After Question Time on Thursday (21 February), Member for Curtin Julie Bishop advised the House she would not be standing for re-election at the next election.
Why? Well, according to Bishop, Labor is bad and this great Scott Morrison Government will be re-elected.
The more interesting aspect of her statement was the fact that she has been approached by a number of very good people, including women, about pre-selection. She was confident the Party would pre-select an excellent candidate.
Let's translate that: Bishop despises the forces that led the challenge against former PM Malcolm Turnbull. And the reactionaries who rejected her. Remember, as the Deputy Leader she won just 11 votes in the first round of the leadership contest last year.
Her enemy list includes fellow Western Australian and current Attorney-General, Christian Porter.
Porter’s seat of Pearce is not very far from Bishop’s seat of Curtin. At the 2016 Election, Bishop won Curtin with over 70% of the vote, two-party preferred. Porter’s seat, on the other hand, is very marginal. He held it in 2016 with 53.6% of the vote, two-party preferred.
This means, with the consistent level of support for the Labor Party over the last few years, that Porter could lose Pearce. It will be difficult for Labor to get a swing greater than 3.6% but not impossible.
However, if you were the member for Pearce and nearby Curtin became vacant, would you be tempted to run for pre-selection? How much more attractive to a senior government minister going into the 2019 Election would it be to be running in a seat with a margin of 20%, rather than 3%?
My assumption had been that Bishop would run for Curtin in 2019 as a way of keeping Porter out and possibly see him lose his own seat while she gloated in opposition from the backbench.
Her announcement on Thursday and her reference to "excellent candidates", tells us she has the numbers to pass on the seat to an ally in the Party rather than an enemy like Porter.
Porter also "starred" in Question Time. It was the Attorney-General who earlier in the day had been asserting there was legal advice to the Government that the Medical Evacuations Bill contained a fatal flaw. The advice was that there was no power, Porter asserted, to return sick refugees and asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Manus Island and Nauru once they were better.
Of course, given the inability of the hospital on Christmas Island to actually address the medical needs of almost all the refugees and asylum seekers to be transferred there, the idea of them getting better is a fantasy. Either that, or it is a deliberate untruth spread by a Government keen to continue the brutal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers no matter where they happen to be.
Labor made a simple request: release the advice. Porter refused. This is, as the Labor Party pointed out, the same Attorney-General who misrepresented the views of the police about the Medivac Bill.
He has form.
Labor’s focus was former Treasurer Joe Hockey and Helloworld. Hockey is Australia’s Ambassador to the United States. Labor tried to suspend standing orders on Thursday (just as it had tried on Wednesday) to consider a motion from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
The motion highlighted not only the Helloworld scandal but Paladin, tipping off the media about the AWU raids and more, to condemn
"Members of this Government for acting as though they are above the rules and treating taxpayers' money as their own".
As Shorten mentioned in his motion, the meeting between Hockey and embassy staff in the U.S. (including Hockey)
"… was arranged because, in the words of Mr Andrew Burnes, 'Hockey owes me.'"
Shorten began his motion echoing those words:
Start this speech with the following words — Hockey owes me. That tells you everything you need to know about this Government. Somebody owes a Liberal donor, so they get a meeting. A Liberal minister owes their mates who run a small private foundation, so they get $500 million. A Liberal minister owes a chum who gets a juicy contract. The Liberals owe the big banks big time, so they vote against a royal commission 26 times.
This is a Liberal Government of their donors, by the donors, for the donors.
I think this is a message likely to resonate very much with voters. The Government should but will not come clean. The Government hopes that the five weeks’ break before the two or three days of budget sittings in early April (and then with the election being called) will send this iffy material to the dustbin of history.
Maybe. However, just as it is hiding on Helloworld, it is hiding when it comes to Paladin, the AWU raids, the inadequacies of the hospital on Christmas Island. On and on the list goes.
The stench will likely not go away. But there is hope.
As he wound up his argument on the motion, Shorten said:
"Australians do care about integrity. That is why, if we are elected, Helloworld will be the first item on the national integrity commission that we will set up."
You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassant. Signed copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed, are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.
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