December 02, 2018 21:24:00
The final Parliamentary sitting week for the year has arrived, bringing with it numerous challenges for the minority Morrison Government on its own legislation and some of the flashpoint political issues for 2018.
- Scott Morrison says legislation targeting secret apps must be brought to a vote
- Labor and the Law Council of Australia say the legislation is flawed
- Mr Morrison says any attempt to refer Peter Dutton to the High Court would result in Labor MPs being referred too
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the Coalition’s new encryption legislation, helping law enforcement agencies access messages from secret apps, passed by the end of the week.
He said Parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee has had more than enough time to scrutinise the legislation, and it must now be brought on for a vote.
That has led to accusations the Coalition is undermining the bipartisan approach to national security that has been a hallmark of the last decade.
“He’s seeking to create a fight so as to distract attention from things like Julia Banks moving to the crossbench,” shadow foreign minister Penny Wong told the ABC on Sunday.
“The bill, as it is currently drafted, will make Australia less safe.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne argued law enforcement agencies had been calling for the enhanced powers.
“It is about making sure that they are properly equipped to address the challenges posed in the current climate, around technology, around encryption in this case,” Senator Payne said.
“We would urge the Labor party to act responsibly in relation to national security.”
The nation’s lawyers joined the criticism of the Government, arguing rushed laws were bad laws.
“It is inappropriate for any politician, let alone a Minister, to accuse anyone of putting at risk national security because they are raising legitimate concerns about the scope of legislation,” Arthur Moses, president-elect of the Law Council of Australia, told the ABC.
“Allegations like that should not be thrown around like confetti in a democracy such as ours.”
Parliament is not due to return until February, and there will only be seven sitting days before the Budget which has been brought forward to April 2.
Parliamentary tactics to test Morrison minority government
Mr Morrison has again reiterated any attempt to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court, over questions on his constitutional eligibility to remain in Parliament, would force the Government to turn on Labor MPs he argued were under a similar cloud.
All Lower House crossbenchers, other than Bob Katter, have publicly stated they are in favour of having Mr Dutton’s case examined by the nation’s highest legal authority.
“There are three other House members that have the same issues that have been suggested about Peter Dutton, so any principled position, any consistent position, anyone seeking to be truly fair about this would apply the same rule to all of those members,” Mr Morrison told reporters before leaving the G20 summit in Argentina.
“The Government isn’t seeking to refer any of those members, but if the Parliament sought to do so, then it would only be the principled thing to do to apply the same treatment to all members similarly affected.”
While that threat may discourage the crossbench from any use of their clout to send Mr Dutton’s case to the High Court, the group will still try to use their numbers to bring on votes on legislation.
Newly minted Member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps plans to present her bill calling on all refugees on Nauru needing medical and psychological treatment be temporarily transferred to Australia for medical treatment.
“This is a medical solution to a humanitarian crisis which I am hoping will get bipartisan support and rise above the political,” Dr Phelps told the ABC’s AM program.
Labor will also be hoping to advance their legislation to protect gay students and staff at religious schools from discrimination, hoping to take advantage of the Government’s reduced numbers to bring it on for debate.