The last day of Parliament for the year somehow became one of 2018’s most jaw-dropping, which says a lot considering the year in politics it has been.
And it was very different to the final day of 2017, which closed with MPs joining together, singing and declaring “the is Australia” as marriage equality was finally legalised.
So how did 2018’s parliamentary year end? With plenty of name-calling and angry press conferences, an Opposition backdown and an almost humiliating defeat for the Government in the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, it was filibustering and delay tactics designed to help the Government avoid losing on a bill that would alter how Australia deals with sick refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. The Kerryn Phelps bill was supported by Labor, the Greens and cross-benchers.
Should the government have lost the vote, it would have been the first to do so in the House of Reps since 1929 — and a major embarrassment for Morrison.
The bill enables a person from Nauru or Manus to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment if two doctors agree. The decision could still be blocked by the immigration minister within 24 hours if the individual is deemed a security threat or the transfer unnecessary. That decision would then go to a panel of health experts — with their ruling still able to be overturned by the minister on security grounds.
The legislation passed the Senate — despite filibustering and procedural tactics by Senators Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson attempting to delay it — 31 to 28 votes. But it was 4:50pm by the time it happened, too late for the bill to return to the lower house, which was wrapping up for the year, and will now wait until February 2019.
Earlier in the day, Morrison gave an angry press conference over the bill, declaring “I will fight them on this” and saying he’d take whatever measures necessary to stop the bill being legislated.
Kerryn Phelps shared her disappointment, but noted the progress made. “We got part of the way today, we got it through the Senate and we need to be thankful that happened. But it needs to be a first point of order when Parliament returns in February.”
Encryption laws, which will give police and security agencies access to encrypted messages, were passed on Thursday, despite Labor initially saying it would push for amendments and describing the bill as flawed. It was a last-minute backdown, with Opposition leader Bill Shorten declaring he couldn’t ‘”in good conscience” let the changes wait. The world-first laws have raised significant concerns among technology, human rights and legal experts and tech companies — the latter would be forced to help security agencies access encrypted messages.
Earlier in the day, legislation was passed making five days unpaid domestic violence leave a workplace right, under the Fair Work Act.
— Brett Worthington (@BWorthington_) December 6, 2018