‘Apologise’: Albo called out over big promise

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Peter Dutton has demanded Anthony Albanese apologise to families struggling with high power bills.

The Opposition Leader reminded the Prime Minister that he’d promised “on 100 occasions to the Australian people before the election that he would cut power prices by $275” and had not mentioned that figure since.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Referring to a report in The Daily Telegraph on Monday that 500 families a week are seeking energy hardship arrangements, Mr Albanese was asked whether he would apologise to struggling families.

Mr Albanese responded by reminding Mr Dutton that the former Coalition government had had “22 (energy) policies but didn’t land one”.

PORTRAIT SHOOT-Former Christian School Lecturer Ka
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called on the prime minister to apologise for failing to reduce energy bill as promised. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Mr Dutton was pulled up by Speaker Milton Dick for his repeated interjections. Mr Dutton raised a point of order on relevance, to which Mr Dick ruled Mr Albanese had to be “directly relevant’ for the remainder of his answer.

Mr Albanese did not make any apologies during his three minutes.

Senator takes aim at government on cost of living

Over in the Senate, Labor’s plan to address the rising cost of living was attacked.

West Australian senator Matt O’Sullivan noted that since the government came to power the cost of food is up 9 per cent, housing up 12 per cent and insurance up 22 per cent.

“With around 50,000 households due to exhaust their savings buffer by the end of next year due to record interest rates, how many Australians do you expect will lose their home under this government,” he asked.

A fired up Finance Minister Katy Gallagher was quick to point out interest rates started going up under the Coalition.

“Inflation was its highest under your government. It actually came off every quarter since, as we dealt with the significant policy issues and areas that your government, when in power, left unaddressed,” she responded.

“A decade of failure to deal with those significant challenges. We see it everywhere. We see it in housing.”

The Coalition also gave a preview of how they intend to pursue the government in the lead up to the May 14 budget.

Senator Gallagher was asked whether Labor could provide a “clear assurance” it would not make changes to capital gains tax in the upcoming budget.

“(The Treasurer) has made it clear those are not areas of focus for the government in that area you raise,” Senator Gallagher responded.

“All of our effort is going to manage the economic circumstances of the time, so making sure we’re not adding to the inflation challenge, that continues to see inflation moderate.

“Where we can find room in the budget, paying down debt, and making sensible investments where we can make a difference to the lives of Australian people.”

Bob Katter goes of at supermarkets

Independent MP Bob Katter has introduced his Bill to reduce the market power of Australia’s major supermarket chains.

Under the policy proposal, major supermarkets’ market power would be divested by 20 per cent within five years.

Bob Katter - Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2024
Bob Katter took aim at the supermarkets, using a potato as an example of them ripping of farmers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

It would also create a commissioner for food retailing that would have powers to stop price gouging and other anti-competitive behaviour.

Speaking in the lower house on Monday, Mr Katter said rising grocery prices were “disgraceful” and pointed to 15 official inquiries being held into supermarket prices over the past 30 years.

He held up a white potato and declared that the price paid to the farmer for the everyday grocery item was between 40 to 50 cents, while the supermarket charged $4.50 per kg.

“Every time the issue is raised we have an inquiry … but of course, you haven’t got the courage to do what needs to be done,” he said.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who has backed the proposal, said it was “unconscionable” that supermarkets were raking in billion-dollar profits while Australians were resorting to dumpster diving and skipping meals.

Four separate reviews, including a competition watchdog price inquiry, into the conduct of the supermarket chains are under way.

Coles and Woolworths have repeatedly denied engaging in price gouging. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard

The federal government appointed former Labor minister Craig Emerson to lead a review of the food and grocery code in January.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously said he was prepared to act but would wait until the outcome of the reviews had been finalised.

Labor ‘farcical’ on religious reforms: Coalition

Bipartisan support for Labor’s religious discrimination reforms won’t be achieved if the government continues its closed-door approach, Michaelia Cash says.

The opposition legal affairs spokeswoman slammed Mr Albanese’s approach which she said had now reached a “farcical level” with stakeholders now asking the Coalition to be briefed on the draft legislation.

“Mr Albanese went to the election talking about transparency, but his government has failed to live up to his promises,” she said.

The opposition was provided with a copy of the draft legislation last week but has been prohibited from distributing it to third parties.

Senator Cash said Labor should publish the legislation “as soon as possible” to clear up the mess.

“We are now in the absurd situation where the opposition has been asked to provide briefings on the government’s own legislation,” she said.

“This is a mess entirely of the government’s making.”

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Michaelia Cash Picture: Martin Ollman/NCA NewsWire.

Mr Albanese told colleagues last week he would ditch a promise to reform religious freedoms if he did not have bipartisan support.

A long-awaited Australian Law Reform Commission report released last week recommended the removal of section 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the right of religious educational institutions to insist students and staff adhere to the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of the religion.

As it stands, religious institutions can discriminate against students and staff based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.

The ALRC also said the Fair Work Act should be changed so that religious education institutions could give preference to employing staff of the same religion if it was necessary to build or maintain a community of faith.

An equivalent exception for religious schools should also be included in any future Religious Discrimination Act.

Greens announce reshuffle

A mini reshuffle has been announced by the Greens in a bit to “push” Labor on inequality, native forests and immigration.

Queensland senator Penny Allman-Payne will take charge of the social services portfolio, while David Shoebridge will formally take over as home affairs, immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs spokesman.

Tasmanian senator Nick McKim will assume the role of forestry spokesman.

The changes were triggered by the imminent retirement of Victorian senator Janet Rice, who will depart this month after a decade in the job.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the changes would “help us push Labor further and faster – especially in the important areas of social services, immigration, and protection of our native forests”.

Australia walks ‘fine line’ on anti-discrimination laws: Lambie

Jacqui Lambie has delivered a stern warning on national religious discrimination laws, suggesting the federal government should look to Tasmania’s model to avoid overstepping.

The Tasmanian crossbench senator warned the federal government needed to tread carefully in its push to scrap exemptions allowing religious schools to expel gay and transgender students and fire teachers based on their sexuality and gender.

Her comments come after a new report from advocacy organisation Equality Australia revealed students at faith-based schools are more likely to be discriminated against than young people enrolled at independent schools.

Tasmania is considered to have the nation’s strongest anti-discrimination laws, because it explicitly prohibits conduct that offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules on the basis of age, sex, race and disability

Speaking on Monday, Senator Lambie said Labor trod a “fine line” in its efforts to repeal the laws.

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Senator Jacqui Lambie has warned the federal government is walking a “fine line” in its push to overhaul national discrimination laws. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Labor revealed it had drafted two new bills to overhaul Australia’s religious discrimination laws last week, the details of which are yet to be made public.

“People send their kids to faith-based schools with expectations and I think we’ve got a walk a very, very fine line with all of that,” Senator Lambie told ABC.

“I think if you’ve followed Tasmanian laws, and they’ve worked very well down there and actually your bill is based on that, you might have … a good bit of airing out there and actually be able to settle this once and for all.”

Workplace Minister Tony Burke said he was hopeful the government’s draft legislation would gain bipartisan support.

“I hope that we have bipartisan support, but you know, that’s in the hands of the opposition and putting public pressure on them or something like that,” he said.

“It’s an issue that’s been hanging around a long time, and the country’s in a better position if we get it done.”

Veteran MPs quit

Nationals MP Mark Coulton and South Australian Liberal backbencher Rowan Ramsey have announced they’ll retire at the next federal election.

In a statement, Mr Coulton, the member for Parkes said it had been an “incredible honour” to represent the people in his electorate for more than 16 years.

“It’s time for a fresh face to take up the baton and I’m looking forward to the members of The Nationals in the Parkes electorate finding a suitable replacement who can continue to provide strong representation in Canberra,” Mr Coulton said.

Parkes is the largest electorate in NSW and has remained a relatively safe National seat, holding a margin of more than 10 per cent at the 2022 election.

Mr Ramsey, the long-serving Liberal member for Australia’s third largest electorate of Grey, said his choice to leave was not an “easy decision”.

“I am aware my ‘piece of string’ has a definite if undetermined length and consequently, with my wife Teresa, who has been such an important support, we have decided it is time to tackle the next chapter of our lives.”

Mr Ramsay’s retirement is expected to trigger a preselection battle to determine his successor in his safe Liberal seat.

Households ‘eaten’ by inflation

Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume says Australia has one of the highest rates of inflation in the developed world, suggesting the government should first bring price pressures under control, rather than lifting wages.

In the Fair Work Commission’s upcoming annual wage review, the federal government will push for a pay increase that ensures Australia’s lowest paid workers “do not go backwards”.

Inflation in the year to December rose by 4.1 per cent, leading to a surge in the cost of everyday essentials and rental prices.

In its draft submission to the commission, to be lodged on Thursday, Labor said households were struggling under cost-of-living pressures and pointed to low-paid workers being disproportionately affected by inflation.

But Senator Hume said sustainable wages growth needed supported by productivity with economic gains.

“The Labor government wants to make minimum wages go higher as a cost-of-living measure but quite frankly the only way you can sustainably make sure that those higher wages aren’t eaten up by inflation is to get inflation under control,” she said.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie said Labor must slash “red tape” for struggling small businesses before backing an increase to the national minimum wage.

The Fair Work Commission will hand down its annual wage review decision in July. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

“The Labor Party needs to come in and cut some tape, all tape to tape most small to medium businesses out there” she said.

“And if they’re not discussing it at national cabinet, them they bloody should be.”

Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said the average Australian working full-time on a minimum wage earnt just under $46,000 a year, making it nearly “impossible” to make ends meet.

“We want to see Australians earn more and keep more of what they earn. We want to see them get a wage rise and we want to see them get a tax cut so they keep more of the higher wages.”

One issue to define next election

Australia’s cost-of-living crisis will be the key deciding factor as to who wins power at the upcoming federal election, Nationals leader David Littleproud says.

The latest Newspoll results show Labor’s primary vote has slipped to 32 per cent, the worst result for the government since November.

While the Coalition lifted a point to 37, voters selected Mr Albanese as the preferred leader, with support for Liberal leader Peter Dutton falling a point to 34.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Littleproud said the opposition would need to lift its primary vote to win next year but argued it has set a “strong foundation” to tackle financial pressures.

“I think it’s all going to come down to the cost of living and I think the trajectory that you’ve seen in our polling numbers to where we are for a first-term government that should be still in a honeymoon period, for us to be competitive at this time of the electoral cycle should send a big warning bells to the Labor Party,” he told Sky News.

Millions of Australians have endured a sustained cost-of-living squeeze over the past two years. Picture: Nicki Connolly/NCA NewsWire

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said opinion polls were not especially reliable in predicting election outcomes but predicated that next year’s vote would be “hard fought”.

“I think what these polls are showing when it comes to the budget, you know, we put budgets together based on the economic cycle, not the political cycle,” he told Sunrise.

“My job is to do the right and responsible thing to work through all the issues in a methodical way, put a premium on what’s affordable in the budget and help people with the cost-of-living pressures they’re confronting.”