Barnaby reacts to breath-testing proposal

Mr Albanese backed a vote calling on the UK and US to free Julian Assange. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Barnaby Joyce appeared to laugh off a proposal to have politicians’ breath tested before work after an independent MP declared there was “too much” alcohol consumption in parliament.

In a question to the Prime Minister, Warringah MP Zali Stegall raised the possibility of making alcohol and drug testing mandatory for federal MPs and Senators on Thursday.

This came just days after the Nationals MP was filmed lying on a Canberra street late at night, an incident which he later blamed on a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs.

“Numerous workplaces in Australia have random alcohol and drug testing to help ensure a safe and respectful working environment,” Ms Stegall said.

Barnaby Joyce during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“Will you commit to legislating for random alcohol and drug testing of MPs, senators and staff in the federal parliament due to the apparent ongoing issues with too much alcohol consumption?”

Mr Joyce – who has been urged by Nationals Leader David Littleproud to take leave to deal with personal matters – remained quiet after the targeted jab, before crossing his arms and letting out a silent laugh.

Anthony Albanese argued he would not be rolling out drug and alcohol testing even though he believed Ms Stegall’s proposal came from a place of “genuine concern”

“There have been, of course, issues from time to time in the parliament. But one of the things about our jobs is we’re accountable,” the Prime Minister said.

“I think that people need to act responsibly at all times, to bear in mind the great privilege and honour that we have, of being in this chamber.”

Albo on engagement: ‘I’ve found my person’

The Prime Minister thanked his parliamentary colleagues, friends, family, and Australians alike for their congratulations after he announced his engagement to long-term partner Jodie Haydon on Thursday.

Mr Albanese popped the question to Ms Haydon at The Lodge on Valentines Day, after a dinner at a popular Canberra Italian restaurant.

Speaking to media on Thursday afternoon, Mr Albanese said he had “found a partner with whom I want to spend the rest of my life with”.

Ms Haydon said she wanted to thank “everybody” for their “warm congratulations”.

“From our friends and our family and from people we don’t know, it’s just been overwhelming,” she said.

‘Royal wedding’: Dutton nudges PM for invite

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton kicked off question time to offer Mr Albanese a heartfelt “congratulations” after the PM announced his engagement.

The prime minister sent shockwaves after he took to social media to reveal he had popped the big question to long-term partner Jodie Haydon on Thursday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his engagement to Jodie Haydon after proposing on Valentine’s Day. Picture: Supplied
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his engagement to Jodie Haydon after proposing on Valentine’s Day. Picture: Supplied

Later, Mr Dutton rose “on indulgence” in the House of Representatives to offer his best wishes to Mr Albanese, teasing his political opponent for an invite to the high-profile event.

“We look forward to our version of the royal wedding sometime in the future,” Mr Dutton added.

The prime minister grinned, telling the Liberal leader to “keep checking” his mailbox.

“I will be there, throwing roses out in front of you, Prime Minister. Whatever it takes to get an invite to the gala wedding,” Mr Dutton shot back.

Peter Dutton congratulated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his engagement. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

‘Neglected’: Wells goes off

Anika Wells has lashed Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley for leaving the aged care sector “totally neglected” under her government’s watch.

Ms Ley asked the Aged Care Minister in question time if she would rule out any changes to the family home in aged care assessments.

It comes as the government gears up to deliver its response to a major taskforce report handed down by industry experts in December.

Ms Wells then accused Ms Ley of running a “scare campaign” and pointed out that Ms Ley had cut funding to the aged care sector when she was health minister in 2016.

“After nearly a decade of neglecting this important reform, if they are now showing an interest in care, I welcome it,” Ms Wells said.

“But if they want to go scaremongering, they’re gonna need to go elsewhere. Because we are focused on options to make aged-care funding simple, fair, and sustainable,” she said.

The third anniversary of the release of the royal commission into aged care report is in a few week.

New Bill to undo right to disconnect mistake

Earlier, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke introduced a Bill to prevent bosses being exposed to criminal penalties if they breach new right to disconnect orders.

While criminal penalties for breaching Fair Work Commission orders have long existed under laws, the government only realised the penalties would come into play under new right to disconnect provisions just before the Closing Loopholes Bill passed the Senate last week.

The government tried to amend the legislation before the final vote, but was denied leave to do so by the Coalition.

Mr Burke said on Thursday said he hoped the Coalition, who are opposed to right to disconnect and have cited concerns about business, support this legislation.

“My understanding is no member of parliament supports criminal penalties applying but, for reasons I will never understand, Coalition members refused to grant leave for this issue to be corrected last Thursday,” he said.

“Despite that, I hope, now that it is in a separate bill, the Coalition and, indeed, all members will now support this legislation that will ensure criminal penalties do not apply.”

Unemployment hits two-year high

Economists warn the unemployment rate could jumper higher than the January figures of 4.1 per cent in 2024, as an extra 22,000 Australians were unemployed last month.

The latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday revealed the seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 0.1 per cent to 4.1 per cent in January.

There’s now 600,600 people unemployed across the country, compared to the 578,300 Aussies were out of work in December.

It’s the first time the unemployment rate has been above 4 per cent since January 2022.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis explained the increase in the unemployment rate in January 2024 coincided with a higher-than-usual number of people who were not employed but who said they will be starting or returning to work in the future, as was seen in January 2022 and 2023.

Tax cuts for all one step closer

Tax cuts for every single taxpayer are one step closer to reality after the government’s changes to the stage 3 tax cuts passed the lower house.

A Coalition attempt to rename the Legislation “Treasury laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts but Not Actually Dealing with the Cost of Living) Act 2024” was not agreed to, but the opposition ultimately sided with Labor.

In a speech to the house, the Prime Minister said it was “a great day”.

“This package is a package that doesn’t leave people behind,” Anthony Albanese said.

The passage of the Bill through the House of Representatives polishes off a week where Question Time has been dominated with dixers about how different Australians across industries will benefit from the changes.

Labor’s revisions will mean incomes between $18,200 and $45,000 will be taxed at a lower rate of 16 per cent. The 30 per cent bracket will be extended to cover incomes between $45,000 and $135,000, and the 37 per cent bracket will remain for incomes between $135,000 and $190,000. Above that, a 45 per cent rate will apply.

More than 11.5 million taxpayers will be better off under Labor’s changes, while about 1.1 million people earning more than $150,000 will receive only half of the original, promised, tax cuts.

The Bill must now go to the Senate before the July 1 tax cuts are fully legislated.

Labor’s $40m tax cut spend under fire

The government’s decision to fund a $40 million dollar advertising blitz for its revamped stage 3 tax cut changes has sparked backlash from the opposition.

Labor is currently spruiking the benefits of its incoming tax changes, which are expected to pass the Lower House on Thursday.

Under the cuts, which are due to roll out on July 1, a full-time worker earning $100,000 will get an extra $800 per year.

For a person on the average wage of $73,000, their original tax cut will double to $1500 a year.

After it was revealed millions would be forked out to ensure people knew exactly how money much they were getting back – the Coalition jumped to accuse Labor of “getting their priorities wrong”.

Dan Tehan criticised the move on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“There’s a cost of living crisis and $40 million should be going back to the taxpayers who paid that money to the government,” opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said “the decision of government is to agree to a campaign of up to $40m over two financial years in relation to the tax campaign”.

After the full figure emerged on Tuesday, Nationals MP Michael McCormack said the government’s move to fund a food charity $14m on the same day and then spend $40m on marketing was a “disgrace”

“Those Labor members who were in that caucus who made that decision should take a good long hard look at themselves tonight,” he said.

It’s been confirmed Labor’s stage 3 advertising campaign won’t formally kick off until after the Dunkley by-election on March 2.

‘Beautiful thing’: Leaders react to PM’s wedding bliss

Top leaders have reacted to Anthony Albanese’s engagement to partner Jodie Haydon.

The prime minister announced the shock news on social media platform X on Thursday, saying “she said yes” with a photograph of his partner Jodie Haydon wearing her engagement ring.

Following the announcement his colleagues, including Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Claire O’Neil, showered the newly engaged couple with well wishes.

“Love is a beautiful thing. I’m so happy for you both!,” Senator Wong said.

“Congratulations!,” Ms O’Neil wrote on X.

‘Unjustifiable’: Wong’s warning to Israel

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has declared a potential Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would be “unjustifiable”.

The Israeli military has launched a military operation into Rafah, a small city in the south of the Gaza Strip which currently shelters roughly 1.5 million Palestinians who have fled to the area.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to defeat Hamas gunmen that he claims are hiding in the city

Speaking at a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday, Senator Wong amplified Australia’s objections to the offensive – arguing it would bring “devastation” to innocent civilians seeking shelter.

“Large scale military opposite operations in densely populated areas risk extensive civilian casualties,” she said.

“Australia believes this would be unjustifiable.

“Our message to Israel is – listen to the world; do not go down this path.”

Earlier, Labor MP Ed Husic told ABC Radio National that Israel could not “ignore” Australia’s objections.

“It’s hard to see how you can, as I said this is an area the size of Heathrow Airport where 1.5 million people have been crammed in. How do you undertake military exercise in there?,” he said.

“I think about 80 per cent of the Gazan population. 1.7 5 million people. They’ve got nowhere to live. And there are a lot of them that have now moved into Rafah … we can’t look away.

Albo sends major message to the US

Mr Albanese has sent a strong signal to the US after federal MPs pushed through a motion to allow Julian Assange to return Australia.

The 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder is currently wanted by the US for espionage and faces up to 175 years in prison for releasing a range of classified documents relating to the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie successfully moved the motion to urge the US and UK to let Mr Assange fly back to Australia – which passed with the support of Anthony Albanese and the Labor government.

It had 86 votes in favour and 42 against and was opposed by Peter Dutton and the Coalition – however Liberal Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to support it.

Mr Wilkie said the government’s support sent a “powerful message to Washington.”

Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Speaking on ABC Radio National on Wednesday, Labor MP Ed Husic said Mr Albanese had indicated his support for Mr Assange release for “quite some time” and called to resolve the matter.

“It’s gone on for long enough and I think it [the vote] just reflects what we’ve expressed publicly,” he said.

Nationals MP Keith Pitt, said Labor’s support for the vote had “significant” implications, warning would damage Australia’s relationship with one of its closest allies.

“There is a deeper problem here before the Prime Minister – and we can all agree that 12 years without trial is too long – but there is a fundamental distrust with the American justice system if you are saying this man shouldn’t go to trial.”

Next week, Mr Assange will face the High Court of Justice in the UK to appeal against his extradition to the United States.