Federal politics update for The Westender: February 2022

By Terri Butler MP

04 February 2022

This column was first published in The Westender.

 

Parliament resumes in the week of the 7th of February and we can expect there will be some big issues on the agenda.

At the time of writing I am expecting the Morrison government’s religious discrimination bill to be first up for debate in the House from Tuesday. We have heard contradictory comments about the bill from the Prime Minister and his acting Attorney-General, so it remains to be seen what will actually be before us. The recent public concern about Citipointe College’s deeply inappropriate enrolment “contract” will bring with it even more interest in this bill.

Local households still feeling the effects of the Morrison-Joyce government’s latest covid failures, including the uncertainty of vaccine supply for GPs, and the RATs shortage. It seems that Scott Morrison learned nothing from his bungled vaccine rollout last year. It is, frankly, ridiculous that in the third year of the pandemic this government still hasn’t got its act together in responding to the pandemic. We can expect these failures to be part of the national debate as parliament resumes in the week of 7 February.

On a related note, I was appalled to see Scott Morrison go on national television and undermine East Brisbane-based Ellume, a rapid covid test manufacture, getting his facts wrong in the process. It is unacceptable that an Australian firm should have to enter into the political debate to correct the record after their own Prime Minister made wrong and damaging claims about them, but here we are. Just another example of the Prime Minister being loose with the truth, and seeing everything as an opportunity for a political attack. We deserve a Prime Minister that backs in Australian manufacturers.

In January I welcomed Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation Hon Ed Husic MP to our community. I was particularly pleased to take him to visit the team at the Translational Research Institute, which is co-located with the Princess Alexandra Hospital, so he could get a clear picture of their plans to support scaling-up of med tech firms right here in Brisbane. We have some world-class local researchers translating their work into new medical technology to improve lives, and we have an opportunity to build on that talent to create high-skilled jobs in our community. Needless to say Ed was very impressed!

Ed wasn’t the only Shadow Minister to visit in January. The Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy, Hon Chris Bowen MP, also visited to announce a community battery. If we’re elected Labor will install 400 of these around the country. They will benefit both people with solar, and people who can’t have solar for whatever reason. And they will serve as a practical demonstration about how Australians can increase the uptake of renewables and increase the amount of renewable power in the grid.

As I write this the government’s aged care failures are in the news, compounded by the news of the aged care Minister’s decision to turn down a request to appear before the covid committee, in order to go to the cricket instead. Labor has been bringing significant pressure to bear about this issue because we believe every Australian wants to see a safe aged care system. It is also worth noting that at the time of writing we’re expecting the Senate to be debating aged care legislation towards the end of the first sitting week.

Cost of living has been a significant theme in federal politics, with the costs of household essentials like milk, bread and petrol under the spotlight. The effects of price increases is being felt very keenly because of the very sluggish wages growth that Australians have experienced throughout this government’s near-decade in office.

On the Wednesday of the first sitting week this year the nation will see Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins at the National Press Club. It was a year ago, in February 2021, that Ms Higgins’ allegations became public and so this anniversary is likely to bring sharp focus onto what has changed, and what hasn’t, for Australian women in the year since.

In my portfolio, we are getting ready for the coming Senate Estimates, which is an opportunity to apply more detailed scrutiny to the government’s decision-making and spending. In January we saw them attempt to make electoral hay out of announcements on the Great Barrier Reef and koala protection. But they have zero credibility on these issues because of their failure, over their near-decade in office, to take real action on climate change. Their failure to even show improvement on climate change policy in advance of the Climate CoP in Glasgow last year, and the presence of climate deniers within their own ranks, speaks volumes about this government, and in my view the only way we will get action on climate change is to elect an Albanese Labor government.

Another issue dear to my heart is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a treaty pursued by Aussie Nobel Peace Prize winners International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The Treaty came into force in January 2021, and ICAN asked Australians to fold paper cranes to raise awareness about the anniversary, in January 2022. But Australia has not yet ratified the treaty. If we’re elected to government I look forward to pursuing ratification.  

As sittings start for the year I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the Morrison-Joyce government over their failures, but at the same time I am sad to be missing some important events at home. I am particularly sad to be missing the annual Link-Up (Qld) event to commemorate the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. I know there will be many locals in attendance to hear the speeches made to commemorate the day.

Finally, for a lot of kids, including my own, school is starting back on 7 February, and though I won’t be here to wish everyone well I will be thinking of our wonderful local students who are starting the year off in these strange and difficult times. Good luck. Strength to you. And take care.