Parliament has now risen for the year, and the final weeks of sitting were spent continuing to debate Budget measures and reflecting on the year.
As Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, I’ve been prosecuting the case against the Government’s 1.5 percent below inflation pay offer to Australian Defence Force personnel. Australia’s servicemen and women can’t negotiate their pay, and can’t take industrial action, so the community has rallied behind them to ask the Government for a fair pay deal. The father of an ADF member, Tony Dagger, has produced a petition, which has more than 60,000 signatures and is growing by the day.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s higher education package was defeated in the Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the Lower House and is yet to be debated. Despite that, the Minister’s department has launched an advertising campaign selling the changes.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed a series of migration laws presented by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, which will introduce temporary protection visas.
Post-Parliament, the Government backed down on its Paid Parental Leave Scheme, which will be re-worked into an “holistic families package”, with the details to be announced next year.
The Government also backed down on its $7 GP tax. The tax will not apply to concession card holders, children under 16, veterans and pensioners. However, the Medicare rebate for other patients will be reduced by $5 for each visit, with cost recovery at the discretion of doctors.
From the Opposition’s point of view, 2014 has been about holding the Government to account. In 2015, Labor will develop a new platform at our conference in July and present a positive plan to take to the Australian people at the next election. Our plan will outline our vision for a smart, fair and inclusive Australia.
I’m looking forward to 2015, but as we draw to the end of 2014 wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Most importantly, I wish you safe travels should you be venturing from Hong Kong.