Parliament resumes sitting today. It is hard to believe it is only just over two weeks since the last sitting. On Thursday 1st March when parliament last sat, much of the talk was of Peter Costello’s thundering, overblown condemnation of Kevin Rudd as “politically and morally compromised” for meeting with Brian Burke.
In the intervening two weeks there have been two Ministers and one shadow Minister resign, a Federal Police raid on the offices of 3 Liberal MPs in Brisbane (with investigations continuing), a front page newspaper story about a violent ‘porn mogul’ attending a fundraising lunch with the Prime Minister, and continuing attacks on Senator Santo Santoro’s activities while he was Aged Minister (some of it being fuelled by his Liberal Party colleagues in Queensland). Not to mention some particularly nasty attacks, including by Tony Abbott, on the details of a traumatic tragedy in Kevin Rudd’s childhood. (to square the circle back to Brian Burke, it was interesting to see Abbott labelling Burke “a political has-been and captivating rogue.”
In amongst the personal political carnage that has been wrought, it has barely been noticed that a massive hole was blown in the government’s Access Card/ID Card legislation. A unanimous Senate Committee report raised a number of key concerns and recommended the Bill be deferred until details of further changes had been decided and provided.
The final conclusion (para 3.192) of the main body of the report stated:
In the little time the Committee has had to consider the bill, a number of matters of concern have arisen. Furthermore, important measures that need to be taken into account including protections, appeals and review mechanisms are to be considered in a second tranche of legislation. The Committee has concluded that it is not possible to assess the proposed access card system in the absence of these safeguards and other measures. The Committee considers that the bill needs to be combined with the second tranche of legislation into a consolidated bill to allow proper consideration of the access card proposal.
In other words, “this Inquiry was too short, but we still found enough to recommend it be sent back to the drawing board”.
To add to the mess, the Minister responsible for the ID Card was Ian Campbell, who was the first victim of the post-Burkean standards of political morality. He in turn had only just taken over that role a month earlier from Joe Hockey who was shifted in the minor reshuffle at the start of the year.
Meanwhile just a couple of days after the Committee produced this damning finding, the Committee’s chair, Brett Mason, unexpectedly found himself elevated to a Parliamentary Secretary position as a consequence of the fall of his Queensland colleague (and factional opponent), Santo Santoro.
Politics moves in mysterious ways sometimes, but I hope all the political turmoil and theatre doesn’t distract everybody here in Parliament from the fact there’s still a huge number of serious national and global issues we should be working on.