Federal parliament enters its last week before the winter break ready to approve legislation for the Voice referendum but with the government’s proposed $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund still in the balance.
After marathon debates in both houses, a vote in the Senate early Monday will see the parliamentary process for the referendum done.
With concern in the government the “yes” campaign is struggling, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said on Sunday: “We always knew that this was going to be difficult. This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.
"Now that we have almost finished the work in the parliament, the campaigns will kick in,” she told Sky. No date has yet been announced for the vote.
As it battles for Greens support for its housing fund, the government announced at the weekend an immediate $2 billion for an accelerated social housing program.
The Greens are still calling for action on rents as a condition for support, but will be under considerable pressure to compromise. They will meet on Monday to consider their position, but may not make a decision then.
The housing money will be delivered to the states and territories in the next fortnight. Anthony Albanese spoke with first ministers on Friday.
Albanese and housing minister Julie Collins said there could be “some flexibility” in how the money is spent. It could include “new builds, expanding programs, renovating or refurbishing existing but uninhabitable stock”.
Albanese at the weekend lashed out at the Greens, telling the Victorian Labor conference they were “a party of protest – happy to promise the world, while organising a petition against every new apartment building that’s proposed”.
Parliamentarians return to Canberra still shell-shocked by last week’s drama, that saw the re-raising of the Brittany Higgins matter and culminated in Peter Dutton tossing Victorian senator David Van out of the Liberal Party’s party room. Van is now a crossbencher.
That followed allegations of his inappropriate behaviour from crossbencher Lidia Thorpe, former Liberal senator Amanda Stoker and an unidentified third woman.
Dutton has also said Van should leave parliament.
Van at the weekend resigned from the Liberal Party, still rejecting the allegations and complaining about the party’s “wholesale disregard for due process and natural justice”. The Victorian administrative committee had been due to meet about the allegations.
Van will not be in parliament this week.
After their pursuit of Finance Minister Katy Gallagher over what she knew ahead of time about the Higgins matter backfired, triggering the allegations against Van, the Liberals have to decide whether to continue to press Gallagher. Liberal sources on Sunday expected they would.
Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie said she had heard “rumours” about Van but “I wasn’t aware of any specific allegations”.
She told the ABC Thorpe “was absolutely within her right to use parliamentary privilege to raise those issues as she did”.
Meanwhile controversial right-winger Teena McQueen was dumped as a Liberal federal vice-president, when the party’s federal council voted for positions on Friday. McQueen caused outrage among many Liberals last year when she said: “The good thing about the last federal election is a lot of those lefties are gone. We should rejoice in that”.