Joel Fitzgibbon: Good luck to local councils

Congratulations to all those who were successful in the recent local government election. Thanks also to all who participated in the important democratic process.

Our region remains strong despite the downturn in the coal mining industry. Much of the credit goes to our local councils which in my view have enjoyed strong leadership and stable council membership. I wish our councils well.  While progress has been good, much more needs to be done and I look forward to working with them.

A JOB WELL DONE

Parliament was in session last week and the highlight was the agreement between the Government and the Opposition to secure more than $6 billion in Budget savings over the next four years. Both sides gave a bit and a compromise was found. That’s the sort of thing people expect of us in these uncertain political and economic times.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE SUPPORT: People in favour of marriage equality at a rally in Sydney.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE SUPPORT: People in favour of marriage equality at a rally in Sydney.

AN EXPENSIVE WASTE

The other big issue in Canberra last week was marriage equality.  As best we can tell, both a majority of MPs and Senators and a majority of Australians support a change to the Marriage Act.  Further, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition support the change.

So what’s the point of holding an expensive plebiscite?  What issue will the Parliament next delegate to a vote of the people if we send this one to them? 

We all go through an expensive election process to elect Australia’s MPs and Senators. Subsequently, people, including me, are well paid to represent our people.  We make all sorts of decisions (hopefully well informed) on your behalf, including the biggest of all, sending our young people to war.

The plebiscite is just a last ditch effort by right-wing members of Malcolm Turnbull’s Party Room to stop marriage equality in its tracks.  They hope to do so by causing a stir in the community and hopefully, an upset win. What would happen then? A plebiscite is not a referendum. It will not change the Constitution. It is merely an expensive opinion poll. 

Whatever the result, MPs and Senators will still have to decide how they should vote. Which raises another point: the Liberal and National right-wingers have made it clear that having pushed to spend millions of dollars on it, they have no intention of respecting the result if it’s not the one they were hoping for!

DISAPPOINTING CHANGE 

The most disappointing topic of debate last week was one over changes to the rules of the House (Standing Orders) which both restricted the capacity of the Opposition to move certain procedural motions and worse, to reduce our Parliamentary sitting hours.

Why did they make these changes? It’s all about the slim majority the Government has in the House. On procedural motions, they are fearful of losing. On sitting hours, Government Ministers want to be able to leave the building on sitting nights for functions.  When Governments have a strong House majority, a number of members can leave the building without risking losing a vote on the floor of the Chamber. Malcolm Turnbull does not have that luxury.

CONTACT ME

I am always keen to assist with issues relating to Federal Government. To contact my office, phone 1300 301 753 or post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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