Chaos looms as Parliament resumes amid ongoing citizenship drama

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017 - Resume

The Turnbull government is bracing for another chaotic week in Federal Parliament, with Labor warning “anything could happen” as it seeks to turn the screws on Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will seek to shift the focus back to the economy by bringing on debate about his plan to extend company tax cuts to businesses with a turnover of more than $50 million.

But the opposition will ramp up the pressure on Mr Joyce, who is due to become acting Prime Minister at the end of the week when Mr Turnbull travels to Samoa for diplomatic talks. It will be Mr Joyce’s first stint in the acting role since it was revealed he was a dual citizen, potentially ruling him ineligible to stay on as an MP.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said it was “untenable” for Mr Joyce to fill the role, refusing to rule out drastic action extending all the way to a parliamentary walkout.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said on Sunday. “We have never before been in a situation where the government of the day has publicly admitted that they’re not sure they are in fact eligible to be the government. Given we are in uncharted waters I think we have to say anything could happen this week.”

It is understood Mr Joyce has put his own plans to travel overseas – to visit the United States and Indonesia – on hold while the High Court considers his eligibility. The court has scheduled three days in October to hear Mr Joyce’s case and those of at least six other federal politicians, mostly from the Senate.

Mr Joyce’s deputy Nationals leader, Fiona Nash, will formally refer her British dual citizenship to the court on Monday. So will crossbench senator Nick Xenophon.

While Labor sources privately concede they are unlikely to stage a walkout, the opposition has threatened to attempt to delay all votes in the lower house until Mr Joyce steps down from cabinet.

But the government’s chief parliamentary strategist, Christopher Pyne, has shrugged off the threats.

“I’m shaking in my boots, as you can well imagine,” he told ABC TV on Sunday. “Labor is always making these kinds of sabre-rattling remarks about how they’re going to bring the place down.”

If Labor did choose to walk out of the Parliament that would “increase the average IQ”, Mr Pyne said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said if Labor wanted to run “juvenile stunts” the public would look on the party with contempt.

“There’s lots of childish games going on here. Let the High Court sort it out. Let us get back to the business that’s important to the Australian public: keeping people safe, getting energy prices down where we can, making sure that we can be creating jobs and building the economy,” he said.

The government secured tax cuts for companies with a turnover of less than $50 million earlier this year. It wants to extend those at a cost of $35.6 billion over 10 years but is unlikely to win Senate support.

The government will also seek passage of its bill to abolish what’s known as “limited merits review” – which allows energy networks to appeal decisions about how much they can re-coup from customers.

But adding to the government’s woes, the High Court will hold its hearing on Tuesday of a challenge against the same-sex marriage postal survey.

The Greens will seek to shift the focus back to climate change, putting forward a private members’ bill that would strengthen the Renewable Energy Target and warning of a new “valley of death” in renewables investment if Labor supports the government’s still nascent plans for a Clean Energy Target.

“If a Labor/Liberal CET deal is struck, there will be at least three years during which a paltry target will be in place, new coal will be incentivised and new renewables placed at a further disadvantage,” Greens lower house MP Adam Bandt will say when he introduces his bill on Monday.

“That is why the Greens are proposing this bill, which will continue and expand the Renewable Energy Target. And it’s why we’re offering Labor a different course.”

Under the Greens’ plan the currently static RET of 33,000 MWh would ramp up by 2165 MWh a year, ending up at 55,500 MWh by 2030.

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