Alex Lamb
March 28, 2024

Parliament highlights from March 2024

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There have been some major policy wins (and losses) this past sitting week.

To highlight just three: the crossbench spearheaded a major piece of integrity reform around elections; the government finally introduced long-overdue vehicle efficiency standards; but also raced to the bottom on immigration and asylum seeker legislation.

1. The Crossbench’s Fair and Transparent Elections Bill

After months of reports that the Government plans to introduce changes to election rules which would make campaigning even harder for independents, the crossbench has spearheaded its own bill which would genuinely improve the integrity of elections.

Independents Kate Chaney and David Pocock jointly introduced a comprehensive bill with other crossbenchers to make elections more transparent and fair, including:

  • Truth in political advertising 
  • Reducing ‘dark money’ by requiring real-time disclosure of donations over $1,000 and revenue from party fundraisers like dinners and business forums with politicians
  • Stopping Clive Palmer-style cash splashes 
  • Banning political donations from government contractors and socially harmful industries including fossil fuels and gambling
  • Limiting self-congratulatory government advertising before elections.

We will be watching closely to see whether the Government chooses to negotiate with the crossbench to legislate genuine election reform, or instead teams up with the Coalition to prop up the major parties with increased taxpayer funding.

2. New measures to slash vehicle emissions

The Government has introduced long-overdue legislation to slash pollution from new vehicles. The lack of vehicle efficiency standards has meant Australia has become a dumping ground for inefficient, polluting cars. In fact, transport is our third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s growing.

If this new efficiency standard passes parliament, it should incentivise cleaner cars and more EVs in the Australian market. The government expects they’ll slash passenger and light commercial vehicle emissions by 50% and 40% respectively – cutting 321 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and saving $95 billion in household fuel costs by 2050.

3. Draconian changes proposed to immigration and asylum seeker laws

The race to the bottom has continued under the Labor government.

When elected, Prime Minister Albanese said he would respect parliament and not operate like his predecessor. But his Government has given Parliament barely any time to consider a major and far-reaching change to immigration legislation. This week they tried to ram through laws that could impose travel bans on all citizens from certain countries; and force people to choose between deportation and jail.

Independents and Greens loudly objected.

Independent MP Kylea Tink said ‘This is truly shocking.’ [We’ve] ‘been briefed on a really significant reform to our human rights law in this country… and then told there won’t actually be effective debate on it.’

Zoe Daniel MP said ‘the initial assessment of the ASRC is that this knee jerk legislation criminalises refugees who have already been through a broken system and potentially forces people to return to countries where they face persecution and even death.’

Meanwhile, the Senate crossbench  managed to put the breaks on, and referred the bill to a Senate Committee. It will report back to parliament in May.

That’s a wrap folks, thanks for tuning in.

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Head of Strategic Communications

Alex has worked in media, parliament, and the international development sector. Before joining Climate 200 she worked for Transparency International Australia, helping to coordinate a global campaign against corruption in the mining sector, and campaign for a national anti-corruption commission in Australia. Prior to that, she advocated for greater support for gender equality and reproductive rights in the Australian aid program