It’s first day at school for the Abbott government and day one promises to be interesting. Although initially ceremonial – not till tomorrow will the real fireworks start.
The new PM is promising a quieter, more restrained, less turbulent Parliament.
Australia’s 44th Parliament will see fewer women in Government ranks than previously. Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is the only woman in the cabinet, and one of five in the ministry.
Not since Paul Keating’s first ministry has there been only one woman in cabinet.
Day one of Parliament is a day of many firsts. The first time we see Tony Abbott as PM and the first time Bill Shorten, the Governor-General’s son-in-law is on the Opposition benches.
It’s also the first time we will have a billionaire (Clive Palmer , the member for Fairfax) sitting in the back seats. And the first time we will speculate whether he will use his private jet to fly home for dinner.
This morning will see a welcome on the forecourt of Parliament.
The formalities will then move inside as MPs are sworn in by the Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French. The Governor-General will opening Parliament in the early afternoon, and we will hear the prepared speech setting the Abbott three -year agenda.
After weeks of not fronting the media unless there was something to say the Prime Minister will be firmly in the spotlight. Denis Shanahan in The Australian writes that Tony Abbott “will be legitimately front and centre in the public eye in parliament without some confected or empty reason for being in front of television cameras.”
First order of business
The legislation to scrap Labor’s unpopular carbon tax will be the top order of business. The eight-bill carbon repeal package will be put to the House of Representatives tomorrow.
Passage of the legislation is not guaranteed with Labor and the Greens set to use their combined majority to defeat it in the Senate. Most likely it will be sent to Select Committee – and the new PM will wait till a more friendly Senate takes its place next July to usher through the changes. Assuming Mr Palmer and the Senate members of his Palmer United Party ( PUP) agree.
The Coalition has indicated the carbon tax repeal bills will be followed in short order by more repeal legislation to abolish the mining tax. Mr Palmer firmly agrees with that.
Hockey’s debt limit
Treasurer Joe Hockey will move to increase the nation’s credit limit to $500 billion this week.
But in a surprise move, the Labor opposition plans to turn the tables on Mr Hockey and will move an amendment to halve the proposed increase by $100 billion, taking the limit to $400 billion rather than $500 billion
Bronwyn Bishop as speaker
Eyes will be on the veteran Bronwyn Bishop as she is officially sworn in as Speaker of the House taking over from from Labor’s Anna Burke.
She may follow the centuries-old custom, in which new Speakers resist as they are escorted or “dragged” to the Chair by colleagues.
According to News Limited Mrs Bishop has been advised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be tough on both sides of Parliament – the Government and the Opposition. It is expected there will be with fewer suspensions of Question Time to make way for fiery oratory, thanks to the new Government having the numbers to gag debate.
One issue that will raise Labor’s (and the Green’s) ire – will be the new policy on Asylum seekers.
The “ don’t tell- don’t ask” policy where the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refuses to say exactly how many turned back boats Indonesia has accepted. His Defence Chiefs say they can’t comment. The fact that we seem to have been using our Embassy in Jakarta to spy on our neighbours makes co-operation a little difficult. And news today talks are underway between Jakarta and Canberra about a deal similar to the previous Labor government’s people swap agreement with Malaysia.
Maybe Parliament won’t be so routine after all.