Welcome to the August newsletter. I've just wrapped up another fortnight of Parliament, with some from Canberra and some from self-isolation in Adelaide. I've been fighting for JobKeeper transparency, stopping the 'jobs for the boys' rorts we've seen with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, promoting better aged care practices, stopping slave labour and much more.
Once I'm out of self-isolation I'll be back out and about in SA and I hope to see you all soon.
Enjoy the newsletter.
NATIONAL CABINET ROUND 1 VICTORY
I've been smiling from ear to ear all month after Federal Court Justice White confirmed that Scott Morrison's 'National Cabinet' is not a Cabinet with protections under the Freedom of Information Act. The ruling was so strong that the Prime Minister had to concede defeat, confirming this week he would not appeal the decision.
But that doesn't mean that our Prime Minister isn't a sore loser. Unwilling to take on Justice White's judgement, he instead introduced some new legislation that would overturn this ruling. Basically - he doesn't like the law, so he wants to change it so he can stifle public scrutiny of ‘National Cabinet’ decision-making as well as many other dealings of Federal, state and territory governments.
He just won’t accept long-established conventions of Cabinet responsibility and democratic accountability. He hates scrutiny and is allergic to transparency.
I’ll be fighting against his proposed National Cabinet secrets law. I’ll be urging Labor and the rest of the crossbench to reject these laws too.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this fight. It's an important one for transparency and our democracy.
If you'd like to see all meeting notes/minutes taken from the meeting of the National Cabinet on 29 May 2020’ you can find them here. Information about the rules of National Cabinet can be found here. The document is partially redacted because some information was outside the scope of the information I sought in my FOI application.
SLAVE LABOUR BILL PASSES THE SENATE
I’m pleased to tell you the Senate voted in support of my bill to ban the import of goods made with slave labour.
Unfortunately, the Government refused to support the legislation, which is unconscionable, especially considering the bipartisan support and recommendations they offered to my previous bill that focused on banning goods made with Uyghur slave labour. There is no excuse for not supporting a measure that directly attacks those who seek to profit from enslaving fellow human beings.
I’m now working with independents in the House of Representatives to try and get this Bill passed there too.
JOBKEEPER PAYMENTS BATTLE
Champagne glasses were clinking in big business boardrooms this week. Why? Because they were toasting Pauline Hanson after One Nation backflipped on support for full JobKeeper transparency.
JobKeeper was a good initiative but was not implemented properly. Billions of taxpayer dollars were provided to big corporations who did not need it and instead funnelled it to their shareholders and executives through dividends and bonuses.
The amount of JobKeeper paid to foreign owned subsidiary companies in Australia, like China’s Jemena and Bank of China, will remain secret because of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Secrecy will also apply to political parties, private universities, subsidiaries of public universities, clubs, unlisted public companies, private schools and political parties.
So much for Pauline Hanson being a supposed champion for the everyday Australians. She prefers Bollinger over battlers. One Nation cuddled up to the big end of town, while the average Australian taxpayers lost out to the tune of billions.
But the fight’s not over. My Senate Order for the Tax Commissioner to disclose this information has now been sent to the Senate Privileges Committee. The Commissioner refused to comply with a lawful order from the Senate to disclose all big businesses that received JobKeeper and how much they were given. This will be dealt with when Parliament next meets.
The Tax Commissioner may be in contempt. What we know for sure is that Prime Minister Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg are definitely in contempt of the taxpayers who have been ripped off.
BILL TO PROTECT RESIDENTS IN AGED CARE HOMES
Did you know there is no nationwide requirement for aged care homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times?
I’ve introduced a Bill to require aged care facilities to have at least one registered nurse present at all times. This would implement Recommendation 86 of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, just earlier than their 2024 deadline.
I’m concerned aged care residents are not getting the care they need, and the care is varied depending on where they are located across Australia.
Unfortunately, due to chronic understaffing and skills shortages some residents just aren’t receiving the care they deserve, and July 2024 is too far away. Nursing home residents, their families, the aged care workforce, and the wider Australian community cannot wait any longer.
I’ve also been putting pressure on the Government to try and support the residents of Annie Lockwood Facility in Whyalla. You can watch my questions to the Minister here.
RICH LIST TRANSPARENCY FIGHT CONTINUES
My amendment to kill off a 26 year old ‘temporary’ Corporations Act exemption that allows 1,119 rich list companies to not lodge financial returns with ASIC, which assists with aggressive tax minimisation, went down by one vote this month.
Pauline Hanson, despite publicly committing to vote for my amendment, was schmoozed by the Treasurer and voted against it. I'm not giving up. I'll be attaching this amendment to every Government Treasury Bill that I can.
WE MUST BE BUSHFIRE READY
Our bushfire seasons aren't going away - they are getting worse and we can't afford not to be prepared. We don't know what the 21-22 fire season will bring, but Australia must be fully prepared. I spoke in Parliament about the need for a national statement on bushfire preparedness.
Each bushfire season the Australian Government leases foreign owned helicopters and planes. This is a huge misuse of taxpayer funds because it is exporting money that could be spent here. What’s more is the fire seasons of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere are getting longer and increasingly overlapping, limiting the availability of leased large firefighting aircraft.
This is why I say the Government must act on the recommendation from the Bushfire Royal Commission and establish a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet.
SENATE INQUIRY INTO EAST TIMOR DESPERATELY NEEDED
This month I asked the Senate to establish an inquiry into the disgraceful handling of Witness K, Bernard Collaery and Australia’s relationship with East Timor.
More than 40,000 East Timorese died supporting Australian forces in the Portuguese colony of Timor during World War II. When Timor finally overcame an Australian-backed invasion by Indonesia in 1975, we shook hands to negotiate in good faith over the Australian-Timor maritime boundary, and then proceeded to spy on their negotiating team.
Unfortunately, the Liberals and Labor banded together to vote down my inquiry proposal. Labor stated they wanted to do an inquiry, just not now. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? But I’m not giving up.
There is no public interest in prosecuting Bernard Collaery but there is a public interest in learning how this sordid scandal came about.
I've also launched proceedings in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to release the secret cabinet documents from the 2000s.