Byron Fay
August 14, 2023

Parliament highlights from August

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Federal Parliamentarians have wrapped up another fortnight in Parliament, after a six week winter break – and the hottest month globally on record.

It was another action-packed schedule, with strong work from the crossbench on climate action, integrity and amplifying the voice of communities.

I can’t do justice to all the work, but here are some of the highlights:

Independent bill to enforce a duty of care towards future generations

On the first day of Parliament, Independent ACT Senator David Pocock introduced his first private members’ bill.

This bill is the culmination of years of work from a youth-led movement. It calls for the federal government to consider the health and wellbeing of young people and future generations when making decisions that facilitate or fund the development of projects that could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Crossbench call to stop sea dumping

The crossbench stood firmly opposed to Labor Government legislation that would permit Australia to export, import and store carbon pollution in Australian waters, warning it could prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry. The bill passed the lower house with the support of the Coalition.

Independent bill to restore trust in politics

The first day of the second week, Independent Member for Curtin, Kate Chaney, introduced her private members bill to strengthen transparency and accountability over political donations and decision-making.

This bill proposes 13 changes to electoral and political donation law, including banning lies in political advertising, requiring real time disclosure of political donations over $1000, banning political donations from Government contractors and harmful industries, and limiting pre-election taxpayer-funded Government advertising.

Doctors warn against gas expansion

On Tuesday, the largest ever delegation of health practitioners converged on Parliament House to protest against government support for fossil fuel expansion in the Northern Territory.

They warned children will be at an increased risk of cancer and birth defects if a planned gas processing and petrochemicals plant in the Beetaloo Basin goes ahead, and urged the government to withdraw its $1.5 billion of funding to support the project.

Many of the independent crossbench joined their rally outside Parliament House and supported their calls for action. “The doctors are on the right side of history” Independent Member for Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan wrote on Twitter, “The Federal Government must protect the health of our children and grandchildren and stop funding the project.”

Inquiry into offshore detention

News late this week reported that the federal government paid a company, Canstruct, $1.82 billion over five years, including more than $300 million last year, to care for refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru – despite there being very few people there. This comes off the back of an earlier report that the Australian federal police said it had verbally briefed Peter Dutton in 2018 that it was investigating a company for foreign bribery, which was awarded contracts for accommodation in Nauru.

Independent Member for Goldstein, Zoe Daniel, reiterated to the Prime Minister in Question Time that a number of crossbench members have called for a Royal Commission into these scandals, and asked again about an investigation. The Government announced that same day an independent review of the management of regional processing procurement by the Department of Home Affairs.

And two more!

  • House and Senate crossbenchers joined former Defence chief Chris Barrie in insisting on the release of a declassified version of a climate risk assessment report by the Office of National Intelligence.
  • Legislation to establish the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service to deal with complaints of sexual and workplace misconduct in Parliament House was tabled on Thursday. It is the first major piece of legislation to deal with the recommendations made by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in her Set the Standard report.

These are just some of the highlights from a busy fortnight, which again demonstrate how a strong and independent crossbench moves Australia forward on climate action, integrity and equality.

Thanks for all your support for the community independents movement.

Best regards,
Byron Fay

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Executive Director

Byron is a climate strategist, former Paris Agreement negotiator and adviser to the Independent Senator Tim Storer. Byron worked for a Biden-aligned Political Action Committee during the 2020 US presidential election, holds a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Oxford, and is a proud descendant of the Dharug nation.