CANBERRA REPORT: What a bizarre week in Parliament House

IN 21 years in Federal Parliament, I've experienced some interesting sitting weeks. For balance, many occurred during the 43rd Parliament when Labor was in minority government and Tony Abbott was making the most of every opportunity.

But I believe last week's sitting takes the prize as the most bizarre. Behind all the political battle lines lay some very serious issues. When the two Greens declared their dual citizenship, they immediately left the Parliament. The prime minister admonished them for their "sloppiness" and declared their departure the right thing to do.

But he was happy to embrace somewhat of a lower standard for Nationals' Senator Matt Canavan. He was asked to step aside from his cabinet post and declared he would not vote in the Senate until the High Court determined his fate.

When Barnaby Joyce rose to his feet to declare he is a citizen of New Zealand, the PM again adopted a different standard. Joyce was allowed to retain his roles as deputy PM and cabinet minister. No satisfactory explanation was given to explain the different treatment. Of course, the difference can only be their respective parliamentary chambers.

Governments are made and un-made in the House of Representatives. It's where the numbers matter most. Subjecting Joyce to d the same standard as Canavan would have cost the government a vote in the house, where it has the barest of majorities.
This political expediency puts the government's political interests ahead of the national interest. We already have somewhat d of a lack of community trust in our political system and institutions. Allowing members who appear to be in breach of the constitution to continue to exercise their vote threatens to undermine that trust further.

Just when we thought the parliamentary sitting week could not grow crazier, Pauline Hanson donned the burqa and Senator Fiona Nash declared herself a Scot.

Like her leader, the deputy leader of the Nationals has no intention of giving up her vote or her cabinet post.
And we wonder why people are shaking their heads!

Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make the 40th anniversary of the Goannas' 1977 Grand Final win such a success. It was an achievement worth celebrating and it was celebrated well. Go the Goeys.
Joel Fitzgibbon is the Federal MP for Hunter.

The Canberra Report was first published in the Cessnock Advertiser on Wednesday 23 August 2017. 

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