Tony Windsor Attacks Tony Abbott

Tony Windsor, the independent member for New England, has attacked Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during a motion to suspend Standing Orders in Parliament today.

Bob Katter Appears On The Circle

Wilkie: Improper For Parliament To Be Judge & Jury In Thomson Case

The independent member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has issued a statement on Craig Thomson in which he says it would be improper for the Parliament to act as judge and jury.

Wilkie provides a clear statement of the constitutional situation set out in Section 44 of the Constitution.

A STATEMENT FROM ANDREW WILKIE REGARDING CRAIG THOMSON

Andrew WilkieI think the Craig Thomson saga stinks. But my personal view is largely irrelevant.

According to the principles of natural justice he’s innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a fair hearing. So unless the findings against him have been tested in a properly constituted court, where he has the opportunity to defend himself, we must accord him the presumption of innocence no matter how much that grates.

Moreover according to the Constitution Craig Thomson is eligible to remain in the Parliament until and unless he’s found guilty of a criminal offence punishable by a year or more imprisonment. If his circumstances or any other issue highlights shortfalls in that provision then the Parliament needs to consider seeking to change it.

In fact it could reasonably be argued Craig Thomson has the right to remain in the Parliament free of intimidation, if only by virtue of the Crimes Act 1914 Section 28 which imposes a penalty of three year’s imprisonment for interfering with political liberty.

Frankly the Parliament isn’t a court and for it to think it’s judge and jury when dealing with Craig Thomson would be entirely improper.

What the Parliament should now focus on is restoring the trust and respect of the Australian community. Yes, there is widespread and understandable concern with the controversy surrounding Craig Thomson. But there’s much more concern with all the grand political game-playing going on right now. And there’s much greater interest in the Government getting on and running the country well, and in the Opposition showing it’s a credible alternative.

A (Portentous?) Statement From Andrew Wilkie

Andrew Wilkie, the independent member for Denison, has issue the following statement about his negotiations with the government over its National Gambling Reform Bill.

Wilkie’s reference to “the uncertainty and changing circumstances in the Parliament” is intriguing.

A Statement on Poker Machine Reform

Andrew WilkieI wish to correct a media report today that I’ve extended my deadline for the Federal Government to address my concerns with the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012.

I gave the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, a deadline of Friday April 20 to respond to my concern the Bill did not deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise that ‘we are ready to flick the switch to a best-practice mandatory pre-commitment system’ on Australia’s poker machines. I received a letter from Minister Macklin late Friday April 20 so that deadline was met.

I am now considering Minister Macklin’s response and taking advice in light of the uncertainty and changing circumstances in the Parliament. In Canberra today I’ve met with representatives from both the Government and the Opposition.

Today’s statement should be read in conjunction with Wilkie’s earlier statement on March 22:

DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE ON GOVERNMENT POKIES REFORM

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, continues to work with the Federal Government to try and ensure the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 is a stepping-stone to meaningful poker machine reform.

Mr Wilkie has had numerous meetings this week with Minister Jenny Macklin in an attempt to resolve two key issues. [Read more…]

Andrew Wilkie Withdraws His Support For Gillard Government

Andrew Wilkie has withdrawn his support for the Gillard minority government.

Andrew WilkieThe independent member for Denison says the problem gambling proposals announced today by Julia Gillard are in breach of the agreement he signed with her after the 2010 election.

However, Wilkie said he will support the government’s problem gambling legislation in the House.

Wilkie said Gillard put the proposals to him last Sunday. He said he wanted to be “a man of my word” but that he didn’t want poker machine reform to “slip through our fingers”.

On the question of Supply, Wilkie said there were measures he didn’t support last year but he was bound to support the Budget bills in Parliament. “I can now provide no certainty when it comes to budgetary measures. Previously, the government could rely on me in matters of confidence, now it can’t.”

Wilkie said he still believes the numbers were there in the House to pass mandatory pre-commitment. He said it wasn’t a threat to the government but his relationship with the opposition might now be “warmer”. He said: “I can now be more independent than ever.”

Wilkie said he felt very let down, “very disappointed”, with the Gillard government, as did many Australians.

  • Listen to Andrew Wilkie’s press conference in Hobart (16m)

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  • Download a copy of Wilkie’s 2010 agreement with Gillard (PDF)

This is the text of a statement released by Andrew Wilkie:

ANDREW WILKIE WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENT

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has withdrawn his support for the Federal Government due to the Prime Minister’s failure to honour her agreement on poker machine reform.

“I can no longer guarantee supply and confidence for the Government because the Prime Minister has told me she can’t honour the promise to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines by the end of 2014,” Mr Wilkie said.

“Consequently I regard the Prime Minister to be in breach of the written agreement she signed, leaving me no option but to honour my word and end my current relationship with her Government.

“Frankly, a deal’s a deal and it must be honoured. Our democracy is simply too precious to trash with broken promises and backroom compromises. So I will walk, take my chances and so be it.

“As someone said to me this week, millions of people are concerned about poker machines, but everyone should care about politicians being true to their word.

“Moreover the Government has failed to seize the opportunity to enact genuinely meaningful poker machine reform. This Parliament presents a remarkable opportunity to finally do something about poker machine problem gambling and its devastating social and financial damage cost. But instead the Government took the easy way out.

“The Government’s explanation that it doesn’t have the numbers is simply wrong. The legislation should be debated in the Parliament and tested on the floor of the House. After all, that’s what democracy is supposed to be about.”

Mr Wilkie acknowledged that the Government is pursuing limited reform and expressed the hope that this first step would lead to meaningful reform.

“I will not stand in the Government’s way because I do feel that in the circumstances it would be better to achieve at least some reform.

“The push for pokies reform has not failed,’’ he said. “Poker machine problem gambling is now a hot topic, polling shows a strong groundswell for reform and the Commonwealth is set to intervene in gambling regulation for the first time in our history.

“But our foothold is small, so it’s more important than ever that pressure is kept on the Government to deliver the reform package announced today and eventually much more.

“Some people will ask why I would still withdraw my support for the Government when it’s progressing reform.

“But the issue is not that the Government is not progressing poker machine reform. Rather the issue is that the Government has decided it can’t deliver on the reforms it agreed to, which I’ve insisted repeatedly were the basis for my ongoing support and which I’ve honoured since the agreement was made some 16 months ago.”

Mr Wilkie added that in relation to matters of confidence, it’s in the public interest for parliaments to be stable and go full term.

“I will only support motions of no confidence in the event of serious misconduct and not support politically opportunistic motions. I will consider budget measures on their merits.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s still early days in the campaign for reform because too many people are being hurt by the pokies and the vast majority of people are looking to their elected representatives to do something about the problem.

“This and future governments must be forced to understand that this is just the start. The millions of people affected adversely by poker machines now and in the future deserve nothing less than our full support to minimise the damage.

“I will continue to push for mandatory pre-commitment and $1 maximum bets.”

Drama In The House As Speaker Jenkins Threatens To Resign

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, came close to resigning today.

The possibilities that could have flowed from his resignation are intriguing to consider.

Abbott moves a motion of confidence in Speaker Jenkins

What happened?

In the course of a raucous and disputatious Question Time, Jenkins warned and then named Liberal member Bob Baldwin for “continuing to interject after having been warned by the Chair”. “Naming” by the Speaker is the precursor to a motion to suspend the member from the service of the House.

The government’s Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, accordingly rose and moved the motion to suspend Baldwin for 24 hours. [Read more…]

GILLARD PREVAILS; INDEPENDENTS BACK LABOR

Julia Gillard will lead Labor into a second term of government, following the decision by Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to support the ALP.

Rob Oakeshott

Oakeshott and Windsor have just spoken to a packed press conference in Canberra. Windsor announced his decision first, speaking for around five minutes. Oakeshott spoke for 17 minutes.

With the support of the independent member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and the Greens member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, the ALP will form a minority government with control of 76 votes in the 150 member House of Representatives.

After providing a Speaker, Labor will have a one-vote majority of 75-74 on the floor of the House.

Tony Windsor said the duo’s priority was for stable government and a government with longevity that can last a full three years.

The decision by the two independents followed Bob Katter’s announcement nearly two hours earlier that he would be supporting the coalition.

The historic decision brings to an end the inconclusive 2010 federal election held seventeen days ago on August 21.

  • Listen to the Windsor-Oakeshott press conference in full (50m)

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  • Watch the press conference speeches (27m)
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Tony Windsor Supports Labor

Tony Windsor, the independent member for New England, has announced that he will support a Gillard-led Labor minority government.

Tony Windsor

Windsor’s decision means it is now impossible for Tony Abbott to govern. Even if Rob Oakeshott were to support the coalition, it would only have 75 votes in the House, equal to the government.

Windsor’s decision was announced at a joint press conference with Rob Oakeshott in Parliament House. Oakeshott is speaking now.

Katter Supports Coalition; Windsor-Oakeshott Decision Due Shortly

Bob Katter walked out of talks with his fellow independents at 1.30pm and called a press conference in his office to announce that he will support a coalition government led by Tony Abbott.

Bob Katter

Katter’s sudden announcement caught media outlets off-guard. Television stations broadcast his announcement with audio only.

The member for Kennedy said that the ALP had not committed to the “20 points” document he prepared for negotiations.

Katter’s decision means that the Gillard government needs the support of both Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to form a minority government.

The ALP has 72 members in the House of Representatives. Julia Gillard has signed agreements with Andrew Wilkie and the Greens (Adam Bandt holds the seat of Melbourne), giving Labor 74 votes.

  • Listen to Bob Katter’s press conference:

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  • Download Katter’s 20 Points (PDF)

[Read more…]

Andrew Wilkie To Support Minority Gillard Labor Government

Andrew Wilkie, the new independent member for Denison, has announced that he will give his support to the ALP in the hung parliament.

Wilkie has signed an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard.

Andrew Wilkie

Wilkie announced his decision at 3.30pm today, whilst government negotiations with the other independent members continue.

  • Listen to Andrew Wilkie’s media conference:

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  • Download a copy of Wilkie’s agreement with Gillard (PDF)

In his written agreement with Gillard, Wilkie undertakes to vote with the Government to ensure supply. He maintains his right to vote independently on all other legislation, “but undertakes to involve himself in negotiations with the Government before exercising that right.

Wilkie also agrees to oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government unless he has moved or seconded the motion.

The agreement includes a commitment by the government to work on a range of accountability proposals such as the online registration of lobbyists, improvements to Question Time and the creation of a Parliamentary Budget Office. Gillard and Wilkie have agreed to meet with each other once every sitting week and fortnightly at other times.

The government has agreed to contribute $100 million upfront for the construction of the Women and Children’s Hospital in Hobart. It will contribute to the $565 million redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital.

The government has committed to implement a number of poker machine reforms, including a “best practice pre-commitment schme” for all poker machines across all States and Territories by 2014.