The final sitting week of parliament for 2013 will be without its two main protagonists as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten travel to South Africa to farewell Nelson Mandela.
The pair, who flew out of Canberra for Johannesburg on the prime minister’s plane, will miss most of this week’s action. Fifty-three heads of state and government have so far confirmed attendance at upcoming memorial events for peace icon Nelson Mandela, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says.
The dignitaries will include US President Barack Obama, along with three former American presidents, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Federal parliament paused to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela, with Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss describing him as a freedom fighter and a great man.
Leading a condolence motion in the House of Representatives, Mr Truss rose on Monday to record parliament’s “deep regret” for the former South African president’s passing.
“Madam speaker, our parliament pauses today to mark the loss of a great man, a freedom fighter who became a national healer, a prisoner who became a president,” he said ahead of question time.
“Very few leaders in human history have embodied their cause in the way that Nelson Mandela represented a free and equal South Africa.”
Farewell 2013 … maybe
But both major parties are expected to bid farewell to the parliamentary year on a typically acrimonious note, which could see in Mr Abbott deliver on his promise to keep the class back, possibly through Christmas, unless his legislative wishes are granted.
Mr Abbott wants the Senate to vote on the government’s carbon tax repeal bills this week.
Cabinet minister Greg Hunt says the Senate could vote on the legislation any day this week, even if Mr Abbott is absent from parliament.
“I think both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition are doing precisely what they should be doing in representing Australia at one of the world’s most significant events not just of the year, but of the decade,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“I think that it’s entirely appropriate, and it would be inappropriate for them not to attend on a bipartisan basis.”
The package of 11 bills already has cleared the lower house, but it’s unlikely Labor and the Australian Greens will let it pass the Senate.
Labor insists the carbon tax must be replaced by an emissions trading scheme before it will back the legislation.
While the vote over the carbon tax is expected to see the Green join forces with the ALP to vote against the government, it was a rare political alliance between the Greens and the coalition that saw the debt ceiling tossed into the dustbin of history.
The vote on Monday ended a parliamentary gridlock over the ceiling, which the government initially wanted to increase from $300 billion to $500 billion.
The ceiling was introduced by the Rudd government in 2008, starting with a cap of $75 billion. The coalition-Greens deal requires further debt reporting in the budget and its updates.
It also requires the government to deliver a debt statement whenever borrowings increase by $50 billion. The amended legislation requires the approval of the lower house, where the coalition has a majority.
— with The New Daily