Dealing With Craig Thomson: An Impressive Debate

An impressive Matter of Public Importance debate took place in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The MPI was devoted to the issue of how the House should treat Craig Thomson, the member for Dobell, in the light of allegations against him and his statement to the house yesterday.

Debate revolved around the nature of a censure and the arguments for and against suspending Thomson from the service of the House.

Mark Dreyfus, the Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, put the case against punitive action most effectively in terms of proper process and the presumption of innocence.

Tony Windsor, the independent member for New England, provided an interesting comparison with the 1992 downfall of former NSW Liberal Premier Nick Greiner in another hung parliament.

This is the complete audio of the MPI debate:

  • Rob Oakeshott – Ind (15m)

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  • Mark Dreyfus – ALP (15m)

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  • Christopher Pyne – Lib (10m)

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  • Tony Windsor – Ind (10m)

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  • Harry Jenkins – ALP (10m)

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  • Julie Bishop – Lib (10m)

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  • Andrew Wilkie – Ind (10m)

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  • Stephen Jones – ALP (10m)

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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…]

Christopher Pyne: Gillard As Ruthless As Richard III

The coalition’s shadow minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, is an early frontrunner in the contest to find the most absurd example of hyperbole in political year 2012.

In a clip from an interview shown on ABC television news tonight, Pyne described Julia Gillard’s poker machine policy and her treatment of Andrew Wilkie as “what many regard as the most ruthless political act since Richard III disposed of his nephews in the Tower of London”.

The 2012 Australian Political HyperBowl

  • (1) Listen to Christopher Pyne

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Poodle

Poker Machine Doublespeak

It was a day for doublespeak yesterday as Gillard Government functionaries came out in force to promote their leader’s “problem gambling policy”.

Andrew Wilkie and Julia GillardThey all denied Andrew Wilkie had been stabbed in the back.

“We don’t have the numbers to deliver the package he has asked for,” said Health Minister Plibersek, overlooking the inconvenient truth that Gillard signed up to the policy in exchange for Wilkie backing her into government.

Communications Minister Conroy confusingly explained it thus: “It’s a minority government – it wasn’t about promising something we couldn’t keep.”

Of course not. Black is white. [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.”

Gillard Backs Down On Poker Machine Reforms

The Gillard government has announced a year-long “large scale trial” of mandatory pre-commitment technology for poker machines in the ACT from February next year. The trial will last beyond the next election.

Gillard and Macklin announce the government's pokies backdown

The government says it will “expand pre-commitment technology to every poker machine across the country, that could then be used for mandatory pre-commitment if it is supported by a trial”.

The Cabinet decision, announced in Melbourne today, represents a cave-in by the government and a victory for the clubs industry and nervous Labor backbenchers.

The decision breaks a deal with Andrew Wilkie and could result in the independent member for Denison withdrawing his support for the government. The post-election agreement Wilkie made with Julia Gillard stipulated legislation of mandatory pre-commitment before this year’s May Budget.

  • Listen to Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin at their press conference (26m):

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  • Download PDF government statements on problem gambling:

This is the text of a government statement:

Tackling Problem Gambling in Australia

The Gillard Government today announced its plan to tackle problem gambling, helping the five million Australians affected by problem gambling in this country.

This plan means the Gillard Government will do more to tackle problem gambling than any Commonwealth Government in Australia’s history.

The Government will act to:

  • Undertake a large scale trial of mandatory pre-commitment;
  • Expand pre-commitment technology to every poker machine across the country, that could then be used for mandatory pre-commitment if it is supported by a trial.

Rolling the technology out to every machine now ensures that we will be ready to flick the switch to a best-practice mandatory pre-commitment system, if the trial results support it.

We believe this evidence-based pathway to help problem gamblers and their families will gain the necessary support to pass the current Parliament.

It is our intention to introduce legislation in the first Parliamentary session of this year which will require that:

  • All new poker machines manufactured from 2013 must be capable of supporting pre-commitment; and
  • By 31 December 2016 all poker machines must be part of a state linked pre-commitment system, except eligible small venues which will have longer.

We will also continue to work on pre-commitment technology through the COAG Select Council on Gaming Reform. At this forum in May last year, state and territory gaming ministers agreed to support the required infrastructure for pre-commitment technology in all jurisdictions.

The Gillard Government understands that many Australians enjoy gambling responsibly. But for others it can have devastating consequences.

Problem gambling ruins lives.

That’s why in November 2008 we asked the Productivity Commission to inquire into problem gambling in Australia.

The Productivity Commission found that problem gambling affects up to five million Australians, including friends, family and employers of people with a gambling problem.

These far reaching impacts are why the Australian Government is delivering genuine, long-lasting reforms to help problem gamblers and their families.

The Government is also taking a range of other actions to support problem gamblers and their families including:

  • Introducing a $250 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs in gaming venues (excluding casinos) by 1 February 2013;
  • Electronic warnings and cost of play displays on poker machines by 2016;
  • Additional counselling support with 50 new financial counsellors to work with problem gamblers, and expanding the reach of Gambling Help Online;
  • Strengthening self-exclusion arrangements; and
  • Improving training for staff in pokies venues.

Further, the Government recognises that gambling online and sports betting are a growing concern, and we will:

  • Ban the promotion of live odds during sports coverage;
  • Extend pre-commitment to online betting services;
  • Crack down on online sports betting companies offering credit and introduce stricter limits on betting inducements; and
  • Increase the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to enforce these new rules.

The actions the Gillard Government is taking will be the most significant and far reaching national reforms to tackle problem gambling ever seen in this country.

House of Representatives Debates Gay Marriage Resolution

An impressive debate began in the House of Representatives tonight on a motion by the Greens member, Adam Bandt, calling on parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

Bandt’s motion reads:

That this House:

(1) notes there is:

(a) a growing list of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, SPain, Canada and South Africa; and

(b) widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community; and

(2) calls on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

Speaking to the motion, Bandt said, “there have been many attempts through history to limit love and all have failed”. The text of his speech is at the end of this page. [Read more…]

Giving Substance To The Words

There are thirty-two new members of the 43rd Parliament, elected on August 21st. Three of them are returning after a voluntary or enforced absence. As a group they constitute one-fifth of the House of Representatives, a significant turnover and renewal of the lower house. Many of them will be there for years to come.

Over the past month, I have made a point of watching the maiden, or first, speeches of these members. On the whole, it is difficult not to be impressed by these fledgling parliamentarians.

There has been much comment on the moving speech from the Western Australian Liberal, Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous member of the House, but others also delivered considered and thoughtful speeches. [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.