Recap: What has happened since Parliament last sat

We all remember the Prime Minister announcing the potential for a double dissolution election and have been inundated with news on the banks, but what else has happened since Parliament last sat?

Short answer — a lot.

Tax 'thought bubble' popped within 48 hours

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with his state and territory counterparts on April 1, where they effectively killed off an income tax proposal less than two days after it was unveiled.

Mr Turnbull said he had withdrawn the proposal for states and territories to levy a percentage of income tax independently in exchange for the axing of some Commonwealth grants, an admission that the Federal Opposition took as confirmation that the idea was a "thought bubble".

However, premiers and chief ministers did reach some agreement on funding, signing an agreement to receive $2.9 billion in hospital funding to June 2020.

On health issues, the Government also announced a trial for chronic patients, in order to give them access to a regular GP to manage their care needs.

Secret donors and helicopter rides

But it was not all signing documents for the cameras — the Prime Minister was also drawn into a donation scandal dogging the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, which was accused of deliberately concealing the identities of major donors to the 2011 state election campaign.

Mr Turnbull called on anyone in the Liberal Party who had not complied with electoral laws to "fess up", yet stood by his Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos, the state division's finance director and treasurer at the time.

The parliamentary break was also interrupted by the release of a report into MP entitlements, drawing more attention to the Liberal Party and former speaker Bronwyn Bishop with its recommendation that helicopter flights should only be chartered when there is a "compelling reason".

It also made recommendations on family flight provisions after Labor frontbencher Tony Burke used parliamentary entitlements to fly a number of his family members business class to Uluru under the expenses claim process.

Kids, contracts and striking staff

Immigration issues also made headlines over the past few weeks, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirming dozens of children would be returned to Nauru.

 


A double dissolution would mean all eight crossbenchers would be fighting to retain their seats. See how they are likely to vote.

Mr Dutton's statement came one day after he announced that there were no children in mainland detention. Although the ABC understands on the same day the last children in Australia were freed, an Immigration Department facility directly outside Villawood Detention Centre had locks removed and security altered.

Mr Dutton also faced pressure in the wake of the Panama Paper reports, with Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young calling for the Federal Government to strip Wilson Security of its contracts for offshore immigration detention centres after revelations the company had links to a Hong Kong corruption scandal.

Adding to the headache for the Government was the planned strike action by Australian Border Force staff, which was ultimately delayed by an interim order.

Staff had planned to carry out rolling strikes over pay and conditions earlier this month, but the Department of Immigration and Border Protection headed off the industrial action with a hearing at the Fair Work Commission.

High Court measures

An injunction was also handed out by the Federal Court during the parliamentary break, effectively pushing back the introduction of new minimum pay rates for contract truck drivers.

The new rates set by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal have become an unexpected election issue, with the Prime Minister pledging to abolish the independent body if his government is returned at the ballot box.

The Government is also facing court action after Family First Senator Bob Day lodged a High Court appeal against the new Senate voting reforms.

The case has been adjourned, but not before it was ridiculed by lawyers for the Commonwealth as "hopeless".

Where do the crossbenchers stand?

 
In favour

Bob Day

  • Senator Day was the first to confirm his support. He's a former building industry heavyweight himself who is ideologically in step with the Government on the need for the legislation.
  • Party: Family First
  • State: South Australia
  • 2013 election percentage: 3.8 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: The Senator would not face the voters in a normal election. In a double dissolution, ABC election analyst Antony Green is predicting Senator Day would have a good chance of re-election given his party Family First maintains a relatively consistent 4 per cent of the vote in his state.
 
Expected to oppose

Jacqui Lambie

  • Senator Lambie is strongly resisting this legislation and is one of the few senators who has confirmed she is not going to support it. While she could switch at the last minute, the independent Senator has been fiercely critical of the ABCC bill and is unlikely to change her view on the legislation.
  • Party: Independent
  • State: Tasmania
  • 2013 election percentage: 6.6 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: Under normal election circumstances Senator Lambie would not face voters, but in a double dissolution ABC election analyst Antony Green predicts she has a strong chance of retaining her Senate seat. She built a personal brand as part of the Palmer United Party and then deserted the party, citing irrevocable differences with Clive Palmer. She has built a significant following in her state, particularly on veterans' affairs and workers' rights issues.
 
Expected to oppose

John Madigan

  • The Victorian Senator has been resolutely opposed to the legislation, saying that it unfairly targets trade union leaders. He is unlikely to back it.
  • Party: Independent
  • State: Victoria
  • 2013 election percentage: 2.3 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: John Madigan will face the voters whatever happens because his six-year term is up. ABC election analyst Antony Green is predicting he will lose his seat to the Liberal Party.
 
Expected to oppose

Ricky Muir

  • Senator Muir has said previously he would back the second reading of the bill, but won't make a final decision until after the debate.
  • Party: Motoring Enthusiast Party
  • State: Victoria
  • 2013 election percentage: 0.5 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: Senator Muir would not face the voters in a normal election. In a double dissolution, ABC election analyst Antony Green is predicting the new Senate voting system would be a major impediment to his chances of re-election. Senator Muir has the lowest primary percentage of the vote of all the crossbenchers in the 2013 election and his fractional support was a key example used by the Government to justify its Senate voting changes to clamp down on preference deals between "micro-parties".
 
Unknown

Nick Xenophon

  • Senator Xenophon has previously indicated that he supports the bill, but appears to be pulling back from that position. He has also flagged that he wants to introduce some amendments.
  • Party: Independent
  • State: South Australia
  • 2013 election percentage: 24.9 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: Senator Xenophon would not be facing the voters in a normal election. In a double dissolution, ABC election analyst Antony Green has suggested he could win up to four Senate positions.
 
Unknown

David Leyonhjelm

  • Senator Leyonhjelm had backed the legislation but then withdrew his support in retaliation for the Government's changes to Senate voting laws. He now says he will not support the ABCC bill unless the Government reopens it for debate so he can introduce some amendments. He says a sunset clause on the bill is non-negotiable.
  • Party: Liberal Democrats
  • State: New South Wales
  • 2013 election percentage: 9.5 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: Senator Leyonhjelm would not be up for re-election in a normal election. Despite having a healthier percentage of the vote than most, he is still predicted to struggle to retain his seat in a double dissolution election.
 
Unknown

Dio Wang

  • Senator Wang has been sympathetic to the aims of the legislation but says he wants to make amendments to instead create a national anti-corruption body similar to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption.
  • Party: Independent
  • State: Western Australia
  • 2013 election percentage: 5.0 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: ABC election analyst Antony Green points out the Senate election re-run in 2013 pushed up the primary vote for Dio Wang to 12.3 per cent but he still suggests the Senator will struggle to retain his seat in a double dissolution. He would be assured another three years in Parliament if a normal election was held, as he would not face voters.  
 
Unknown

Glenn Lazarus

  • Senator Lazarus has withdrawn support, and would want any anti-corruption body to be expanded from the building industry.
  • Party: Independent
  • State: Queensland
  • 2013 election percentage: 9.9 per cent
  • Chance of re-election: Under a normal election Senator Lazarus would not face voters, but in a double dissolution his brand recognition — stemming from his former football career and high profile entry to politics as part of the Palmer United Party — are expected to serve him well in a double dissolution. ABC Election Analyst Antony Green predicts he would have a strong chance of being returned.
 

Source: ABC News

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