There is every chance the Parliament will not come back in February next year. The Government that filibustered for hours in the Senate last Thursday and closed down the House of Representatives at 4.30pm rather than risk facing defeat over a Border Protection amendment, has merely delayed the inevitable.
As politicians decamped from Parliament House for the summer break, Labor staffers were surprised to be confronted by their Liberal counterparts at the airport with so much luggage, it suggested they had cleared out their desks.
The speculation is that when the Treasurer hands down his midyear economic review next Monday it will do the work of the foreshadowed April Budget. It will show the first surplus in over a decade, despite a slowing economy in the latest national accounts. It will be a springboard for the Liberals to go to an early March election as planned by Malcolm Turnbull before he was rolled five months ago.
This timetable, so it is thought by NSW Liberals, will give the Berejiklian Government clearer air at the end of March when its fixed-term election is due. But the real motivating force is the prospect of the Morrison Government being the first in over 90 years to see its legislation defeated on the floor of the Parliament.
Labor, the Greens and the crossbench in the Senate and the House have the numbers to attach an amendment to a Government immigration bill that would enshrine in law the medical circumstances to bring asylum seekers off Nauru and Manus Island. As Doctors Without Borders (the French medical aid agency Médicins Sans Frontiers) has found, after five years these detained men, women and children are showing all the symptoms of torture victims and are in urgent need of treatment in Australia.
The Senate passed the amendments which meant the view of two diagnosing doctors would be given legal weight that could only be ignored by a minister for security reasons. Any rejection of this advice would have to be reported to the Parliament. The House was set to agree with these amendments until a panicked Morrison closed it down before a vote could be held.
In a piece of desperate hyperbole, the Prime Minister claimed this would end off-shore detention as we know it and lead to a new flood of boats. The absurdity of this claim was shown by Immigration Minister David Coleman telling Sky News 700 refugees have been brought from off-shore detention in past five years; that and the fact that the 1,000 bound for the USA did not trigger any new flood. The Morrison Government was politicising national security for its own political purposes.
Morrison told Channel 9 he was already moving kids off the island and within weeks only six would be left. So his Trump-like claim that “Shorten was a clear and present threat to Australia’s safety” is simply incredible.