Parliament ends year after chaotic fortnight for Scott Morrison
The Morrison government has been plunged into chaos after a frantic final sitting fortnight that ended with a cabinet minister stood aside over abuse allegations.
Parliament ended for the year with Prime Minister Scott Morrison fighting to regain control with key parts of the government’s agenda were shelved.
The chaotic fortnight came to a head on Thursday after Education Minister Alan Tudge was stood aside.
An investigation has been launched into claims he was abusive to his former staffer and lover, Rachelle Miller.
Ms Miller, who went public with her 2017 extramarital affair with Mr Tudge last year, made allegations on Thursday that the Minister had been emotionally, and on one instance physically, abusive.
While she maintains the relationship was consensual, she described it as complex, and the result of intense power dynamics.
“I was completely under his control. He war-gamed lines with me, telling me to stay silent, telling me that we were in this together, that people were trying to destroy us, his career, my career,” she said.
“This relationship was defined by a significant power dynamics.”
Mr Tudge has vehemently denied the allegations, and said he welcomes the independent review, which will be led by Vivienne Thom.
“Ms Miller and I had a consensual affair in 2017 as both of us have publicly acknowledged. This is something I deeply regret,” he said in a statement.
“I regret having to say these things. I do not wish Ms Miller ill but I have to defend myself in light of these allegations, which I reject.
“The contradictory written evidence will be referred to a full, independent review. I welcome such a process and will make available both myself and all materials, and co-operate in every way.”
Ms Miller’s calls for “every woman in this building” to stand with her and speak out against “what happened” to her comes just two days after the government released the long-awaited Jenkins Review.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins offered 28 recommendations to the Morrison government.
The review found that one in three people in parliament had experienced sexual harassment, and 77 per cent witnessed or experienced bullying.
Back inside the House, the government failed to get two contentious bills off the ground this fortnight, including the religious freedom bill it had promised at the last election.
Mr Morrison introduced the bill last week, and preliminary debate began on Thursday before it was adjourned.
As it stands, the act allows religious schools to discriminate on the basis of factors including sexuality and gender identity “in good faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion or creed”.
Labor indicated its “broad support” for protecting people from religious discrimination, but will withhold its final position until two inquiries hand down their reports.
Given parliament will not sit again until February, it’s unclear whether Mr Morrison will be able to pass the legislation before the election, due by May.
The Morrison government quietly dropped its attempt to pass new voter identification laws in the final days of parliament, after weeks of mounting pressure.
The proposal, which was blasted as “racist” by some MPs and Indigenous activists, failed to attract support from key crossbenchers.
The laws would have required Australians to present a form of identification when voting, a move the Opposition said was unnecessary given extremely low rates of voter fraud.
The Liberal Party is racing to find new candidates for some of its key seats, after former attorney-general Christian Porter announced he would quit politics.
It comes after he was demoted from cabinet earlier in the year for using a “blind trust” to pay his legal fees for defamation action against the ABC.
Mr Porter strenuously denies historical rape allegations against him which were the subject of the ABC story.
In announcing his resignation to his constituents via Facebook, Mr Porter said there were “few, if any constants left if modern politics”.
“Perhaps the only certainty now is that there appears to be no limit to what some will say or allege or do to gain an advantage over a perceived enemy,” he said.
“This makes the harshness that can accompany the privilege of representing people, harder than ever before.
“But even though I have experienced perhaps more of the harshness of modern politics than most, there are no regrets.”
Mr Porter was one of two major resignations from the government announced this week, alongside Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Mr Hunt served as the member for Flinders for 20 years and has steered Australia through the Covid-19 pandemic, but announced he was standing down to spend time with his family, admitting his children had told him it was time to come home and be a “proper dad”.
Mr Hunt played a key role in the Covid-19 pandemic response.
State vaccine mandates also caused headaches for the Prime Minister this week.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson introduced a bill into the Senate that would enable the federal government to override state mandates, and end “discrimination” against Australians who are not vaccinated.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie lashed Senator Hanson, calling on Australians opposed to mandatory vaccinations to “be a Goddamn bloody adult” and put others before themselves.
“If you get behind the wheel of a car and drive twice the speed, you are putting other people’s lives at risk. You don’t have the right to do that,” she said.
The bill was opposed by the major parties and a number of crossbenchers, but two Liberal backbenchers crossed the floor to support the bill.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan broke ranks with the government, alongside Liberal backbenchers Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic, and three others.
Senator Rennick said politicians should “not be holding people to ransom”.
Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer also crossed the floor this week, siding with the cross bench and Labor in calling for a federal corruption watchdog.
While the government claims to have its own draft bill for an anti-corruption commission, Ms Archer voiced her support for independent MP Helen Haines’ bid for a stronger watchdog.
Dr Haines praised Ms Archer for her move, hailing her for her “bravery” in going against her own party to follow her moral compass.
Ms Archer was pulled into a “frank” meeting with Mr Morrison after her move.
Ms Archer said she was feeling emotional, and would have preferred not to have been forced into the meeting with the Prime Minister, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and Minister for Women Marise Payne.
Mr Morrison described the meeting as “friendly, warm and supportive”.
Originally published as Parliament ends year after chaotic fortnight for Scott Morrison
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails