been led to believe that if he ran, Mr Shorten would not.

While some senior Labor figures, such as former Speaker Anna Burke and former minister Warren Snowdon, have spoken out about the insidious role of factions in the process of selecting the Shorten frontbench, there was also anger at the way the month-long leadership ballot was conducted, and the way some MPs voted.

One senior Labor source described the situation in the Left as "open warfare", with Mr Albanese said to be seeking revenge on those in his faction who did not give him their leadership vote. "One or two more votes in caucus and he would have been leader, so he's not happy," one insider said.

Another said recriminations were still being meted out in the Left, with Albanese loyalists driving them. "The knives are out, yes," the source said. "It is very clear that if you didn't vote with your faction, you're going to be punished."

While both Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese emerged from the contest professing support and respect for each other, sources suggest the relationship is more strained after the Shorten camp was seen to engage in activities that were "not in the spirit" of the ballot. These included a revelation from a taxi driver that Mr Shorten had been overheard arranging to be asked a question during a party debate between the two hopefuls.

The behaviour of MPs in the caucus ballot also provoked anger in the Albanese camp.

According to one source, Mr Albanese secured 80 per cent of the rank-and-file votes in the ACT yet he got none of the three caucus votes from ACT MPs in the separate caucus ballot.

Fairfax Media has been told a parcel of 42 votes was delivered to the ALP's head office by Mr Shorten's supporters just an hour before the ballot ended.

However, a source from the Shorten camp said it was possible votes were pooled to ensure they were counted.


Teacher used student's log-in to access porn sites

The Opposition says the South Australian Education Department has given $30,000 in 'hush money' to a former student who was wrongly accused of pornography offences.

It said a teacher viewed hundreds of porn websites using the log-in of the then-year 10 student in 2004.

Opposition education spokesman David Pisoni said the man was still a teacher at another school.

He said the settlement required the former student to keep secret the details of the case.

"South Australians will be asking themselves what sort of an Education Department do we have when executives at the highest level appear to be running around the state with bags of money to shut people up that have criticisms or concerns or are victims of the education system," he said.

"Unfortunately the student had already been suspended and went from being a straight-A student to leaving school.

"It's a shocking situation, and for the Government to think that the best way of dealing with this is to pay someone hush money is an extraordinary development."

Premier Jay Weatherill suggested the confidentiality constraints on the former student should be removed.

"From my perspective, I think that if a victim of a particular wrongdoing wants to say something publicly, I don't think as a government we should be standing in their way, so if they want that confidentiality waived, I think that's something we should give consideration to," he said.


Qld Government's tough anti-bikie laws passed after marathon debate in Parliament

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says tough new anti-gang laws passed in Parliament early this morning are just the first phase of a crackdown on outlaw bikies.

Brazen violence and intimidation on the Gold Coast prompted the Queensland Government to come down harshly on outlaw motorcycle gangs and their members.

New laws targeting bikie gangs passed with bipartisan support after a marathon session in State Parliament, with three separate bills adopted just before 3:00am (AEST).

The legislation names 26 "criminal organisations", including the Bandidos, Finks and Mongols. It restricts their members' and associates movements and meetings, and increases minimum sentences for their crimes.

Newman vows bikies 'will be destroyed'

Premier Campbell Newman last night used his parliamentary majority to rush through the laws.  "They are very tough laws - the toughest in Australia," he said.  "The unequivocal purpose of these laws is to destroy these criminal organisations.

"I say this evening: take off your colours, get a real job, act like decent, law-abiding human beings, and become proper citizens in the state of Queensland and you won't have to go to jail.

"But if you continue to persist as members of criminal gangs, with criminal activities, creating fear and intimidation across Queensland, you will be destroyed and we make no apologies for that."

Police Minister Jack Dempsey says the laws should give assurance to law-abiding citizens.  "People need to know when they go to bed at night and the darkness of the evening comes over, that they can sleep safely in their beds," he said.

Mr Bleijie told Parliament that more anti-gang legislation is likely.  "I would fully expect... that in the two sittings of Parliament we will be debating more tough measures," he said.

"As the criminal motorcycle gang members respond to these laws - come up out of the ground from where they are hidden at the moment - we will have to introduce more laws targeting criminal motorcycle gang members."


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