Pyne’s emotional speech unites house

CHRISTOPHER Pyne has delivered an emotional valedictory speech to the House of Representatives, in which tears were shed, and rare scenes of unity were on display.

The Minister for Defence will make his political exit after almost 27 years in parliament, and paid tribute to his family, colleagues, and his own record as a frontbencher.

The Opposition also imparted warm words for Mr Pyne, who even received a hug from senior Labor MP Anthony Albanese.

"After almost 27 years it's time for a new one in Sturt again. I like to thank the Liberal Party in South Australia and in Sturt for giving me the opportunity to carry the Liberal banner in this seat for nine elections for over a quarter of a century. They're a wonderful group of people." Mr Pyne told the House.

"I'd also like to thank my family, my wife, Carline, my children, Eleanor, Barnaby, Felix and Aurelia as well as my extended family, we are a tight-knit group. My family have been with me every step of my political career. I volunteered, but they were con scripted. Yet they supported me willingness and graciously.

Mr Pyne was emotional after making his valedictory speech during Question Time today. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
Mr Pyne was emotional after making his valedictory speech during Question Time today. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

"As Minister for Defence I have been responsible for the build-up of the military capability, the largest in Australia's peacetime history. At the same time we have fundamentally used to reshape our industrial base.

"These are the major status largest projects in 75 years and with other members of the National Security committee, created the Pacific step up to support Australia strategic position in the South Pacific. Whomever follows me in this role will be the luckiest person in the government."

He said he was confident the new Liberal candidate for Sturt, James Stevens, would retain the seat for the Liberal party, and thanked members on all sides of the house. But he admitted some "dreadful" figures had sat in the chamber over the years.

"This place brings out the best of us and the worst in our. I've seen some truly dreadful people come through here over the last quarter of a century, Mr Speaker. It is true," Mr Pyne said.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese huged Mr Pyne after he delivered his valedictory speect. Picture: AAP/Sam Mooy
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese huged Mr Pyne after he delivered his valedictory speect. Picture: AAP/Sam Mooy

"But I've seen many more outstanding people, Mr Speaker, including my current colleagues. Something drives us all to get here, in most cases a fierce competition internally within our own parties and then within the campaign.

"But we are driven on, nonetheless because my friends we know that each one of us that to get the chance to influence the society in which we live, to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens is worth the sacrifices. To be part of politics is to be part of history and no-one can take that away from anyone of us."

Labor MP Tony Burke also spoke warmly of Mr Pyne, saying: "Wherever your career takes you, particularly if you are there at an awards night, receiving a Logie award for future theatrical performance, please remember, we were all there with you at the beginning. Good luck."

Mr Pyne joins a number of Liberal MPs resigning at the upcoming federal election, including Kelly O'Dwyer, Julie Bishop, Craig Laundy, Michael Keenan and David Bushby.

LIBS' BOLD FASHION CHOICE LAUNCHPAD FOR JIBE

Think Julie Bishop is the only pollie who can make a sartorial statement in parliament? Think again.

A Liberal MP has just set a new benchmark in fashion during Question Time.

The drama in Canberra took a bizarre when Liberal MP Andrew Laming's floral-print shirt used to make a point during Question Time - likely the final one before the election is called.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and other members of the Coalition were in fits of laughter over Laming's outfit, which appeared to be from 1989.

"I thank the member for Bowman for his question and I'm glad he's wearing a shirt from 1989, Mr Speaker," Frydenberg said, referencing the loud shirt.

"The year that Labor last delivered a surplus!

"20 years ago, the wall was still standing. The Simpsons as their first episode and I had a mullet, Mr Speaker. They were the days!"

It’s 1989! Liberal MP Andrew Laming wearing the floral-print shirt with a teal tie and cobalt blazer. Picture: Gary Ramage
It’s 1989! Liberal MP Andrew Laming wearing the floral-print shirt with a teal tie and cobalt blazer. Picture: Gary Ramage

ENVIRONMENT FINDING

A Liberal MP has announced funding for local environment groups when applications for the recently-announced program had not yet even opened. In three now-deleted Facebook posts, Chris Crewther announced a total of $37,500 for three environment groups in his electorate.

In the posts, seen by AAP, Mr Crewther writes that he is making the funding announcements alongside Environment Minister Melissa Price.

The environment minister features in videos with the Dunkley MP in each post. But government frontbencher Simon Birmingham denied Ms Price was involved. "The minister didn't make any announcements or funding commitments," he told a Senate estimate shearing in Canberra on Thursday.

Prime minister Scott Morrison with member for Dunkley, Chris Crewther. Picture: The Australian
Prime minister Scott Morrison with member for Dunkley, Chris Crewther. Picture: The Australian

Department officials did not travel with Ms Price to Mr Crewther's Victorian electorate.

Environment Department official Steve Costello said applications were expected to open in September.

Each electorate will get $150,000 under the program for environmental projects, which will be nominated by the area's sitting MP.

The posts are understood to have been made last month, about a fortnight after the funding program was announced.

FINAL BOW FOR CIOBO

Outgoing federal parliamentarian Steven Ciobo is the man to ask if you want to know who will come second in an Australian political contest. By his own admission, he has a knack for picking runners-up, dating back to his support for Peter Costello during the Howard government.

The Queensland Liberal MP, who is leaving parliament at this year's election after 17-and-a-half years, more recently backed Peter Dutton in his failed bid to become prime minister.

"It was like a reverse sleeping beauty fairytale," Mr Ciobo told parliament in his valedictory speech on Thursday.

"My kiss would put a person to sleep politically, for 100 years." Mr Ciobo became the Member for Moncrieff in 2001 after a challenging campaign during which his predecessor sued him for defamation for comments made at a branch meeting.

Minister for Defence Industry Steven Ciobo formally announces his retirement from politics. Picture: AAP
Minister for Defence Industry Steven Ciobo formally announces his retirement from politics. Picture: AAP

He now looks back fondly on his achievements in parliament since 2001. They include campaigning for personal income tax relief and voluntary student unionism and against the coalition's proposed Access Card.

He's been a frontbencher for the past six years and thanked successive prime ministers Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison for the opportunities.

Mr Ciobo noted he had contributed to a series of international agreements in his most recent role as trade minister.

Mr Ciobo, in particular, thanked Health Minister Greg Hunt for his support of Heart Kids, an organisation that supports children born with heart defects. His own son Asher is one such child.

"This is not about Asher, this is about the families that will follow in our footsteps," he said.

"There are so many for whom Heart Kids become heart angels."

NDIS DEMAND WILL BE FULLY MET: MORRISON

Scott Morrison is defending his government against accusations its Budget surpluses are built on the backs of Australians with disabilities.

The prime minister insists the National Disability Insurance Scheme is on a steady footing after money expected to have been spent on it this financial year was reallocated to the Budget's bottom line.

In last year's Budget, the government projected it would spend $7.2 billion on the NDIS, according to the 2018/19 portfolio budget statement. The figures released on Tuesday night show the estimated actual spend for the year will be just $5.3 billion.

Mr Morrison said the difference is because the estimated demand at July this year now won't be met until July next year.

"If these estimates are proved to be too conservative and the demand is greater for the NDIS, those bills will be fully met," he told reporters on the outskirts Queanbeyan NSW on Thursday.

"This is the biggest social program we have seen put together in this country since Medicare and of course it's going to have its challenges.

"The demand is ramping up significantly and as that demand continues to ramp up, every single package will be supported, every single cent will be delivered."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash during a press conference at a residential building site in Googong today. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash during a press conference at a residential building site in Googong today. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said while the Prime Minister was technically correct to say the scheme was not underfunded, the lower spend indicated the rollout wasn't keeping up with where it should be.

"Seventy-seven thousand more people should have got an NDIS package this year than [the number who] did. That's what the underspend represents," she told Sky News.

Her comments come as Bill Shorten prepares to announce big tax cuts for people earning less than $40,000 a year as part of his Budget reply speech tonight.

Labor says 57 per cent of taxpayers on low incomes are women, and they will pay more tax under the Coalition's proposed tax cuts outlined in Tuesday's budget than they will under Labor's plan.

"Whether it's lower taxes, better super, or universal preschool, Labor is the party for working mums and working families," Mr Shorten will say. "Families are already dealing with cuts to child care and no funding certainty for kindergarten under the Liberals, the last thing they need is higher taxes under the Liberals."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shaking hands with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg before appearing on morning TV out the front of Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten shaking hands with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg before appearing on morning TV out the front of Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

MARGINAL SEATS

While Budget modelling shows most of the benefit from tax cuts will flow to urban areas and not regional areas, the government's biggest infrastructure spends are aimed at country Australia - and marginal Liberal and National party seats.

But Nationals deputy leader Senator Bridget McKenzie has dismissed this on ABC radio this morning as a coincidence.

"What your seeing is a government that's interested in investing in our productive capacity as a nation," Ms McKenzie said. "The fact that … the majority are held by coalition MPs, doesn't play into that at all."

Senator McKenzie said the Labor package had to be looked at as a whole.

"And while Bill's handing out tax cuts in one hand, his other hand's actually reaching into your back pocket and grabbing your wallet," she said.

"There's $200 million worth of additional taxes that he's actually putting on Australians. We know that rents will be higher we know that your house price will be lower. "

Senator McKenzie said the Coalition had a focus on reviving regional Australia.

"And it's why we've got a holistic plan to grow the liveability of our regions through connecting them to our capital cities, create digital connectivity, record investment into health and education services out in the regions while also backing our wealth producing industries and small businesses to grow those jobs."

Senator McKenzie said there was no money in the Budget for the Murray Basin Plan as what regional farmers and communities needed was rain: "You know what's going to help the Murray Darling Basin system? It's farmers, its people and the environment? It will be rain, it will be more water into the system. That's the reality".

BUDGET REPLY

The Budget reply speech is also expected to include a major health announcement, launching an election campaign that Labor wants to be fought on Medicare. The opposition will target lower taxes for low income and part-time workers, $400 million to boost superannuation, and universal preschool for three and four year olds.

Mr Shorten told Nine his budget plan would be funded "because we are willing to make the tough economic decisions, reforming unsustainable tax loopholes, cracking down on the top end of town and people not paying their proper share of corporate taxation and multinationals, Labor can get to the trifecta. We can make sure we provide a proper tax refund to working Australians, reverse the cuts to hospitals and schools of course we can help pay down national debt more quickly which is at the highest level than it's ever been in the history of the federation under this government."

Labor says a retail worker on $35,000 a year would get a tax cut of $255 a year under the Liberals, compared to $350 in Labor's original plan. And a part-time nurse on $40,000 a year would get a tax cut of $480 a year under the Liberals, compared to $508 under Labor.

The Parliamentary Library found there are 2.9 million taxpayers earning less than $40,000, and 57 per cent of those taxpayers are women.

Labor says many will be mums working part-time.

The Coalition has targeted income tax cuts as a key plank in its campaign to win a third term.

Last year's $530 tax offset for low and middle-income earners was doubled in Tuesday night's Budget to $1080 for more than 10 million taxpayers earning up to $126,000 a year.

About 4.5 million Australian workers will get the full amount, starting from next year, should the Coalition be returned.

PLIBERSEK ON 'CLASS WAR'

Speaking to the Today Show this morning, Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek rejected suggestions Labor was engaging in 'class warfare'.

"I don't understand why it's called class war," she said. "To look out for people on low incomes … that's just what we call fair in Australia. What's not fair is a government that proposes a tax cut of $5 per week if you're earning $35,000 per year and $11,000 per year if you're on 200 grand. That's not fair."

And fairness, she said, was also a concern for the Coalition.

"The government has backflipped in the name of fairness on one of its big spending projects, the one-off energy assistance payments," Ms Plibersek said.

"On the energy payment, the government forgot to include or deliberately excluded not just Newstart recipients but Austudy, widow's pension, double orphan pension, veterans … There was a whole bunch of people that were excluded by this government. The budget was released at 7:30 on Tuesday night. By 7am the next day they were having crisis meetings."

Ms Plibersek said a Newstart review would address concerns raised by social welfare groups and the Business Council of Australia.

"They know if you're on Newstart it's hard even to afford the public transport to get to the job interview or to buy yourself a clean shirt for the job interview," she said. "We need to get the amount of Newstart right. We do need to make sure that it's affordable for us as a nation but we are committed to looking at it."