This website will be progressively updated as the final outcome of the election of 2 July is known, and as the 45th Parliament meets.

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Budget savings bill passes

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

The Parliament passed the government's Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 with the support of the opposition. The bill's 20 measures, including reductions to welfare, health and higher education spending will lead to six billion dollars in savings over the next four years.

The opposition supported the bill after the government agreed to drop some of the measures originally in the bill. Speaking in the House of Representatives, the Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, said, 'The challenge before this parliament is to arrest the debt that risks the living standards of not just future generations of Australians but also the current generations of Australians.' He thanked the Shadow Treasurer, the Hon Chris Bowen MP, 'for his engagement in this process.'

New Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

ACT Senator Katy Gallagher has been appointed Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. Her appointment follows the resignation of Senator Sam Dastyari. Senator Gallagher is also the Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

Newly-elected Queensland Senator Anthony Chisholm has been appointed Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.

Plebiscite on same-sex marriage

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

A plebiscite on the question of whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry would go ahead under a bill being considered by the Parliament. The plebiscite would be held on 11 February next year.

Introducing the Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, said, 'if the Australian people support same-sex marriage, as I believe they will—and certainly I will be voting for it—then this parliament will swiftly, when it returns in 2017, legislate to change the Marriage Act. We put our faith in the people.'

'The bill authorises and provides funding for the Australian Electoral Commission to conduct the plebiscite. This will be in the amount of $170 million. That funding will include $15 million to be divided equally between official yes and no campaigns,' Mr Turnbull said.

A plebiscite is a vote of the people. It is a way for governments to test whether people either support or oppose a proposed action on an issue. The Parliament is not bound by the results of a plebiscite. Only two plebiscites have been held in Australia, in 1916 and 1917, with both on the issue of conscription for military service.

Tobacco tax increase

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

The Parliament agreed to increase tax on tobacco and tobacco products in a bid to discourage people from smoking. The Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2016 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2016 increase excise duty and customs duty on tobacco and tobacco products by 12.5 per cent each year, over the next four years. The increase will be applied from 1 September 2017.

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP, said research shows increasing the cost of cigarettes 'is one of the most effective ways of reducing tobacco consumption and preventing the uptake of smoking. Higher prices encourage smokers to quit or reduce their consumption while also discouraging potential smokers, including young Australians, from taking up the habit.'

Smoking remains a significant health problem in Australia, Ms O'Dwyer said. She noted 'up to 1.8 million people, around two-thirds of Australia's smokers, will die from smoking related causes if they continue to smoke.'

Registering Australian deaths overseas

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

The Parliament passed a bill to allow the appointment of a federal Registrar of Deaths Abroad to simplify the process of registering, or recording, deaths of Australians overseas.

Introducing the bill, the Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, said 'Under current arrangements, applicants can remain in a procedural 'limbo' as they negotiate with state or territory registrars to register an overseas death.'

Cancer Screening Register

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

A National Cancer Screening Register will be created under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives. The register will collect data from the National Cervical Screening Program and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Speaking on the National Cancer Screening Register Bill 2016, the Minister for the Health, the Hon Susan Ley MP, said the register will ensure Australia remains a world leader in the early detection of cancers to save more lives.

The National Cancer Screening Register (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2016, which will protect the privacy of personal information stored on the register, was introduced at the same time.

The Senate referred the bills to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee. It is due to report to the Senate on its inquiry on 11 October.

First speeches in the Senate

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

A number of newly-elected senators gave their first speech. Usually, senators use a first speech to talk about why they stood for election, and outline what is important to them and what they hope to achieve in Parliament.

Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy began her first speech in Yanyuwa, 'the language of my mother's families in Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the 'language of my country.' Senator McCarthy said 'I am standing here in this place, the Australian Senate, in the place of the people, to represent not just my own people—the Yanyuwa, the Garrwa, the Mara and the Kudanji peoples—but to stand for all people of the Northern Territory: all clan groups, all families who call the Northern Territory home, whether they live on the vast cattle stations of the Northern Territory or whether they have travelled from countries like Asia, Africa or the Middle East to forge a new life for their families away from strife-torn lives that offered no future. I stand here for you, too.'

Queensland Senator Murray Watt told the Senate, 'It is the responsibility of every one of us here to speak the truth and to act in line with what we think it means to be Australian. For me, it is the combination of fairness, equality, justice and community.' Senator Watt ended his first speech by saying 'Let us seize our nation's potential by working hard and by working together.'

In his first speech, former broadcaster and Victoria Senator Derryn Hinch said being chosen by the Australian people to represent them 'is truly a great honour and a challenge, a big challenge...[that] brings with it an awesome responsibility.'

Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson made her first speech in the Senate almost twenty years to the day since she made a first speech in the House of Representatives as the Member for Oxley. Senator Hanson said, 'I cannot begin to express the pride and honour I have in being joined in this place by three of my colleagues—Senator Malcolm Roberts, also representing Queensland; New South Wales Senator Brian Burston; and Western Australian Senator Rod Culleton—elected under Pauline Hanson's One Nation. As a strong, united team I guarantee we will make a difference.'

First speeches in the House

Sitting period 12 to 15 September

Ms Anne Aly, the Member for Cowan, is the first Muslim woman to be elected to Parliament. In her first speech, she pledged 'to always be a strong and fair voice' for the people of Cowan. An anti-radicalization expert, Ms Aly said 'Our response to terrorism needs to be intelligent and proportionate, and that means putting resources into the sorts of programs that tackle the problem at its source and which develop a strong civil society capable of responding with the necessary agility to the changing nature of the threat.'

In his first speech, Mr Julian Lesser, the Member for Berowra, spoke of his father's battle with depression and of his own determination to 'to help empower Australians to build a greater sense of community.' Mr Lesser said, 'Treating depression as a medical issue is not working. Rather, we need to rebuild caring communities where people know and notice the signs and acknowledge the people around them; where we ask, "Are you okay?".'

Ms Susan Templeman, the new Member for Macquarie, told the House that 'a decade ago, our family's foundations were rocked by our daughter's first experience of mental illness. I vividly remember a distressing night, standing in my kitchen with my husband, asking: how do other families do this? And while I did not then and there declare my intention to run for parliament, that was the moment I look back on as transformative, when something in me shifted.' Ms Templeman said, 'I am proud that my daughter, Phoebe, is here today, determined that her history is something not to be ashamed of, but standing tall, knowing she has had the resilience and the strength to battle through some really difficult times.'

Ms Julia Banks, the Member for Chisholm, spoke of her Greek heritage and her shock at encountering discrimination and prejudice in her childhood. 'Despite what I would describe as my very Aussie upbringing and seeing myself as an Australian girl who occasionally also enjoyed the joys of Greek food and functions, I did not know what a boy at primary school meant when he said to me, "Wog, go back to your home country." "Home?" I asked myself. I was born and raised and knew and loved no other country than Australia as my home,' she said. It was fitting her electorate 'was named after Caroline Chisholm, who was a strong advocate for migration and helped women as a social worker,' Ms Banks added.

Mr Peter Khalil, the Member for Wills, told the House of Representatives that, together with Anne Aly, he was honoured to be one of the first of two Egyptian Australians elected to the 45th Parliament. He spoke of how his parents came to Australia from Egypt 47 years ago and 'instilled in me the importance of giving back to the country that has given us so much. They often told me that Australia is not the lucky country, but, rather, we are lucky to be Australian. Migrants like my parents got much from the lucky country, but they also gave much to making it better, more prosperous and as open as its beautiful broad skies. I will do my utmost to advocate for and represent the people of Wills with all my wit and judgement, skill and experience, passion and smarts.'

Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, the Member for Mayo, is the first member of the Nick Xenophon Team to be elected to the House of Representatives. In her first speech, she said 'I look forward to more diverse representation, a growing crossbench and a vision of this place returning to what the Fathers of Federation intended: a place that is the genuine contest of ideas on how best to safeguard the future prosperity of Australia for all Australians.' Ms Sharkie appealed to the Parliament to 'move away from short-term fixes to sensible, informed and evidence-based planning. The long-term prosperity of our nation depends on it.'

Mr David Littleproud MP, the Member for Maranoa, told the House he is 'the third consecutive generation of the Littleproud family to serve the people of Queensland in all three tiers of government.'  He said 'Fundamentally I believe a federal government's responsibility is not to impose in the daily lives of Australians, but to create an environment and the infrastructure around them so they can generate their own wealth that subsequently builds healthier communities.'

45th Parliament opens

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The 45th Parliament opened on 30 August with 53 newly-elected members, including 39 in the House of Representatives and 14 new senators. In the morning, members of both Houses were sworn-in by the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Honourable Robert French AC and Justice Susan Mary Kiefel AC, acting as the Governor-General’s Deputies.

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), arrived at Parliament House at 2pm. The newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate were presented to him in the Members’ Hall. The Governor-General then proceeded to the Senate and invited the members of the House of Representatives to assemble with their colleagues there to hear his address on the cause of calling the Parliament together.

As is custom, the Governor-General used the address to outline the government’s plans for its term in office. At the conclusion of the address there was a 19‑gun salute on the Forecourt of Parliament House.

Welcome to Country

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The Opening of Parliament included a Welcome to Country ceremony. The ceremony was led by Tina Brown, an elder of the Ngambri people, who have a traditional connection with the Canberra and Yass area. The ceremony was held for the first time in February 2008 when the 42nd Parliament was opened. It is now a permanent part of the Opening of the Parliament.

First Indigenous woman elected to House

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

Ms Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman and the Member for Barton, became the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives.

Her election brings the number of Aboriginal members of parliament to five. The other four Aboriginal parliamentarians include the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, who in 2010 became the first Aboriginal person elected to the House, Senator Pat Dodson, Senator Jacqui Lambie and newly-elected Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. The first Aboriginal member of parliament was Neville Bonner who became a senator in 1971.

Ms Burney was also the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the NSW Parliament, where she served as deputy leader of the opposition. She has been appointed as Shadow Minister for Human Services.

Speaker elected

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The Hon Tony Smith MP was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Once members are sworn-in and before it can conduct any other business, the House must elect a Speaker. As no one is in the chair, the Clerk presides over the election of the Speaker.

Mr Smith was 'dragged' to the chair by Mr Michael Sukkar MP and Mrs Lucy Wicks MP. The tradition of dragging the incoming Speaker to the chair dates back to the early days of the British Parliament.

In the 1400s the king imprisoned a number of Speakers who, speaking on behalf of the Parliament, challenged his authority. This made members of parliament reluctant to take the job. Nowadays, the tradition of dragging the incoming Speaker to the chair is only an historical curiosity.

The Hon Mark Coulton MP was elected as Deputy Speaker and Mr Rob Mitchell MP as Second Deputy Speaker.

More information

Election of President of the Senate

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

Senator the Hon Stephen Parry has been elected as President of the Senate. As with the House, this was the first task of the Senate after senators were sworn-in. For the first time in some years, no ballot was required and Senator Parry was re-elected as President unopposed.

The President was presented to the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), following the Governor-General's arrival at Parliament House that afternoon. Under Senate standing orders (chamber rules), this must occur before the Senate proceeds to any business.

Senator Sue Lines was later elected unopposed as Deputy President and Chair of Committees.

More information

Rotation of senators

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

Following a double dissolution election, such as the one held in July, all 76 senators are re-elected. The Senate must then agree on a method to decide which senators will serve a six-year term and which will serve a three-year term.

Normally, because state senators are elected on a rotating basis and for a six-year term, half these senators are elected in a general election with the House every three years. The terms of the four territory senators are the same as the members of the House of Representatives.

Section 13 of the Constitution requires that the rotation of the Senate must be re-established following a double dissolution election. Under a motion agreed to by the Senate, senators who received the largest quota of votes or, in other words, won the first six spots in each state, will serve six-year terms. Those elected in the 7th to 12th spots will serve three-year terms. The motion was passed in the Senate by 50 to 15 votes.

Senate calls for Royal Commission

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

A motion calling for a Royal Commission into banking and financial services was agreed to by the Senate on 1 September. The Senate then sent the proposal to the House of Representatives for it to consider. The government, who is not in favour of a Royal Commission, experienced some difficulties in restricting debate on the issue in the House.

Government loses votes in House

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

For the first time since 1962 the government lost three divisions, or votes, in the House of Representatives on the final sitting day. The votes were related to whether the House should immediately debate the Senate's motion to establish a Royal Commission into banking and financial services.

The three votes lost by the government were procedural questions to do with the conduct of business in the House. First, the government lost the vote to adjourn the House. It then lost a vote on closing down debate. The third vote was on an amendment, or change, to the government's proposal that debate on the Senate's motion be deferred, or postponed, to another sitting day. The opposition successfully moved that the proposal be amended so the House could immediately consider the Senate motion.

When the amended question was then put to the House, the next in the series of votes was tied at 71 for and 71 against. The Speaker, the Hon Tony Smith MP, then used his casting vote to decide the matter.

The Speaker explained to the House, 'As members would be aware, the principles regarding a casting vote by the Speaker are outlined in House of Representatives Practice—specifically on page 183—and they include that the Speaker should vote to allow further discussion where this is possible. I therefore cast my vote with the noes, and that is against closure of the debate.'

The government lost the three votes because some of its members were absent from the chamber. The House eventually adjourned at 7.21pm with the chamber voting 73 to 72 in favour.

Women in Parliament

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

Following the 2016 election, the number of women in the House of Representatives has increased to 43, three more than in the 44th Parliament. This means female representation in the House is now at 29 per cent.

One more woman has been elected to the Senate, taking the total number of women in that chamber to 30. This means women make up 39 per cent of the Senate. Overall, the number of women in Parliament has risen from 69 (31 per cent) in the 44th Parliament to 73 (32 per cent).

All three major parties and the Australian Greens have a female deputy leader. They include the Hon Julie Bishop MP, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, deputy leader of the Nationals, and Australian Greens co-deputy leader Senator Larissa Waters.

First speeches

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

Several newly-elected senators and members of the House of Representatives gave their first speech in their chamber. A first speech allows a new member of parliament to talk about what is important to them and what they hope to achieve in Parliament.

Ms Linda Burney, the Member for Barton, is the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives. In an emotional speech, she paid respect to the traditional owners of all Aboriginal lands, saying 'I am giving my first speech and I am deeply moved. I have journeyed to another place—a powerful place. I am one person. I wish in this House to honour, to be respectful, to be gentle and to be polite. I am thankful, happy. I could weep.' Wearing a cloak featuring her clan and personal totems, Ms Burney was sung into the chamber by her Wiradjuri sister, Ms Lynette Riley.

Ms Burney declared 'I intend to bring the fighting Wiradjuri spirit into this place. This mob behind me knows what that is about. I will bring that spirit into this place for the people of Barton, for the first peoples and for those great Labor values of social justice and equality for all people.'

Mr Tim Wilson, the Member for Goldstein, thanked his electorate for putting their trust in him, noting 'Western civilisation is not a story of freedom delivered on a silver platter. It had to be fought for, and it calls people to sacrifice,' adding 'cynicism pervades modern political life, but the best way we can combat that cynicism is to act with integrity. Australians need to see their parliamentarians act with conviction. Politics necessitates compromise on policy, and integrity comes from preferring defeat with your principles than to win without them.'

Acknowledging the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land on which Parliament House is built, Senator Patrick Dodson, from Western Australia, proclaimed 'I am a proud member of the Yawuru people of Broome'. In talking about what brought him to the Parliament, Senator Dodson said 'All of us, regardless of race, culture or gender, share a strong identity as Australians wanting to build a common, tolerant and prosperous future together. If we work to find what we have in common rather than what divides us, I believe that we can be better people; we can build a better Australia; we can build a better place for the next generation together.'

In her first speech, Senator Hume spoke of Parliament's intergenerational responsibility. She said, 'The opportunities for our children depend wholly on how we manage the economy. In a prosperous society, they will have more choices, better choices, more opportunities to succeed and to realise their potential.' Senator Hume pointed out that while she is the 93rd senator to represent Victoria, she is only the 13th woman. Pointing out that 'Study after study has proven what is known as the wisdom of crowds—diverse groups make better decisions', Senator Hume said 'Good government, good policy, and good politics demand that more women enter the political fray.'

More information

Senators and members: you can view first speeches on the Australian Parliament House website by following this link to a  member or senator’s page

ABCC bills reintroduced

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2] and the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2] have been reintroduced in the House of Representatives.

The ABCC bills, as they are referred to, have twice been rejected by the Senate. This meant that under section 57 of the Australian Constitution, they provided the trigger for the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, to call for a double dissolution election.

Speaking in the House, Mr Turnbull said, 'The Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 is introduced in the same form as the bills which were voted down twice by the previous Senate.'

'The coalition government will honour its commitment to the Australian people to restore the rule of law on our building sites. This bill will ensure our construction industry is safe, productive and free of intimidation and harassment. This will create the conditions for Australians to get the infrastructure they need at a price we can afford,' he added.

Bill to protect emergency services and volunteers

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The government has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to make sure that volunteer emergency service bodies and their volunteers can do their job without interference from other organisations.

Under the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016, enterprise agreements cannot include provisions that affect the ability of volunteer emergency services bodies to properly manage their volunteer operations. As well, enterprise agreements cannot include provisions that are inconsistent with state or territory laws that apply to volunteer services bodies.

Introducing the bill, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, said, ‘This bill will ensure that enterprise agreements cannot be used in a way that permits unions to exert power over the valuable contributions of volunteers’.

Reforms to child care

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

A bill to make child care more affordable and easier to access has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Speaking on the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2016, the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said it is ‘designed to support more families, including jobless families, to increase their participation in work, training, study or volunteering.’

The bill introduces a simpler Child Care Subsidy and a Child Care Safety Net. It also removes red tape so child care centres can operate more flexibly to meet family needs. The Jobs for Families Child Care Package will invest around $40 billion in child care and early childhood education over the next four years, including more than $3 billion in extra funding.

‘Almost one million Australian families will benefit as a result of this childcare assistance package. Low- and middle-income families will be the greatest beneficiaries,’ Mr Porter said.

Inquiry into suicide rates among veterans

Sitting period 30 August to 1 September

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee will conduct an inquiry into the performance of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), particularly in relation to the health of Australian veterans and their rising suicide rates.

The inquiry reference was proposed by Senator Jacqui Lambie. She told the Senate that some reports suggest that more than 280 veterans have committed suicide since 1999. Senator Lambie said a number of serious issues had been identified in the way DVA is run.

The opposition and all 20 crossbench senators supported the inquiry reference. The committee is due to report back to the Senate on the inquiry by 30 March 2017.

Election declared

17 August 2016

The results of the federal election have been officially declared. The Coalition won 76 seats in the House of Representatives, the exact majority needed to form government. The Australian Labor Party remains in opposition with 69 seats and there are five members on the crossbench. They include a member of the Australian Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Katter’s Australian Party, as well as two Independents.

In the Senate, the Coalition won 30 seats, the Australian Labor Party has 26 and the crossbench will include 20 senators. It is the largest crossbench in the history of the Senate and an increase of two from the previous Parliament.

The Senate crossbench is made up of nine Australian Greens, four from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, three from the Nick Xenophon Team, one Liberal Democrats senator, one Family First senator, one from the Jacqui Lambie Network and one from Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.

The 45th Parliament will meet for the first time on 30 August.

Coalition to form government

11 July 2016

The Coalition will form government after the latest counting by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) shows it will have at least 75 seats in the House of Representatives. The AEC predicts the Coalition will win another seat, giving it the 76 needed to form a majority government. Counting of votes will continue for some days. At present three seats are still in doubt, with the votes too close to decide which candidate has won.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, has conceded defeat. He phoned the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, on Sunday to congratulate him on winning the election. The ALP is likely to have at least 67 seats in the House, with the AEC predicting they may win another two.

Mr Turnbull has spoken to a number of crossbench members to get their support for the Coalition to form a minority government if it fails to have a majority in the House. On present counting, there are likely to be five crossbench members in the House.

Federal election

4 July 2016

The result of the federal election held on 2 July may not be known for some time, with a number of seats in the House of Representatives too close to call. At this stage no party has won 76 seats in the House, which is the majority needed to form government.

On election night, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) counted more than 11 million House of Representatives votes. These included the votes cast in polling places on Election Day and votes cast in early voting centres.

The AEC will now verify and count declaration votes. These are votes where the voter has signed a declaration instead of being ‘marked off’ the certified list of voters. They include postal votes and absent votes cast at a polling place outside of a voter's electoral division. The AEC has also begun counting Senate votes.

Until the results are known, the Australian Government will continue to work under caretaker conventions. This means that the ordinary business of governing the nation goes on, but the government avoids making major policy decisions or carrying out large projects without consulting the opposition.

Up-to-date election results for both the House and Senate are available on the AEC's Tally Room.

Parliament House architect dies at 95

18 May 2016

Mr Romaldo (Aldo) Giurgola AO (1920-2016), the architect of Parliament House, has died at the age of 95. Mr Giurgola was a senior partner of the New York-based Mitchell/Giurgola and Thorp Architects whose design for Parliament House was chosen from 329 entries in a competition conducted by the Parliament House Construction Authority.

The President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith MP, paid tribute to the architect. They said, 'We acknowledge Mr Giurgola not only as an exceptional architect of Parliament House but one who, along with a great team of architects, helped to make the Australian Parliament House the iconic symbol of democracy that it has become.'

As the principal design architect for Parliament House, Mr Giurgola wanted it to be a building for all Australians. He said 'an architect gives form to a building, and people give that building their own meaning'.

Explaining the decision to build Parliament House into its site on Capital Hill, Mr Giurgola said, 'We felt if Australia's new Parliament House was to speak honestly about its purpose, it could not be built on top of the hill as this would symbolise government imposed upon the people. In addition, it was important that Parliament House be seen as extending an invitation to all citizens to visit the building to see the workings of the democracy that is Australia'.

'The building should nest with the hill, symbolically rise out of the Australian landscape, as true democracy rises from the state of things,' he added.

Mr Giurgola, who was born in Rome, began his career in Italy before moving to the United States. He made Canberra his home in the 1980s and became an Australian citizen in 2000. Mr Giurgola was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, the Australian Centenary Medal and the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Buildings.

Enrol to vote

18 May 2016

Ninety-four per cent of Australians who are eligible to vote are enrolled with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The remaining six per cent have until 8pm on 23 May 2016 to enrol to vote.

The Electoral Commissioner, Mr Tom Rogers, said all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over are required by law to enrol and vote in the 2 July federal election.

'Enrolling and voting is compulsory. If you are not enrolled, you can't vote in the 2016 federal election,' Mr Rogers said. He also urged Australians who have moved in the last three years to immediately check that their details were up to date on the electoral roll.

Seventeen year old Australians turning eighteen years of age on or before 2 July 2016 should also enrol and vote in the federal election.

You can enrol to vote or check your enrolment details on the AEC website. Australians unable to go online can pick up a paper enrolment form at any AEC office or Australia Post outlet.

Practice your Senate vote

18 May 2016

People can practice voting for the Senate using a tool on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website. The practice voting tool is designed to educate voters about how to correctly fill out a Senate ballot paper following changes to the Senate voting system.

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 2016, which the Parliament passed earlier this year, introduced these changes. People voting 'above the line' on Senate ballot papers will have to number at least six boxes for the parties or groups of their choice. People voting ‘below the line’ will have to number at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of their choice. 

Mr Rogers urged voters to use the practice voting tool available on the AEC website and follow the instructions on the ballot paper to avoid accidently casting an informal vote. An informal vote means the ballot paper has not been filled out correctly and cannot be counted.

High Court rejects challenge to Senate voting

18 May 2016

The High Court of Australia has unanimously rejected a challenge to recent changes to the Senate voting system. The challenge was made by South Australian Senator Bob Day. The High Court dismissed Senator Day’s claim that the changes were unconstitutional.

More information

Double dissolution election called

12 May 2016

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, has announced that a double dissolution election will be held on 2 July. The last time such an election was held was in 1987.

In a double dissolution both the Senate and the House of Representatives are dismissed (dissolved), in order for a federal election to take place. It is a way to resolve disagreements between the House and Senate. More information about a double dissolution can be found here and official documents relating to the calling of the double dissolution can be found here.

It is up to the Governor-General to issue the writs for the election of the House of Representatives and the four territory senators. The writs direct the Australian Electoral Commission to hold an election on a specified day. It is practice for the Prime Minister to advise the Governor-General of this date. State governors issue the writs for the Senate elections.

The Official Secretary to the Governor-General formally read out a proclamation dissolving the Senate and the House of Representatives at 9am on 9 May outside the front entrance of Parliament House. This brought the 44th Parliament to a close.

Caretaker mode

12 May 2016

Once the House of Representatives is dissolved and the writs are issued for the election, it is convention (practice) that the government goes into ‘caretaker’ mode. During this time, it is expected that the government will not introduce major programs, commit to new spending or negotiate treaties with other countries without consulting the opposition. The caretaker government ensures the country runs smoothly until the result of the election is known or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed. More information on caretaker conventions can be found here.

Senate committees and the dissolution

12 May 2016

Normally, the Senate is a continuing chamber. Senators have six-year terms so usually only half the state senators and all four territory senators are up for election every three years, together with the House of Representatives. As a result when the Parliament is prorogued (ended) for an election, Senate committees can still conduct business, including holding inquiries and tabling reports. However, in a double dissolution all 76 senators face election and this brings all proceedings of the Senate and its committees to an end.

Budget

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

The Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, handed down the Budget in the House of Representatives on 3 May. The Budget is the government’s plan for how it will raise revenue (taxes and other charges) over the coming financial year and how it will spend this money. It was the first Budget delivered by Mr Morrison.

The Treasurer told the House ‘This budget is an economic plan, it's not just another budget...This economic plan is the foundation on which we can build a brighter, more secure future, in a stronger, new economy with more jobs’. The Budget included tax cuts for those earning over $80 000, company tax cuts, changes to superannuation tax arrangements for wealthy Australians, a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance and the introduction of an internship program to encourage employers to hire young unemployed people.

Mr Morrison said ‘This is the right plan for Australia to overcome the challenges of economic transition and to clear a path for long-term growth and jobs in a stronger and new economy. Having set this critical direction and having laid out this plan, we must now commit to stay the course. The future of all Australians and their families depends on it’.

More information

Budget reply

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

As is tradition, the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, made a speech in reply to the Budget on 5 May. Describing it as 'a budget for big business over the battlers', Mr Shorten said 'Three-quarters of Australian workers will receive no tax relief in this budget but will disproportionately bear the burden of cuts to schools, hospitals, Medicare and family payments that people rely on'.

Indicating that the opposition would oppose some of the government's proposed company tax cuts, Mr Shorten said 'Labor will support a tax cut for small businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million a year'. He said the opposition also disagreed with tax cuts for high income earners.

Mr Shorten then outlined the opposition's alternative plans for the Budget, saying that if elected to government, his team would restore 'the national budget without smashing the family budget, and building a stronger economy without hurting the things that help it grow'.

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Supply bills

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

The Parliament has passed a series of supply bills to guarantee the government is supplied with, or has access to, public money to pay for the activities of government until the Parliament has a chance to consider the Budget after the election.

The Budget is introduced into Parliament as a collection of bills (proposed laws) called appropriation bills. These bills outline how the government plans to spend money it raises. Normally, after the Budget is introduced, the Parliament will immediately consider and vote on these bills. However, now that Parliament has been dissolved this is not possible.

A supply bill allows for interim appropriations out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to pay for the activities of the government until the passage of the annual appropriation bills. The Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann said ‘These bills will ensure continuity of the normal business of government in the context of a double-dissolution election.’  

Estimates

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

The dissolution of the Parliament meant that Senate Estimates hearings were only held for two days. Normally after the Budget is handed down, the eight Senate legislative committees hold two weeks of estimates hearings in late May in which they scrutinise, or carefully examine, the Budget statements.

In estimates, senators question government ministers and senior public servants about government spending, decisions and programs. Each committee is responsible for examining different government departments and agencies. Ordinarily, following the May estimates hearings, each committee presents a report to the Senate on its findings, including any recommendations or issues of concern.

The hearings, which are open to the public, are an important way of making the government accountable to the Parliament. Some of the issues raised in the two days of estimates included:

  • youth internships for unemployed young people
  • proposed tax changes for backpackers
  • coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef
  • future submarine and naval shipbuilding programs
  • the Australian Electoral Commission’s paper sources for ballot papers for the federal election
  • the cost of the proposed company tax cuts over ten years
  • superannuation changes, and their effect on women in particular
  • oceans and atmosphere research conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
  • new appointments to the Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC)
  • arrangements for and costs of a plebiscite on marriage equality
  • arts funding
  • new management at the ABC.

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New WA senator

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

Mr Pat Dodson was sworn-in as a new senator for Western Australia, filling the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Mr Joe Bullock. In keeping with section 15 of the Australian Constitution, Mr Dodson was chosen by a joint sitting of the Parliament of Western Australia to fill the vacancy.

Wearing his trade-mark Akubra hat, the Indigenous leader was accompanied into the chamber by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Penny Wong and WA Senator Glenn Sterle. The swearing-in of Senator Dodson was met with warm applause and, as is tradition, senators lined up to congratulate him. His appointment brought to three the number of Indigenous senators and to four the number of Indigenous members of the 44th Parliament.

Senator Dodson's term of office was set to end on 30 June 2020. However, with the dissolving of the Parliament, Senator Dodson's term could be the shortest ever in the history of the Senate before going to an election. If re-elected, Senator Dodson will have to wait until after the election to make his first speech in the chamber. He did, however, ask a question about education funding during Question Time in the Senate.

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Changes to shadow ministry

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, has announced a number of changes to the shadow ministry, including the appointment of Senator Pat Dodson as his Shadow Parliamentary Secretary after only three days in Parliament. The changes follow the decision of the Hon Gary Gray AO, the Member for Brand, not to recontest his seat at the next election.

Under the changes, the Hon Jason Clare MP becomes Shadow Minister for Resources, in addition to having responsibility for the Shadow Communications portfolio. Dr Jim Chalmers MP has been appointed the Shadow Assistant Minister for Resources. In addition to being the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Shadow Minister for Ageing, the Hon Shayne Neumann MP takes over as Shadow Minister for Northern Australia. Mr Stephen Jones MP is the new Shadow Minister for Regional Communications.

Valedictory speeches in the House

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

Several members of the House of Representatives are set to leave the Parliament at this election. As is the usual practice, many gave valedictory, or final, speeches in the chamber.

Among them was the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, the Member for Berowra, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1973. His long service earned him the title of 'Father of the House'. He was the second-longest serving MP after the Hon Billy Hughes MP, who served for 50 years. In making his speech, Mr Ruddock noted that 'Contribution in this parliament, if you can make it, is extraordinarily important'.

The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP served in the Parliament for nearly 30 years, as a senator and then as Member for Mackellar in the House of Representatives, including two years as Speaker of the House. In her speech, Mrs Bishop remarked that 'In thanking everyone for the time and assistance they have given me, I simply reflect that as a woman in this wonderful country I am given an opportunity that most women in the world are denied: freedom'.

Marking her time in the Parliament, Ms Melissa Parke MP, the Member for Fremantle, told the House 'All parliamentarians occupy a position of responsibility and privilege held by relatively few in the history of Federation, affording the occupant a rare platform from which to represent their electorates and the national and global interest'.

In farewelling his time in the Parliament, the Hon Andrew Robb MP, the Member for Goldstein, reflected that being an MP and a minister 'involves a combination of exhilaration, despair, guilt, exhaustion, robust debate, disappointment and enormous satisfaction, and all that can happen in one normal day'.

The Hon Bruce Scott MP, the Member for Maranoa, left the Parliament after 26 years, having served as Deputy Speaker since 2012. He told the House 'It is within our power to make sure that we look after people and that we do not leave people behind. We have that power and we have that responsibility.'

The Hon Anna Burke MP, who served as Speaker in the 43rd Parliament, is leaving Parliament after 18 years as the Member for Chisholm. She thanked her electorate 'for putting your faith in me to take genuinely the role of being your representative and to serve in this august institution'.

Reflecting on her role as Speaker during minority government, Ms Burke said 'it was an amazing period in our democracy. It demonstrated that this parliament works. Legislation was passed—actually, more than has been passed in this majority parliament—committee meetings happened; committee reports were done; private members business took place; private members business actually became law.' She added that this would not have happened 'without the clerks, without the institution.'

Valedictories in the Senate

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

Senator the Hon Jan McLucas will retire from Parliament after 17 years as a Senator for Queensland. In her valedictory, or final speech in the chamber, Senator McLucas said it 'has been my absolute privilege to be elected to this place'. Reflecting on her time in the Senate, she said 'The Senate's committee structure sets this institution apart from other houses of parliament. Our Senate committees do great work and lead the national debate in many circumstances'. Senator McLucas said she was particularly proud of initiating an inquiry that led to creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Senator the Hon Bill Heffernan also announced that he will not stand for re-election after serving in the Senate since 1998. In his valedictory, Senator Heffernan thanked 'the constituency of New South Wales for allowing me the great honour and privilege of representing them in this chamber for the best part of 20 years—in particular, those from rural and regional Australia; I have long fought to have their voices heard in this place'.

Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig has served as a Senator for Queensland since 1998. In his final speech in the Senate, he said 'I cannot help but be thankful for the opportunity entrusted to me by the voters of my home state'. Senator Ludwig added that he was 'proud to have been part of the government that finally said sorry to Australia's first people', and one that introduced the National Broadband Network and 'Australia's first serious attempt at reducing carbon emissions by placing a price on carbon emissions'.

Northern Australia Infrastructure

Sitting period 2 to 5 May

The Parliament has passed a bill to create the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to encourage development in Northern Australia. Introducing the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016 in the House of Representatives, the  Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, said ‘Northern Australia has great potential for economic and population growth, but it needs the right backbone economic infrastructure to drive that growth’.

Mr Frydenberg said ‘Through this bill, the Commonwealth will partner with the private sector and the governments of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia to provide financial assistance on concessional terms for the construction of major projects'.

He added ‘These major projects may include airports, ports, roads, rail, energy, water, and communications infrastructure. These are the types of economic infrastructure needed to further open the North for business, and to deliver wider public benefits for the rest of Australia’.

New session of Parliament

Sitting period 18 to 19 April

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) opened a new session of Parliament on 18 April.

The Governor-General prorogued the Parliament on 15 April on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP. This meant that the first session of the 44th Parliament was formally closed and the Notice Paper, which lists all business that is before each of the Houses, was cleared.

The Senate met at 9.30am on 18 April and shortly after the Usher of the Black Rod announced the arrival of the Governor-General, who directed the Usher to request that the members of the House of Representatives attend the Senate. When members of both Houses were assembled, the Governor-General delivered a short speech explaining why the Parliament had been summoned, which was to reconsider the bills to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). These bills had already been rejected once by the Senate on 17 August last year and were before the Senate for a second time when Parliament was prorogued.

Once the Governor-General completed his address, members of the House returned to their chamber. After a short suspension, or break, the Senate resumed sitting.

Senate rejects ABCC bills again

Sitting period 18 to 19 April

The Senate again rejected the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2] and the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2], after they were restored to the Senate Notice Paper at the request of the House of Representatives.  

The ABCC bills, as they are referred to, now meet the requirements under section 57 of the Australian Constitution to make them a trigger for a double dissolution. In a double dissolution both the Senate and the House of Representatives are dismissed (dissolved), in order for a federal election to take place. It is a way to resolve disagreements between the House and Senate. For more information about a double dissolution, see this fact sheet.

The Parliament had agreed to meet until a decision was made on the ABCC bills and other specified bills, so stopped sitting on 19 April when it had completed its work.

Road Safety bill passed

Sitting period 18 to 19 April

The Parliament passed a bill to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which set pay rates for truck drivers. The Tribunal was set up on the basis that better wages would increase road safety. Speaking on the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016, the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said two comprehensive reviews have shown that the tribunal ‘has demonstrated no tangible safety outcomes for the road transport industry.’

Senator Cash said ‘The Government remains strongly committed to ensuring the highest standards of road safety. The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is clearly not the body to tackle road safety. This is why we will ensure that the proper regulator, tasked with making a real difference on safety issues, will be properly funded. We will redirect all the resources from the Road Safety Remuneration System - $4 million per year - to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to ensure the tangible safety measures the industry want are given priority.’

WA senator resigns

Sitting period 18 to 19 April

The President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, announced that Western Australian Senator Joe Bullock resigned on 13 April. In keeping with section 21 of the Constitution, the President notified the Governor of Western Australia of a casual vacancy in the Senate. 

Under section 15 of the Australian Constitution, if a senator retires before the end of their term, a new senator is appointed to fill the casual vacancy. The appointment is made by the parliament in the state or territory from which the retiring senator was chosen. A 1977 amendment to section 15 also requires that the new senator is nominated from the same political party or group as the previous senator.

Parliament to meet for the Budget

Sitting period 18 to 19 April

Parliament will next meet on 2 May. The Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, will deliver  the Budget the following day. The Budget is the government's plan for how it will raise revenue (taxes and other charges) over the coming financial year and how it will spend this money.

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Extra sitting weeks for Parliament

24 March 2016

Parliament will be recalled to sit for a new session on 18 April. The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, will prorogue the Parliament on 15 April. This means that the current session of Parliament will be formally closed and the Notice Paper, which lists all business that is before each of the Houses, will be cleared.

In a letter to the Governor-General, the Prime Minister said that the reason for recalling the Parliament on 18 April is to 'enable it to give full and timely consideration to two important parcels of industrial legislation [bills]'. These include the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 [No. 2] and the Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 [No. 2], which are referred to as the ABCC bills, and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014.

Mr Turnbull said the government considers these bills 'of great importance for promoting jobs and growth and improving productivity, and also promoting workplace safety through taking strong measures to deal with widespread and systemic criminality in the building and construction industry.'

After being passed by the House of Representatives last year, the ABCC bills were rejected by the Senate. The House passed the bills again earlier this year and they are now before the Senate. If the Senate rejects these bills again they can be used as a trigger for a double dissolution election. The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 is also a double dissolution trigger as it has been passed twice by the House and twice rejected by the Senate. The Prime Minister has indicated that if any of the bills fail to pass the Senate, he could use this to trigger a double dissolution election.

In a double dissolution both the Senate and the House of Representatives are dismissed (dissolved), in order for a federal election to take place. It is a way to resolve disagreements between the House and Senate. For more information about a double dissolution, see this fact sheet.

New Budget date

24 March 2016

With Parliament being recalled early, the Budget will now be delivered on 3 May rather than the following week. The Prime Minister informed the Governor-General of this proposed change.

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New electoral laws for Senate

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The Parliament has passed a bill to simplify the voting system for the Senate. The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 passed following an all-night sitting of the Senate and after the Parliament agreed to a number of amendments, or changes, proposed by the Senate.

One of the main changes the bill makes is the introduction of optional preferential voting. People voting 'above the line', which on Senate ballot papers lists parties and groups, will have the option of numbering at least six squares. This will allow voters to determine where their preferences go. Previously, voters only needed to put a number '1' next to the party or group they chose. This party or group had told the Australian Electoral Commission how it wanted its preferences distributed, or shared out. Under the changes, parties or groups will no longer direct how their preferences are distributed.

People voting 'below the line', which lists all individual candidates, will also have the option of numbering at least 12 boxes. At present, electors who choose to vote below the line must number all the candidates, which in some states can be as many as 100.

The government bill passed the Senate with the support of the Greens and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon by 36 votes to 23 votes, shortly after 1.30pm on Friday. The House of Representatives met later in the afternoon to approve the changes which will take effect from 1 July.

Longest continuous sitting

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The Senate sat through Thursday night and into Friday to consider a list of bills, including the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016. At 28 hours and 56 minutes, it is thought to be the longest continuous sitting of the Senate. The Senate had been scheduled to rise, or stop sitting, on Thursday evening; however it agreed to amend, or change, its sittings times to keep sitting until these bills were finalised.

The debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 lasted 39 hours, 20 of which were in a row. However, this is not the longest debate on a single bill in the Senate. That distinction goes to the debate on the Native Title Amendment Bill 1997, which went for 56 hours and 8 minutes. Such records are not kept for the House of Representatives.

Federal laws extended to Norfolk Island

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The Parliament has passed a bill to make sure that most federal laws apply to Norfolk Island. The Territories Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 was considered with the Passenger Movement Charge (Norfolk Island) Bill 2016. Both bills further the removal of self -government for the Island.

Introducing the bill in the House, the Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said it ‘will continue the government's commitment to improve services on Norfolk Island and provide a strong foundation for economic growth’.

 Last year, the Parliament passed the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 so Norfolk Island would no longer be self-governing. The Act replaced the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly with a regional council and extends federal taxation, social security and Medicare to the island from 1 July 2016.

Mr Fletcher said the bill would also amend, or change, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to make sure the Norfolk Island community is represented in federal Parliament.

Interest charge for social security debts

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to introduce a new interest charge on outstanding debts owed by former recipients of social welfare payments who have not entered into, or failed to follow, an acceptable repayment arrangement.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Interest Charge) Bill 2016 would apply to some debts owed by people who have received social security, family assistance (including child care), paid parental leave and student assistance payments and who have been paid money to which they were not entitled.

The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said the interest charge ‘will provide a very significant incentive for the responsible self-management of debts and will encourage debtors to repay their debts in a timely manner where they have the financial capacity to do so.’

The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

Welfare debtors not to leave Australia

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to prevent social welfare payment debtors who have outstanding debts and have failed to enter into a satisfactory repayment arrangement from leaving the country. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Welfare Payment Integrity) Bill 2016 also removes the six-year limit on welfare debt recovery.

The bill is now being considered by the Senate.

Senate committee says no primate ban

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

A Senate committee has recommended that a bill to make it unlawful to import primates for research purposes not be passed. The Environment and Communications Legislation Committee made the recommendation following an inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Live Imports of Primates for Research) Bill 2015.

The private senator's bill aims to ensure that Australia does not participate in the trade of wild-caught primates for experimentation. However, the committee found 'that there will be significant effects on biomedical research in Australia should a ban on imports be implemented.' While acknowledging concerns about the trade in wild-caught primates, the committee noted that 'there is no evidence that primates recently imported to Australia are wild-caught'. The Australian Greens released a dissenting report.

Senator sworn-in

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

Mr James Paterson was sworn-in to the Senate to fill the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Victorian Senator Michael Ronaldson in the last sitting period. As set out in Section 15 of the Australian Constitution, Senator Paterson was chosen by the Parliament of Victoria to fill the vacancy and comes from the same political party as his predecessor.

In his first speech in the chamber, Senator Paterson said ‘I have come to this place to fight for the things liberals have long fought for: freedom of speech, personal responsibility, federalism and free markets. Of those, freedom of speech is particularly close to my heart. It is our most fundamental freedom. Without it, we have no capacity to argue for and defend all our other freedoms.’

Senator Paterson, who is 28 years old, said that on behalf of his generation he would take up the issue of intergenerational debt. ‘On all current trajectories, it is my generation which will be left with the task of repaying the debt accrued by this one,’ he said, pointing out that in November last year ‘gross federal government debt passed $400 billion for the first time’. Senator Paterson supports the reintroduction of a Commonwealth debt ceiling which requires governments to get Parliament’s approval before it increase its borrowings.

Promoting the dignity of work and moving away from a national curriculum were two others issues the senator nominated as important to him.

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Youngest senator

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The appointment of Senator Paterson, aged 28, makes him the youngest member of the Senate and the second youngest member of parliament. The Hon Wyatt Roy MP, the Member for Longman, is the youngest member of parliament at 26 years old.  At 32 years old, Senator Robert Simms and Senator Sam Dastyari are the third and fourth youngest, with Mr Andrew Hastie MP and Mr Tim Watts MP, who are both 33 years old, the fifth and sixth youngest. Prior to Mr Roy’s  election at the age of 20 years and three months, the youngest person elected to the House of Representatives was Mr Edwin Corboy. He was elected at a by-election in 1918 aged 22 years and two months.

Senator Paterson is not the youngest person to ever serve in the Senate. At the age of 24 years and 10 months, Senator Bill O'Chee was appointed to fill a casual vacancy on 8 May 1990. The youngest person elected to the Senate was Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who was 25 years and 11 months when she was voted in at the 2007 election. However, she did not begin her term in the Senate until 1 July 2008 when she was 26 years and six months.

Mental health screening for ADF

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

A Senate committee has recommended that screening for mental health be conducted each year for all members of the Australian Defence Force. This was among a number of recommendations made by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee following an inquiry into 'Mental health of Australian Defence Force members and veterans'.

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Senate report on Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

A Senate committee has made a number of recommendations about ways to improve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (the Plan) and the way in which it is implemented, or carried out. The Plan is designed to make sustainable use of water in the basin.

The Select Committee on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was appointed to investigate the positive and negative impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional communities. In its report, the committee said it ‘supports the overarching principles of the Plan and acknowledges that some elements of implementation are producing and encouraging efficient water use and positive economic, social and environmental outcomes’. However, the committee said it was concerned that some elements of the Plan ‘were having negative impacts on economies and communities in the basin’.

A number of non-government members of the committee released dissenting reports disagreeing with the committee’s findings.

Dairy levy poll bill passed

Sitting period 15 to 18 March

The Parliament has passed a bill removing the requirement for the dairy industry to hold a dairy levy poll every five years. The levy is used to fund the activities of Dairy Australia, which helps ‘farmers adapt to a changing operating environment and strive for a profitable and sustainable dairy industry’. Under the Dairy Produce Amendment (Dairy Service Levy Poll) Bill 2016, a dairy levy poll will only be held if a change in levy rate is being considered. An advisory committee will be established to review the dairy levy rate every five years. Farmers who are members of Dairy Australia can request a poll if they disagree with the advisory committee’s decision not to hold a levy poll.

Bill to simplify Senate voting

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

A bill to make the Senate voting system less complex was passed by the House of Representatives. The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 makes a number of changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, including to “above the line” voting. The changes are based on the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) following an inquiry into the 2013 election.

At a federal election, voters have the choice of voting “above the line” or “below the line” for the Senate. On Senate ballot papers, parties and groups are listed above the line. At present, if electors vote above the line, they need only put a number '1' next to the party or group they choose. This party or group has told the Australian Electoral Commission how it wants its preferences distributed, or shared out. Under the changes, parties or groups will no longer direct how their preferences are distributed.

Instead, voters will have the option of numbering at least six squares above the line and so will decide where their preferences go. The Senate ballot paper would include information advising voters to number, in order of preference, at least six squares. Introducing the bill in the House, the Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, said ‘This will return the control of preferences back to voters themselves to empower voters.’

The JSCEM, in a report on the bill, described it as ‘an important and necessary reform to Australia’s electoral system.’ Opposition members of the committee released a dissenting report expressing concern about the bill. 

The JSCEM recommended that a system of partial optional preferential voting also be introduced below the line. Senate ballot papers list each candidate below the line. At present, electors who choose to vote below the line must number all the candidates. The JSCEM said voters should number a minimum of twelve candidates, or if there are fewer than twelve candidates, number all the candidates listed in order of preference.

The government proposed an amendment to the bill, which is currently before the Senate, based on this recommendation. The opposition and crossbench senators have also proposed a number of amendments.

The bill makes a number of other changes. If passed, it will allow political party logos to be printed on both Senate and House of Representative ballot papers to reduce any confusion caused by parties with similar names. It also includes measures to prevent an individual establishing multiple parties based on single issues with the purpose of ‘harvesting’, or directing preferences, to a particular candidate.

Medical cannabis bill

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The Parliament has passed a bill to allow cannabis and cannabis resin to be cultivated and produced for medicinal and scientific purposes. Introducing the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Health, the Hon Susan Ley MP, said the government recognised that 'there are some Australians suffering from severe medical conditions for which cannabis may have some application.'

By introducing a national licensing scheme to allow cultivation locally of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, the bill ensures a 'supply of safe medicinal cannabis products', Ms Ley said. 'An applicant for a license to cultivate would have to be found to be a "fit and proper person"...and demonstrate that they can adequately manage the physical security of the crop,' she added.

Under the bill, patients can only have access to cannabis on the recommendation of a doctor or through an approved clinical trial. The minister said it does not legalise or decriminalise cannabis for recreational use or make cannabis products available 'over the counter'.

Bill to stop unfair credit card surcharges

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The Parliament has passed a bill to stop merchants charging excessive and unfair surcharges on credit cards. Introducing the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015 in the House of Representatives, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Alex Hawke MP said, 'The coalition government believes consumers are entitled to a fair deal, which limits surcharging to genuine cost recovery.'

Under the bill, a surcharge will be considered excessive if it is more than the amount the merchant is charged by their payment provider.

Bill to ban testing cosmetics on animals

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

A private member's bill to ban testing cosmetics on live animals in Australia was introduced in the House of Representatives by Ms Clare O'Neil MP. The Ethical Cosmetics Bill 2016 would also ban the importation into and manufacture in Australia of cosmetics tested on live animals overseas.

Ms O'Neil told the House, 'Every year, thousands of animals suffer tremendous pain—and many die—to make the cosmetics that sit on supermarket and chemist shelves around this country.' She added 'It is a practice that—like nine in 10 Australians—I think should be illegal.'

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Senate inquiry into misuse of technology

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The sharing of private intimate images and recordings of a person without their consent, with the intention to cause that person harm, 'is a serious and growing problem in Australia'. This was one of the findings made by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs following an inquiry into the phenomenon often referred to as 'revenge porn'.

The committee found that technological advances and the increasing use of social media is contributing to the problem. It recommended a number of measures, including criminal and civil law penalties, public education and awareness campaigns, and professional training for police 'to combat the growing scourge of non-consensual sharing of intimate images.' The committee said the government should consider giving a government agency the power to issue take down notices for non-consensually shared intimate images.

Government members of the committee said that while they 'broadly do not disagree' with the committee's conclusions and recommendations, the inquiry process was premature. Government members noted the committee heard evidence that government departments are currently formulating their advice to the government on this issue. They said 'Once such advice is provided government will be able to formulate a response which, if legislated, will come before the committee for inquiry and report in the normal way.'

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Crowd-sourcing bill

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to make it easier and less expensive for small businesses to raise equity, or money, through crowd-sourcing, and at the same time protecting these investors. With crowd-sourced funding, each investor usually contributes a small amount of money in return for an equity stake in the business. The Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015 passed the House on 10 February and was introduced and debated in the Senate in this sitting period.

Bill to allow territories to make euthanasia laws

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory would have the right to make laws about euthanasia under a private senator’s bill before the Senate. The Restoring Territory Rights (Dying with Dignity) Bill 2016 would repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997. This Act amended, or changed, the Acts providing self-government in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory to prevent those territories making laws about voluntary euthanasia. Under Section 122 of the Australian Constitution, the federal Parliament can pass a bill to disallow a territory law.

The bill was introduced by the leader of the Australians Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale. He told the Senate that the bill would restore the rights of the territories ‘to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of their respective territories, including their right to legislate for dying with dignity laws.’

The bill was co-sponsored by Opposition Senator Katy Gallagher, who prior to entering federal Parliament was Chief Minister of the ACT. A similar private senator’s bill, Restoring Territory Rights (Assisted Suicide Legislation) Bill 2015, which was introduced by Senator David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party, was also debated in the Senate.

 

First speech

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The Member for North Sydney, Mr Trent Zimmerman MP, made his first speech in the House of Representatives. During a first speech, members of parliament usually outline what is important to them and what they hope to achieve in Parliament. Mr Zimmerman said 'I am by nature an optimist and I am positive about the future of our great country. Australians are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities within our region and globally.'

'Success will, however, not happen unless we are willing to put in place the foundations for that future and address the challenges that, if unattended, will diminish our prospects. For me, the great challenges for this parliament are how we maintain growth and improve economic productivity to ensure that we can preserve the living standards that set us apart from most of the world,' he added.

Mr Zimmerman said he supports the introduction of four year terms for the House of Representatives because the current three year cycle 'means perhaps two years of governance before the third becomes consumed with the posturing that is part of every election year.'

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Support for type 1 diabetes sufferers

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

People with type 1 diabetes would receive greater support under a private senator's bill introduced by Senator Ricky Muir, from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party. Senator Muir said the Social Security Amendment (Diabetes Support) Bill 2016 'ensures access to medication and peripheral devices, required by individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes' regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Pointing out that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where insulin replacement is required for survival, Senator Muir said the condition 'creates a significant financial and emotional burden to its patients, family and the community.' He added 'Differing social status' can result in an unintended disregard of an individual's care plan, leading to a higher risk of complications requiring hospital admission, and can, as a result, impose a significant burden on the tax payer.'

Senator Muir said he was particularly concerned about the 18-25 year old age group with type 1 diabetes. This group has the highest rate of death among people with diabetes.

Land banking warning

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

A Senate committee has found that a number of Australians have lost, or are at risk of losing, their investments in land banking schemes run by unscrupulous companies. As part of an inquiry into the Scrutiny of Financial Advice, the Senate Standing Committee on Economics investigated practices associated with land banking schemes.

With these schemes, a company purchases a block of undeveloped land with the intention of selling it in the future when its value has increased. Individual investors can then purchase an off-the-plan development – a house and land package, or an apartment. The committee found that in some instances investors were unaware that they had simply bought an option to make a purchase in a future development and not a physical asset.

The committee also heard of instances where people were persuaded to invest in land banks located on the outskirts of cities which were unlikely to be developed for some decades. The committee made a number of recommendations aimed at protecting investors.

Family payments bill passes

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The Parliament has passed a bill that makes a number of changes to family payments. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Measures) Bill 2015 passed after the House of Representatives agreed to an amendment, or change, made by the Senate regarding the date on which the new measures are introduced.

The bill reduces to six weeks the period in which a family who is entitled to family tax benefit part A can receive the payment while they are outside Australia. Currently, families who are overseas can receive their usual rate of payment for six weeks and then the base rate for a further 50 weeks.

The change will also affect payments such as child care benefit, child care rebate, and the schoolkids bonus.  However, it will not apply to Australians who are deployed overseas, who are travelling for medical reasons or delayed by events beyond their control.

The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said the measures are 'aimed at ensuring the sustainability of our system, and guarantee that payments are targeted to those most in need.'

Casual vacancy

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

Senator Michael Ronaldson resigned from the Senate on 28 February. He was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and prior to that was the Member for Ballarat in the House of Representatives from 1990 to 2001. Most recently he served in the Abbott Government as the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State.

The President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Parry, has written to the Governor of Victoria notifying her of the vacancy. Under Section 21 of the Australian Constitution, when a senator retires before their Senate term is up, the state parliament in the state they represent chooses a successor from the same political party.

Dairy levy poll bill

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The House of Representatives has passed a bill removing the requirement for the dairy industry to hold a dairy levy poll every five years. The Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, said at present the poll is held every five years ‘to seek the views of levy payers on whether changes should be made to the rate of the dairy services levy’. The levy is used to fund the activities of Dairy Australia, which helps ‘farmers adapt to a changing operating environment and strive for a profitable and sustainable dairy industry’.

Under the Dairy Produce Amendment (Dairy Service Levy Poll) Bill 2016, a dairy levy poll would only be held if a change in levy rate is being considered. An advisory committee will be established to review the dairy levy rate every five years. Farmers who are members of Dairy Australia can request a poll if they disagree with the advisory committee’s decision not to hold a levy poll.

Mr Joyce said ‘The bill complements the government's commitment to creating a stronger business environment for the agricultural sector by reducing unnecessary regulatory costs imposed on individuals, businesses and community organisations.’

Condolences for former Speaker

Sitting period 22 February to 3 March

The House of Representatives and the Senate passed condolence motions following the death of a former Speaker of the House, the Hon Bob Halverson, OBE. Mr Halverson was the Member for Casey from 1984 to 1998 and spent his last two years in Parliament as the Speaker.

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcom Turnbull MP, told the House 'In his maiden speech, Bob Halverson said: "The men and women who seek to serve in this place may be motivated by many reasons. Mine were quite simple: I believe that our rights and freedoms must be protected, and I love my country." And that is how he will be remembered'.

New Deputy Prime Minister

Sitting period 2 to 11 February

The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP has been elected as leader of The Nationals. He replaces the Hon Mr Warren Truss MP. Mr Truss stood down from the position after announcing his intention to quit Parliament at the next election.

Mr Joyce's elevation to the leadership means he becomes the Deputy Prime Minister. This is because the Liberal Party of Australia and The Nationals have formed a coalition government and under this arrangement the Prime Minister is usually drawn from the larger party and the Deputy Prime Minister from the smaller party.

Mr Joyce was elected unopposed at a meeting of The Nationals. Senator the Hon Fiona Nash was elected to replace Mr Joyce as deputy leader. She becomes the first female deputy leader of the party.

Resignations

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

Two members of the House of Representatives, the Hon Warren Truss MP and the Hon Andrew Robb MP, have resigned from the ministry following a decision not to contest the next federal election. Both men said they believed it was time to make way for younger members of their parties.

Mr Truss has represented the electorate of Wide Bay in Queensland for 26 years. Speaking in the House, Mr Truss described being a member of parliament as 'a great pleasure and privilege.' He added 'I am grateful to the people of Wide Bay, who have through five redistributions elected me nine times to the House of Representatives.'

Mr Truss said 'I came from a small farming district and went to a very small state school, and I have now had the privilege to become Deputy Prime Minister of our country. I wonder whether I will be the last person with a limited education and who comes from one of the poorest electorates in the country to become Deputy Prime Minister? I hope not, because I think we do need amongst the leadership of our country a breadth of experience and a breadth of skills.'

Announcing his intention to resign, Mr Robb told the House 'I have had a very eventful and fulfilling 12 years in this place. I suppose everyone says this but I think it has been an extraordinary period—not one that we all look on, necessarily, fondly, from either side, at different times. But it is politics, and it is the essence of this business that it does test the strength of character of people on both sides—the sorts of things we have all gone through—and to advance the country at the same time is, again, a test of our mettle.'

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Ministry reshuffle

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, has reshuffled the ministry following the resignation of several ministers. Under the reshuffle, the Hon Darren Chester MP takes over from the Hon Warren Truss MP as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. The Hon Steve Ciobo MP has replaced the Hon Andrew Robb MP as Minister for Trade and Investment.

New deputy leader of The Nationals, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, joins the Cabinet as Minister for Regional Development. The reshuffle increases to ten the number of women in the Ministry, six of whom are in the Cabinet.

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Estimates

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

In the second sitting week, the Senate did not meet but instead conducted Senate estimates hearings. In estimates, senators question government ministers and senior public servants about government spending, decisions and programs. The hearings, which are open to the public, are conducted by the eight Senate legislation committees.

Each committee is responsible for examining different government departments and agencies. Estimates are an important way of scrutinising the government and making it accountable to the Parliament. Some of the issues raised in estimates included:

  • shipbuilding capability in South Australia
  • infrastructure funding for Melbourne Metro Rail
  • an idea to merge ABC and SBS
  • ABC investment in rural and regional audiences
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation investigation of foreign fighters
  • concerns about global debt levels
  • pursuit of multinational companies for unpaid tax
  • use of anti-malarial drugs on Australian Defence Force (ADF) members
  • impact on fresh food exports of the salmonella lettuce scare
  • progress against ISIS in Iraq from the ADF’s point of view
  • the impact of various changes to childcare subsidies.

Senate committee report card for 2015

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

Last year, committees administered, or run, by the Senate held 1024 meetings and met for a total of 2391.57 hours, according to a report released by the Senate. The Work of Committees report found that 186 matters were referred to Senate Legislation, References, Select and Joint committees, which tabled over 170 reports in the Senate. These committees received a total of 13 657 submissions and 8808 witnesses appeared before them.

Closing the Gap report

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

There has been mixed progress towards meeting the Closing the Gap targets since they were set eight years ago, according to the Prime Minster, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP. He made these remarks while delivering the annual Close the Gap report to the Parliament. The report outlines the progress being made on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in areas such as health, education and life expectancy.

Mr Turnbull said 'The closing the gap challenge is often described as a problem to be solved, but more than anything it is an opportunity. If our greatest assets are our people, if our richest capital is our human capital, then the opportunity to empower the imagination, the enterprise, the wisdom and the full potential of our First Australians is surely an exciting one.'

While we should celebrate successes in improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians, Mr Turnbull said 'we cannot sugar-coat the enormity of the job that remains. We do face very real and difficult challenges, particularly in isolated communities. We must be honest about the catastrophe and violence created by drug and alcohol misuse, and confront, and respond to, the cries of help, particularly from women and children.'

Mr Turnbull stressed the importance of working with Indigenous elders and communities to bring about change. He concluded by saying 'When we close the gap, we make ourselves more whole, more complete, more Australian'.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, also addressed the House of Representatives about the report.

More funding for Indigenous culture and languages

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

During his address on the Closing the Gap report, the Prime Minister, the Mr Turnbull MP, announced an additional $20 million in funding for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. He said this would 'enable the collection of critical cultural knowledge and promote an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories, past and present. It will keep safe this knowledge for all Australians by digitising and protecting it from being lost.'

Mr Turnbull said 'prior to the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians spoke hundreds of languages and over 600 dialects. These words carried knowledge. Tragically, many of these languages have been lost and many are critically endangered.' Mr Turnbull began his address by speaking in the language of the Ngunnawal people, who are the traditional owners of the land on which Parliament House is built.

Changes to family payments

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives has passed a bill which will reduce to six weeks the period in which a family who is entitled to family tax benefit part A can receive the payment while they are outside Australia. Currently, families who are overseas can receive their usual rate of payment for six weeks and then the base rate for a further 50 weeks.

Introducing the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Measures) Bill 2015, the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said the primary purpose of family assistance payments 'is to assist Australian families with the costs of raising children in Australia.'

Mr Porter said that because family tax benefits are linked to other payments, the change will also effect payments such as child care benefit, child care rebate, and the schoolkids bonus. The changes will not apply to Australians who are deployed overseas (such as members of the Australian Defence Force), who are travelling for medical reasons or delayed by events beyond their control, for example a natural disaster. The bill also winds back the family supplement from 1 July 2016.

Mr Porter said 'Fairness has always been at the heart of our social security system', and added 'These measures are sensible, practical and aimed at ensuring the sustainability of our system, and guarantee that payments are targeted to those most in need.'

Bill to assist low income families

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to increase both the family tax benefit A for low income families and the youth allowance payment for under 18 year olds living at home. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015 will also simplify family payments.

Introducing the bill in the House, the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said 'this bill introduces a package of new reforms that help the government support families while encouraging parents' participation in the workforce.'

At the same time, increasing the youth allowance would encourage children to stay in school, which Mr Porter said was 'fundamental to giving children a good start in life so that they become productive, contributing members of our society.'  He said 'Just as workforce participation is key to growing wealth, educational attainment is key to getting a job.'

Father of the House resigns

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP has announced he will quit politics at the next election ending 42 years in Parliament. He is the longest serving current member of the House of Representatives, a distinction that has earned him the title of 'Father of the House'. However, Mr Ruddock is not the longest serving member of all time. That honour belongs to Billy Hughes, who served as a member of parliament for 51 years, including several terms as Prime Minister.

Food bill

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The Parliament has passed a bill to change the name of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

Speaking on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Amendment (Forum on Food Regulation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, the Minister for Health, the Hon Susan Ley MP, said ‘The Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (the FSANZ Act) requires amendment to reflect the name change.’

She added that this presented ‘an opportunity to make other amendments in the same bill to improve the clarity and operation of the legislation [law].’ The bill was passed by the Senate with amendments, or changes, which the House of Representatives agreed to.  

Building and construction bill reintroduced

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to monitor workplace relations in the building and construction industry.

It is the second time the Parliament has considered the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013. The bill was originally passed by the House in December 2013 but was then defeated in the Senate in August 2015.

The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, told the House 'This bill re-establishes the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a genuinely strong watchdog that will maintain the rule of law to protect workers and constructors and improve productivity on building sites and construction projects, whether onshore or offshore.'

The bill also introduces stronger penalties for unlawful industrial action, for example unlawful strikes. It also aims to improve the workplace bargaining process. The bill is now being considered by the Senate, which has referred it to the Education and Employment Legislation Committee for inquiry. The committee is due to table its report on the inquiry in the Senate on 15 March.

Water bill to help Murray-Darling basin

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to ensure that the Water Act 2007 more effectively supports the delivery of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, which aims to make sustainable use of water in the Basin.

Introducing the Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, said ‘This bill continues the coalition's longstanding commitment to sensible and balanced water reform that boosts agricultural production, strengthens communities in our food and fibre production regions, and delivers environmental outcomes.’

Among the changes made by the bill, it allows for more flexible water trading arrangements and permits the government to invest money from the sale of water allocations in measures to improve the environmental sustainability of the Basin. The bill also outlines ways in which the Indigenous community in the Basin can have a greater say in the management of the Basin Plan.

Babies in the House

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives has voted to change the Standing Orders, or rules, of the House to allow members to breastfeed or bottle-feed their babies in the chamber. The Leader of the House, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, said 'the House of Representatives will now be the most family-friendly chamber of any parliament in Australia. No member, male or female, will ever be prevented from participating fully in the operation of the parliament, by reason of having the care of a baby.'

The change was recommended by the Standing Committee on Procedure following an inquiry last year into arrangements for nursing mothers in the House. It means, for example, that members caring for a baby can, if needed, bring their baby into the chamber during debates and divisions, or votes. In the past these members were given a proxy vote during divisions.

Renewable Fuel

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

Petrol sold at bowsers would have to include a minimum of five per cent renewable fuel, such as ethanol, from July 2019 under a private member’s bill being considered by the House of Representatives. The amount of renewable fuel would increase to a minimum of 10 per cent by 2022.

The Renewable Fuel Bill 2016 was introduced by the Member for Kennedy, the Hon Mr Bob Katter MP. He said it would reduce vehicle emissions but also provide a boost to the industries producing grain, wheat and sugar which can be used to make renewable fuel. 

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New member sworn-in

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

Trent Zimmerman has been sworn-in as the new Member for North Sydney. Mr Zimmerman was elected to the House of Representatives in a by-election at the end of last year following the resignation of former treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey. The Speaker, the Hon Tony Smith MP, welcomed Mr Zimmerman on behalf of the House.

Condolence motions

Sitting period 2 – 11 February

The House of Representatives and the Senate passed condolence motions marking the death of the Hon James (Jim) Carlton, AO. Mr Carlton was a former minister and the Member for MacKellar in the House of Representatives from 1977 until his retirement in 1994.

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, told the House, 'Jim's life was governed by that commitment to others, the love of humanity. He served the public interest in many ways throughout his life, through the Liberal Party, through this parliament and through the Red Cross. He made an outstanding contribution to our party and the liberal tradition in Australia. He was a man of ideas who brought intellectual rigour to policy development and came to be respected far beyond the world of politics.'

The Australian flag over Parliament House was flown at half-mast as a mark of mourning and respect on 14 January when a State Memorial Service for Mr Carlton was held in Melbourne.

The House also passed a condolence motion to mark the death of Margaret 'Maggie' Joan Deahm, who was the Member for Macquarie from 1993 until 1996. Speaking in the House of Representatives, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, said Maggie Deahm 'was fearlessly outspoken on the issues that mattered to her. She was a fierce advocate for the community she represented and which she loved so much. She was an advocate both inside and outside our parliament. She stood up against injustice and unfairness wherever she saw them.'

The Senate was informed of Maggie Deahm's death.

Busy 2015 for Parliament

17 December 2015

By the time the Parliament adjourned on 3 December, the Senate had met for 60 days in 2015 and sat for a total of 607 hours and 55 minutes. The longest sitting day in the Senate was 14 hours and 2 minutes, with the average day being 10 hours and 8 minutes. The House of Representatives met for 75 days and sat for a total of 736 hours and 27 minutes.

Two hundred and eight bills were presented in the House this year, of which 15 were private members' bills. Twenty-five private senators' bills were introduced in the Senate. The House passed 180 bills and the Senate 181.

The Senate referred 109 bills to committees for further inquiry and there were 53 other references to committees, which equalled over two new committee references per sitting day. Senate estimates committees met for a total of 710
hours and 26 minutes.The Usher of the Black Rod and her staff delivered 205 messages to the House of Representatives, covering 46.6 kilometres back and forth across the Members' Hall which links the two chambers.

Senators asked 1983 questions during Question Time in the Senate and 1371 were asked in the House. Members of the House voted in 119 divisions and senators took part in 280.

North Sydney by-election

17 December 2015

Trent Zimmerman, the candidate for the Liberal Party of Australia, has been elected as the new Member for North Sydney. He won the seat in a by-election following the resignation of Joe Hockey from Parliament. Mr Zimmerman will be sworn-in when Parliament meets again in the first week of February next year.

PM calls for an end to violence against women

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Men have to take the lead in eliminating violence against women and children, said the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP. He was speaking on the release of a government report on domestic violence entitled ‘Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children’.

‘Currently, two women are killed by a current or former partner every week, 78 women have died as a result of domestic and sexual violence this year alone. We have to break this cycle. We have to stop it’, Mr Turnbull said.

‘All disrespect of women does not end up with violence against women, but let's be clear, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.  We have, as parents, as fathers, as grandfathers, we have a huge responsibility to ensure that our sons grow up to respect their mothers and their sisters’.

The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Christian Porter MP, said the report showed violence towards females is often minimised, or not taken seriously, and ‘there is a very strong passive acceptance of conduct that should simply never be accepted’.

The release of the report coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, as well as White Ribbon Day, which is a national male-led day to end men’s violence against women. Earlier, Mr Turnbull launched White Ribbon Day at Parliament House. The launch was attended by a large number of parliamentarians, including the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP.

Senate cross-party motion on domestic violence

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Senate has passed a motion noting that ‘across the world, violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious and the most tolerated human rights violations, both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and discrimination’. The motion, which had cross-party support, was passed on 25 November to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and White Ribbon Day.   

The motion noted that the best way to combat violence against women was to involve the whole community in prevention strategies, particularly by giving people skills for respectful relationships. It said addressing gender inequality is ‘central to reducing attitudes that support violence against women’. 

The motion was moved by opposition Senator Claire Moore, on behalf of the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, opposition Senator Sue Lines and Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

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Prime Minister condemns Paris attacks

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, has described the terrorist attacks in Paris as ‘an attack on all humanity, on all our freedoms’. He was making a statement about the attacks in the House of Representatives.

Mr Turnbull said, ‘The terrorists want us to bend to their will, to be frightened, to change the way we go about our lives, to abandon our values. If we do that, they win. And they will not win—we will not let them win. When the French people left the Stade de France complex after that shocking attack, they were not cowed—they sang La Marseillaise proudly in one voice. That is how all free people should respond to these assaults’.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, joined Mr Turnbull in expressing the sympathy of all Australians to the people of France. He said the Paris attacks were ‘an atrocity designed to divide the world. And even in those early hours, as people around the world sought to make sense of the senseless, it was clear that the terrorists had failed. They failed because our world will not capitulate to fear’. The French Ambassador, Monsieur Christophe Lecourtier, was in the chamber to hear the speeches.

National security statement

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Following the Paris attacks, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, updated the Parliament on Australia’s response to terrorism. Australia is part of a 60 nation coalition, whose objective, Mr Turnbull said ‘is to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. This will require a patient, painstaking, full-spectrum strategy—not just military, but financial, diplomatic and political. This involves a combination of air strikes in both Syria and Iraq and support and training for Iraq's army’.

‘The rise of ISIL and the conflict in Syria have increased the threat environment in South-East Asia’, Mr Turnbull said, adding that Australia is working closely with leaders in this region ‘to share intelligence and counter-messaging strategies’. 

‘Importantly, governments cannot win this battle alone. Community leaders and groups have great responsibility both in denouncing violent extremism and teaching unity in diversity and mutual respect instead of hatred. The condemnation of ISIL and the promotion of authentic, modern and tolerant Islam by the leaders of big majority Muslim nations—including Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia—has been especially important. To this end, I thank all those Muslim groups and leaders who have made statements denouncing the Paris attacks’, Mr Turnbull said.

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Anti-terrorism citizenship bill passed

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they are convicted of a terrorist offence in Australia or found to have fought with terrorist groups overseas. The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate with the support of the opposition. The bill included a number of amendments suggested by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Call for Royal Commission into treatment of people with a disability

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has called for a Royal Commission to investigate instances of violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability. This was one of the key recommendations made by the committee following an inquiry into the treatment of people with a disability in institutional and residential settings.

The committee supported setting up a complaints system for reporting, investigating and eliminating violence, abuse and neglect of people with a disability. It recommended the government establish a scheme to ensure national consistency in disability worker training and take steps to ensure that people with a disability have better access to justice.

Bill to keep ABC in the bush

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie has introduced a private senator’s bill to ensure that the ABC maintains a local presence in the bush. Senator McKenzie said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015 would give the ABC a clear mandate, or authority, ‘to direct greater investment towards rural and regional Australia’.

Noting that in recent years the ABC has cut regional services, Senator McKenzie said the ABC is often ‘the only comprehensive provider of news, weather forecasts and entertainment’ in the bush.

‘Rural and regional Australians have an expectation of regular and relevant news. Not yesterday's news. Stories break, local emergencies occur - local content is more than just telling stories. The ABC is the organisation that provides rural and regional families, businesses and communities with the information they need and trust’, she said.

Annual My First Speech competition winners announced

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Muthukkumarasamy Mohanapiriyan, or Piri, from AB Paterson College on Queensland's Gold Coast, has won the 2015 My First Speech competition. Students in years 10 to 12 from across Australia entered the competition. Imagining they were newly-elected members of parliament, each student made a three minute video of the first speech they would make in the House of Representatives. Usually, a member’s first speech outlines the issues that are important to them and what they hope to achieve in Parliament.

Rachel Aquino from Chatswood High School in NSW and Anna Pryse-Smith from Ballarat Grammar in Victoria placed second and third. The judging panel included the Member for Longman, the Hon Wyatt Roy MP, the Member for Griffith, Ms Terri Butler MP, and the Member for Melbourne, Mr Adam Bandt MP.

The prize for the three winning students included a trip to Canberra with their family to present their speeches at Parliament House in front of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith MP, and other members. They were then presented with their awards by the Speaker and the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham.

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Senate committee backs changes to youth allowances

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Standing Committee on Community Affairs has recommended that Parliament pass a bill that makes a number of changes to youth unemployment benefits. Under the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment) Bill 2015, the age at which someone can receive Newstart or sickness allowance will increase from 22 to 25 years. Young people under the age of 25 could apply for youth allowance, which is paid at a lower rate.

Under-25s applying for youth allowance or special benefit would also have to wait four weeks before receiving any benefits. However, in that time young job seekers who are experiencing hardship could apply for emergency relief funding. In order to receive income support payments, young job seekers would have to complete a program of job-seeking activities called RapidConnect Plus during the four-week income support waiting period.

Dissenting reports opposing the bill were released by opposition and Australian Greens members of the committee. The bill is currently before the House of Representatives. A similar bill, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015, was defeated in the Senate in September.

Parliament passes Vocational and Education Training sector bill

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to amend, or change, practices in the Vocational and Education Training (VET) sector. The Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 includes changes to require training providers to set minimum literacy and numeracy requirements for enrolling students, as well as a two day ‘cooling-off’ period after enrolment, before students can apply for a VET-FEE HELP loan from the Australian Government.

The Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, the Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP, said this would safeguard vulnerable students by ensuring ‘a student's capacity to complete the course—including assessing language, literacy and numeracy proficiency—is properly assessed before they are enrolled, and before they incur a debt’.

In addition, the bill requires that students under 18 years must have a parent’s or guardian’s approval before applying for this loan, to ensure that young and inexperienced students are not committing themselves to debts they may not fully understand. Overall, training providers will have to meet stricter standards, to protect students and ensure training quality.

Mr Hartsuyker stated that the sector ‘has a long and proud tradition in Australia. For many young people, it provides the bridge between school and work. For unemployed people, it often provides a pathway back into employment and a life off welfare. And for people in work, it can be the mechanism by which they expand their skills and progress in their careers.’

Several government amendments and a request for an amendment were passed by the Senate and agreed to by the House of Representatives.

Bill to regulate online gambling

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Senator Nick Xenophon has introduced a private senator’s bill to make sure online sports betting is conducted in a responsible way.  Under the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Sports Betting Reform) Bill 2015, websites who offer sports betting will be barred from providing credit to individuals for the purpose of gambling.

Senator Xenophon told the Senate that a report released by Financial Counselling Australia titled 'Duds, Mugs and the A-List: the impact of uncontrolled sports betting’ had identified the ability to gamble using credit ‘as one of the biggest contributors to unsafe gambling habits’.

Senator Xenophon said the bill ‘offers protection for those who have difficulty controlling their gambling but will have minimal impact on so-called recreational gamblers’.

The bill would also establish an Interactive Gambling Regulator who would monitor and ensure that online betting sites comply with the Act. A National Self-Exclusion Register would be set up for people who wish to bar themselves from accessing online sports betting. The Senate referred the bill to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry.  The committee will report its findings to the Senate by 12 May 2016.

New anti-paparazzi bill to protect children

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

A private member’s bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to make it illegal to photograph or record the children of celebrities and other well-known people without their permission, or that of their parent or guardian. The Privacy Amendment (Protecting Children from Paparazzi) Bill 2015 was introduced by the Hon Bob Katter MP.

The bill states that a criminal offence will have been committed if the child is under the age of 16, and the conduct of harassment ‘causes the victim to be annoyed, alarmed, tormented or terrorized, or causes the victim substantial emotional distress’.

Nursing mothers in the House

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Standing orders, or rules, in the House of Representatives should be changed to allow members of parliament to breastfeed or bottle-feed babies in the chamber. The Standing Committee on Procedure made this recommendation following an inquiry into the adequacy of provisions for nursing mothers in the House of Representatives. At present these members are allowed a proxy vote during divisions, or votes, in the chamber.

In its report, ‘Provisions for a more family-friendly Chamber’, the committee said ‘Members returning to work after having a baby should have the opportunity to participate fully in the work of the House. The proxy vote is an important provision but a Member caring for an infant should also be allowed into the Chamber to vote and to participate in debates’.

The report noted that members said they would only bring their infants into the chamber if there was no other suitable care available.

Travel warning

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, has urged Australians planning to travel overseas during summer to register with the government’s smartraveller website, at www.smartraveller.gov.au

Speaking in the House of Representatives on the final sitting day for the year, Ms Bishop said ‘register, read the travel advisories on the smartraveller website, always obey local laws, do not carry, use or get involved in drugs, ever, and take out the right travel insurance—if you cannot afford travel insurance, you really cannot afford to travel’.

‘Travelling overseas is exciting, it can be rewarding, but the unexpected can happen. Some preparation can greatly lessen the impact of adverse events. So to all Australians travelling overseas this Christmas, I wish you a very happy and safe journey—but, please, do register your travel on smartraveller.gov.au’, she said.

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Parliament outlaws payment for visas

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to prevent people from obtaining a visa by paying someone to sponsor them under various skilled work schemes. The Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill 2015 makes it illegal for employers to offer to sponsor a skilled worker in return for payment or other benefits.

Introducing the bill in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Immigration, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, said that evidence shows that ‘the sponsor and applicant are complicit in the majority of “payment for visas” activity’. Mr Dutton said ‘payment for visas’ is not unlawful at present and ‘undermines the genuine purposes for which visas are intended to be granted’.

Speaking on the bill, the Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, said the bill would also ‘protect overseas workers from exploitation by sponsors who threaten to withdraw their support in the visa or employment process if payments are not forthcoming’. The bill gives the government the power to cancel a visa if a person engages in 'payment for visas' conduct.

Marriage equality resolution

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Western Australian Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution calling on the federal Parliament to have a free, or conscience, vote on a bill to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to allow same-sex marriage. The resolution was tabled in the House of Representatives by the Speaker, the Hon Tony Smith MP. It also called on the government ‘to abandon the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality’.

Shipping bill sunk in Senate

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

A bill to deregulate the shipping industry was defeated in the Senate by 31 to 27 votes. The Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 aimed to make the industry more competitive and encourage the use of shipping to transport freight, or goods, around Australia as an alternative to road and rail transport.

Under the bill, foreign ships operating in Australia would have to employ crew under Australian workplace standards only if they traded in Australia for more than 183 days. The deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, said ‘This bill allows overseas flagged and crewed ships to pay workers Third World wages to undercut Australian operators on domestic trade routes'. A number of senators expressed concern that Australian jobs would be lost if the bill was passed because Australian-owned ships might ‘reflag’, or register, as foreign ships in order to pay their crew less.

However, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon James McGrath, told the Senate the bill would make the cost of shipping goods more affordable. He said ‘More affordable freight means more freight, more efficient services and more competition, all of which will make Australian products more competitive internationally and domestically, helping local industries, which employ thousands of Australians, and providing the opportunity for economic growth and expansion’.

No jab, no pay

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

Families who do not immunise their children will not receive various benefits or payments under a bill passed by the Parliament. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015 aims to boost immunisation rates. The bill, which was agreed to by the House of Representatives in October, passed the Senate with no amendments. The payments include childcare rebate, childcare benefit, and the family tax benefit part A supplement.

Multinational tax avoidance bill passed

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to crack down on multinational companies that avoid paying tax. The Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015 failed to pass the Parliament in the last sitting period after the House of Representatives rejected several amendments made to the bill by the Senate.

Under the bill, the tax details of multinationals will be published, or made public, by the Australian Taxation Office. The Senate originally amended the bill to include private companies earning more than $100 million in this provision, but this was opposed by the House.

However, the bill passed after the House agreed to four new amendments proposed by the Australian Greens and agreed to by the Senate. Under the amendments, Australian companies with revenue of $200 million or more will have to publicly disclose their tax information, and multinationals with global revenue of $1 billion or more will have to prepare more detailed financial statements.

‘Anthea’s law’ passed

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The House of Representatives has passed the Crime Legislation Amendment (Harming Australians) Bill 2015. Under the bill, a person suspected of committing murder or manslaughter of an Australian citizen or resident overseas prior to 1 October 2002 could, in certain circumstances, be prosecuted in Australia under Australian law.

The bill, known as ‘Anthea’s law’, was drafted in response to the murder of Adelaide woman Anthea Bradshaw in Brunei in 1994. It was passed by the Senate in the last sitting period. The bill was co-sponsored by Independent Senator Xenophon, who introduced a similar bill in 2013.

Greater say for NT traditional landowners

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to give Indigenous landowners in the Northern Territory a greater say over the use of their traditional land. The Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2015 will allow ‘Indigenous land owners and community members to play an integral role in fostering economic development in their communities, and move them closer towards owning their own homes’.

Marine pollution laws updated

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to bring Australian laws aimed at preventing marine pollution into line with international law. The Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 amends, or changes, four existing Acts. These include the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983, the Navigation Act 2012, the Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Act 2008, and the Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability) Act 1981.

Air cargo security bill

Sitting period 23 November – 3 December

The Parliament has passed a bill to make Australia’s air cargo security consistent with international standards. Introducing the Aviation Transport Security Amendment (Cargo) Bill 2015, the Minister for Transport, the Hon Warren Truss MP, said in particular the bill ‘will ensure that Australia's $4.8 billion worth of airfreight exports to the United States continue without disruption’.

He said currently Australia's air cargo security arrangements do not meet US standards. Each item of cargo transported to the US on passenger flights has to be examined by technology or physically inspected before it is loaded onto the flight.

‘The Australian government has negotiated a two-year time frame to implement the changes required by the US. This will give Australian based exporters, freight forwarders and airlines time to adopt new security measures’, Mr Truss said.

Australia stands with France

19 November 2015

The façade of Parliament House has been illuminated with the French Tricolore, or flag, between 8pm and midnight each day as a mark of solidarity with the people of France following the terrorist attacks in Paris. A number of other landmarks in Canberra were also lit with the tricolore, including the Carillion and the Telstra Tower. Parliament House will continue to be illuminated until 22 November.

Bills to recover overseas student debts approved

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

Australians living overseas who have a Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) or Trade Support Loan (TSL) debt will be required to pay the amount they owe to the Australian Government, under bills passed by the Parliament.

The Education Legislation Amendment (Overseas Debt Recovery) Bill 2015 and the Student Loans (Overseas Debtors Repayment Levy) Bill 2015 require that certain people with debts register with the Australian Taxation Office. In addition, the government could give protected information to other countries to help identify those with debts. Australians living overseas will only need to repay their debts once their income reaches a minimum amount.

In introducing the bills, the then Minister for Education, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, said 'The new bills are, at heart, about ensuring equity and fairness for all Australians with HELP or TSL debts, and about maintaining the stability and security of our education and training systems.'

Dual nationals accused of terrorism to lose citizenship

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has recommended several changes to an anti-terrorism bill currently before the Parliament. The committee was inquiring into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, which details ways in which people with dual nationality could have their Australian citizenship stripped away.

Under the bill, dual nationals who engage in terrorist activity or fight for foreign armies listed as terrorists or seen as enemies of Australia would lose their right to be an Australian citizen.

The committee recommended that dual nationals should have their citizenship taken away only after they have been convicted of terrorism. However, dual nationals who fight overseas should have their citizenship removed without a conviction. In addition, the committee recommended stripping citizenship from people convicted of terrorism in the past and sentenced to at least ten years in jail for the offence.

New anti-terrorism bill introduced

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The government has introduced a new anti-terrorism bill in the Senate, which adds to other anti-terrorism measures passed by the Parliament. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015 lowers the age at which a control order can be placed on a person from 16 to 14.

A control order can be applied to a person so that authorities can track where they live, who they meet or communicate with and how they use the internet. National security information gathered in the course of a control order will be further protected, while balancing individuals’ rights. The bill also introduces a new offence of advocating genocide, or the mass killing of people.

Introducing the bill, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis, noted ‘The Australian Government has a long and deep commitment to free speech. Moreover, the government recognises that one of Australia's greatest strengths is the diversity of voices within our harmonious, multicultural, multi-faith community. This must be preserved and protected. However, to incite violence is not to exercise free speech; it is to threaten physical harm and suffering’.

The bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for further investigation. The committee is expected to report back to the Parliament in February 2016.

House responds to MP baby boom

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The House of Representatives is considering whether to allow members of parliament who are nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies in the chamber. The change, which would need to be voted on by the House, would allow these members to be present for division votes. At the moment, under a resolution passed by the House in 2008, they can usually vote by proxy.

The chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure, Dr Andrew Southcott MP, said the House is 'experiencing a baby boom, with more than 10 members welcoming babies into their families this year'. With the increase in the number of breastfeeding members, he said there was a need to provide support so they could 'participate fully in the work of the House'.

The committee has asked members to provide feedback before it makes any recommendations to the House on the issue. However, Dr Southcott indicated the committee was aware that 'the practices and procedures of the House should meet changing community expectations with regard to encouraging women to breastfeed, supporting women's participation in the workforce, and balancing work and family'.

Bill to extend medical cover for veterans

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

Independent Senator Jacquie Lambie has introduced a private bill in the Senate that would provide for the extension of free medical and psychological treatment to all veterans. This includes Federal Police who have served as peacekeepers and former members of the Australian Defence Force who have served in war or war-like operations.

Speaking on the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015, Senator Lambie said the high rates of homelessness and self-harm among veterans indicates that many are not having their medical and psychological needs addressed. She said the bill was 'an important first step in ensuring a more effective transition between national service and civilian life'.

At present not all veterans are entitled to free medical and psychological treatment, with the level of benefits based on factors such as length of service.

Melbourne Cup winner honoured

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

In a speech to the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, praised jockey Michelle Payne on her historic win in the Melbourne Cup. Ms Payne became the first female jockey to ever win the Melbourne Cup, when it was run earlier this month.

'Michelle did not just win a race; she smashed through one of the most stubborn of glass ceilings. For that, she, and all Australians, should be extremely proud. It was a remarkable ride.' The Prime Minister said. 'Let us consider, applaud and admire the most famous strapper in Australia: her brother, Stevie. What an extraordinary role model for people working with a disability!' he added.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, also congratulated Michelle and Stevie Payne, saying 'On Melbourne Cup day our nation stopped for more than the race. We stopped to celebrate the journey of two children growing up with eight brothers and sisters and without their mum, looking out for one another in tough times, encouraging each other to beat the odds, sharing a dream of sporting immortality.'

The Dismissal

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The 11th of November marked the 40th anniversary of what has come to be known as ‘The Dismissal’. On that day in 1975, then Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. He then appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as care-taker Prime Minister on the condition he call a double disillusion election.

On the anniversary, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, launched a new book about the event at Parliament House. Mr Turnbull said ‘The Dismissal’, which was written by journalists Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston, ‘provides a chance to explore fresh insights into the forces driving the key protagonists, as a parliamentary deadlock evolved into a full blown constitutional crisis’.

‘What should always be remembered and respected is that Australia survived this incendiary political crisis without civil unrest, much less violence. The basic fabric of national unity, the support for parliament and the law, remain strong’, Mr Turnbull said.

To find out more about the events that led up to ‘The Dismissal’, check ‘Dismissed! Whitlam, Fraser, Kerr and the story of 1975’ on the Museum of Australian Democracy website.

Senate urges government departments to recycle paper

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Senate has passed a motion urging the government to return to using 100 per cent recycled paper in government departments. Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice, also on behalf of Senator Ricky Muir, noted that the government had withdrawn from a longstanding commitment to using 100 per cent recycled paper.

The motion stated that using recycled paper would boost Australian manufacturing, reduce unnecessary imports and help the environment. It also noted that several industry and environment groups support the use of recycled paper.

Although the Senate passed the motion, the government is not required to act on its recommendation.

Changes to Question Time

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The House of Representatives is trialling a new approach to Question Time. Under the changes, time is being set aside to allow government backbenchers to ask ministers constituency questions. These questions are about local issues that affect the backbencher's electorate. The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcom Turnbull MP, told the House, 'Local issues are absolutely the bread and butter of every member's job'.

At present about 20 questions are usually asked in Question Time, with half coming from government backbenchers and the other half from non-government members. Up until now, government backbenchers planned their questions with the ministers and the questions usually focussed on national issues. Under the new arrangement about five of the government questions will focus on issues which are local to the member's electorate.

The changes will be trialled for the remainder of the parliamentary year.

No jab, no pay

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

A Senate committee has recommended that a bill aimed at boosting immunisation rates be passed. Under the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015, children will have to meet immunisation requirements before their families can receive childcare benefit, childcare rebate or the family tax benefit part A supplement.

The Senate Committee on Community Affairs made a number of recommendations following an inquiry into the bill. It suggested the government review the impact of the law one year after it comes into force, and then three years after it comes into force. The committee also recommended the government consider ways to better educate the community about the benefits of vaccination.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in October and is now being considered by the Senate.

Youth payment bill passed

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Parliament has passed a bill to broaden means tests for youth payments. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (More Generous Means Testing for Youth Payments) Bill 2015 will simplify and cut some existing means tests for families with a dependent child claiming a youth allowance. The bill aims to boost assistance for working families, particularly in rural and regional areas. For example, farming families will not have their farm assets counted in the means test.

‘Anthea’s law’ passes Senate

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Senate has passed the Crime Legislation Amendment (Harming Australians) Bill 2015. Under the bill, a person suspected of committing murder or manslaughter of an Australian citizen or resident overseas prior to 1 October 2002 could, in certain circumstances, be prosecuted in Australia under Australian law.

The government bill, known as ‘Anthea’s law’, was drafted in response to the murder of Adelaide woman Anthea Bradshaw in Brunei in 1994. Unusually, the bill was co-sponsored by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who had presented an earlier version as a private senator’s bill. It will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

ChAFTA bills passed

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Senate has passed two bills to implement the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA). The Customs Tariff Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015 and Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015, which passed the House of Representatives in the last sitting of Parliament, will now go to the Governor-General for Royal Assent.

The agreement will open up trade between Australia and China by removing tariffs, or tax, on most Australian goods exported to China and Chinese goods imported to Australia. It also opens up opportunities for Australia to export services, such as education, tourism and health services, to China and for Australians to increase their investments in China, and  vice-versa.

ChAFTA allows workers from overseas to be employed on large infrastructure projects in Australia which have Chinese investment. The opposition supported the bills in both the House and Senate after the government agreed to take a number of steps to protect Australian jobs.The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, tabled correspondence in that chamber from the Minister for Trade, the Hon Andrew Robb MP, which outlined these steps.

House rejects amendments to multinational tax avoidance bill

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The House of Representatives has rejected Senate amendments, or changes, to the Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015. The bill would have introduced a new multinational anti-avoidance law and stronger penalties for large companies that engage in tax avoidance and profit shifting.

Under the bill, the tax details of multinationals would have been published, or made public, by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The Senate amended the bill to include private companies earning more than $100 million in this provision. The amendments repealed, or undid, the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Better Targeting the Income Tax Transparency Laws) Act 2015, which was passed in the last session of Parliament and which exempted these private companies from having to publish tax details.

However, under the amendments, some of these companies could ask the ATO to give them an exemption on the grounds that the release of this information may harm the company’s commercial negotiations. The Senate amendments were supported by the opposition, Greens and a number of crossbench senators.

The government voted against the amendments in both the House and Senate. In a statement circulated to the House, the Treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, said ‘The Tax Office is not equipped with the expertise to assess the commercial sensitivities of company negotiations. The Senate amendment would require the ATO to divert resources away from its core activities, which is not in the public interest’.

However Mr Morrison told the House he would meet with the Commissioner of Taxation to discuss whether disclosing the tax details of these private companies ‘might in anyway assist to improve our taxation system, because, at the end of the day, that is what the government are interested in’. He added ‘I will consult with senators who are prepared to engage in good faith on this issue.’

Ping-pong comes to Parliament

Sitting period 9 – 12 November

The Great Hall in Parliament House was transformed once again into a table tennis arena for the fifth annual Bennelong Cup. The competition was the idea of Mr John Alexander, the Member for Bennelong and a former professional tennis player.

Originally a competition between Australia and Korea, the Bennelong Cup has expanded with a new team added each year. This year, players from Australia's Commonwealth Games team partnered the New Zealand team to challenge professionals from China, Korea and Malaysia in a series of exhibition matches.

The 2015 Bennelong Cup was officially opened at Parliament House by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP.