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43rd Australian Parliament

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43rd Australian Parliament
Dates 28 September 2010—
Prime Minister(s) Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd
Party Australian Labor Party

The 43rd Australian Parliament was led for most of its term by Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister, with the support of the Australian Greens and independent members of parliament.

The election held in 2010 failed to produce a clear winner, with the Liberal-National coalition winning 73 seats and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) winning 72 seats. The Australian Greens won one seat, and four seats were won by independent candidates.

Julia Gillard, the leader of the Australian Labor Party, convinced most of the independents and the Australian Greens to support her, so was able to form government.

In January 2013 Gillard made the unusual step of announcing the date of the next election over seven months away.

With polls indicating that the Labor Party would face a massive loss of support at the election, there was considerable speculation as to whether Gillard would remain as leader of the party. She stood firm, but in late June 2013, under increasing pressure, Gillard called a leadership ballot, and Kevin Rudd was again elected as leader of the Labor Party, with the votes being 57 to 45 in his favour.

Contents

Promises

Issues

"Boat people"

The issue of people arriving illegally on Australian territory seeking asylum was a major one for the Government. The Howard Government had managed to almost eliminate the number of people arriving by refusing to process them on Australian territory. What was referred to as the "Pacific Solution" saw such people taken to Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island for processing. In the 42nd Parliament, The Labor party revoked these arrangements, and before long the number of arrivals rapidly increased. One of the reasons given was that Nauru was not a party to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.[1]

With this parliament, the Government announced that they would instead process the "boat people" in East Timor. It soon became apparent that they had only just raised the subject with the East Timorese government, and that government was cold on the idea.

The next plan announced was a deal with Malaysia, whereby Australia would send 800 people to Malaysia for processing, and in return take 4000 processed refugees. This was despite Malaysia also not being party to the UN Refugee Convention.[2] This was to take affect as of the next boat people to arrive, but the deal had not yet been signed by Malaysia, and several more weeks passed before it was, and none of the people who arrived in the meantime were sent to Malaysia. On Wed. 31st August, 2011Wed. August 31st, 2011, the High Court declared the deal to be illegal,[3][4] although this only affected the plan to send illegal immigrants to Malaysia. The part of the deal involving Australia taking 4000 processed refugees from Malaysia was not affected.

Following the High Court decision, conservative commentator Andrew Bolt described the government as "without doubt the most dangerously inept and untrustworthy government in our history."[5] and influential Labor Party identity Graham Richardson said that "The government will look like a joke because frankly at the moment it is".[6]

After announcing the Malaysia deal, the Government also announced that it would re-open the Manus Island processing centre.

Carbon dioxide tax

Although Julia Gillard had promised emphatically before the election that her government would not introduce a "carbon" tax, introducing such a tax was a condition of the Australian Greens' support of the Gillard government. Gillard therefore decided to break her promise and introduce the tax.

Opposition to the tax was increasing, however, including rallies being held in Canberra opposing the tax. The government portrayed the tax as a "carbon tax", even though it was actually to be on carbon dioxide emissions, and then as a "tax on pollution", despite carbon dioxide not being a pollutant.

Andrew Wilkie

One of the independents who agreed to support a Labor government was Andrew Wilkie, who agreed on condition that the government would introduce legislation to tackle problem gambling. The specific agreement was that legislation would be introduced by May 2012 to require mandatory pre-commitment technology for poker machines by 2014. The government told Wilkie in January 2012 that they would not be honouring the agreement. As a result, Wilkie said that he would consider voting against the government if a motion of no confidence was put, and may vote against it on other matters, on their merit.[7]

Craig Thomson affair

Craig Thomson was an official with the Health Services Union whose union-issued credit card was used to pay for the services of an escort agency. Thomson denied that he had made use of the services himself, but admitted to authorising the payment, although without realising what it was for. In 2007 Thomson became a member of parliament in the New South Wales seat of Dobell. In 2009 a newspaper reported the allegations, prompting Thomson to sue the paper. However, Thomson subsequently dropped the case, leaving him with his and the paper's legal costs.

The danger now was that Thomson would not be able to pay all his costs, and would be declared bankrupt, which would cause him to lose his seat in government. A by-election would almost certainly be won by the Liberal-National coalition, which would then allow the opposition to pass a motion of no confidence in the government, forcing a new election which the Labor Party would lose.

To avoid this, the Labor Party gave and/or loaned Thomson money to avoid his bankruptcy, and Gillard expressed her support for him. In April 2012, the Prime Minister asked Thomson to resign from the Labor Party.He continued to sit in Parliament, but as an independent.[8]

In January 2013, New South Wales police arrested Thomson on a warrant from Victoria Police, to be charged with 150 accounts of fraud.[9][10][11]

Peter Slipper affair

Peter Slipper was a member of parliament elected as part of the Liberal/National coalition, but concerns were raised about his expenses, and the party was beginning moves to eject him from the party when the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) offered him the position of the Speaker of the house. Slipper accepted the offer. As the Speaker doesn't vote except when there is a tie, this meant that the government could count on the vote of the previous speaker, a member of the Labor Party, while the opposition simultaneously lost one of their votes.

In April 2012, a former staff member of Slipper alleged that he had been sexually harrassed by Slipper, and fresh allegations were made about Slipper's expenses, which led to Slipper standing aside while the matters were investigated.

References

  1. Lanai Vasek, Doubts arise over Nauru's intention to sign UN refugee convention, The Australian, Tue. 14th June, 2011Tue. June 14th, 2011.
  2. States Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
  3. Milanda Rout, High Court rejects refugee swap deal, The Australian, Wed. 31st August, 2011Wed. August 31st, 2011.
  4. Plaintiff M70/2011 v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, High Court of Australia, Wed. 31st August, 2011Wed. August 31st, 2011.
  5. Bolt, Andrew, Last days..., Thu. 1st September, 2011Thu. September 1st, 2011.
  6. Michael Gordon, " The Malaysia solution is shipwrecked, The Age, Thu. 1st September, 2011Thu. September 1st, 2011.
  7. PM's big gamble, cutting Andrew Wilkie loose by reneging on poker machine reforms pledge The Sunday Telegraph, Sun. 22nd January, 2012Sun. January 22nd, 2012.
  8. Lanai Vasek and Milanda Rout, PM moves on Thomson and Slipper, saying a 'line has been crossed', The Australian, Sun. 29th April, 2012Sun. April 29th, 2012.
  9. Man arrested in NSW following fraud investigation by Victoria Police, NSW Police Force, Thu. 31st January, 2013Thu. January 31st, 2013.
  10. Kate McClymont, Craig Thomson arrested by fraud squad, The Age, Thu. 31st January, 2013Thu. January 31st, 2013.
  11. Patrick Lion, Suspended Labor MP Craig Thomson facing 150 fraud charges, News Limited Network, Thu. 31st January, 2013Thu. January 31st, 2013.
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