The Senate passed a censure motion against Assistant Health Minister, Senator Fiona Nash, over her handling of a conflict-of-interest scandal in her office. The Opposition Senate Leader, Penny Wong, said, “It is a fundamental feature of our system of government that ministers are accountable to the parliament and through the parliament, to the Australian people.” Although the Senate has no power to remove a minister, the censure motion is intended to increase pressure on the Prime Minister to act.
Palmer defends attendance record
Since his election in November 2013, Clive Palmer has attended parliament for 14 out of 24 sittings (58%). He defended his attendance, saying: “Not everything that happens in Parliament is of any substance or any reality. But what’s more important is that we think about the people in this country and look after them.”
Courts gain some financial independence
The Court Services Victoria Act 2014 was given Royal Assent last month, and has now commenced. It establishes a new body called Court Services Victoria, which will for the first time allow Victorian courts and tribunals to administer their own budgets, free from control by the Department of Justice.
Male / Female / Other
The High Court is hearing the case of Norrie, an androgynous person arguing their birth certificate should record their sex as “non specific”. In this interview, Norrie explains the background to the case.
Institutionalised sexism in the law?
A study of High Court decisions from 1994-2011 suggests that the gender of the judges and barristers involved in a case has a measurable impact on the result: “We find that an appellant represented in oral argument by a female barrister, opposed to a respondent represented in oral argument by a male barrister, is less likely to receive a High Court justice’s vote.”
Quiet time in parliament
Labor party complains government has run out of legislation to debate: “Last week parliament passed just two relatively minor pieces of legislation and on Monday afternoon government business was taken up by members responding to the governor general’s speech opening the new parliament last November.”
Senate might clip govt’s wings
The Abbott Government may have difficulty passing its proposed reforms of the airline industry, as minor party and independent crossbenchers hold the balance of power in the Senate—and the re-run of the WA Senate election due to lost ballot papers might make it even tougher.
Follow the money
The Commonwealth government has prepared a bill to expand police powers to seize unexplained wealth. However, critics say a single national scheme is required, although States are reluctant to give up their power.
Minister’s role to be scrutinised
A parliamentary inquiry will be established to investigate the death of an asylum seeker in an Australian offshore detention centre: “the inquiry will review the conduct of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, ‘before, during and after the incident’.”
A fix for what’s not broken: why Australia doesn’t need voter ID: “Are new rules needed to stop multiple voters from undermining Australian elections?”