New Speaker comes first in return of MPs
Parliament’s return after a lively winter break will start like a dud firecracker: with a bit of a bang but not much show.
All eyes will be on the empty Speaker’s chair on Monday morning, with the first order of business for the lower house choosing a replacement for Bronwyn Bishop.
Victorian Liberal MP Tony Smith appears to be firming as the favourite.
Who actually gets the spot will be decided at an early morning Liberal party-room meeting after Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged to support the choice of his backbenchers, rather than opt for another one of his increasingly dubious “captain’s pick”.
After the chosen MP is ceremonially dragged to the Speaker’s chair – sporting a smaller grin than Mrs Bishop wore 21 months ago – parliament will pause in memory of West Australian Liberal Don Randall, who died in July.
One of the earliest tasks for the new Speaker will be setting a by-election date for Randall’s seat of Canning.
As a sign of respect for the late MP question time has been put on hold and debate limited to private member’s business, including Labor leader Bill Shorten’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
Liberal Warren Entsch is expected to give notice of a similar cross-party bill that won’t be debated until the following Monday.
Coalition MPs on Tuesday will be asked to endorse post-2020 carbon emission reduction targets that Australia intends taking to a global UN conference at the end of the year.
There are many MPs inside the government who don’t want Australia to act too strongly on climate change, even though Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to take a credible target to Paris.
The return of parliament marks six months since Mr Abbott faced what he described as a near-death experience from his Liberal colleagues, surviving a leadership spill motion.
A brace of major opinion polls, taken after the expenses scandals, will give coalition MPs an indication of where the government stands with voters almost two years after coming to power.
For the rest of the week the lower house will deal with more mundane matters, such as finishing up the red tape repeal job started in March.
The Senate is scheduled to debate two bills the government says crack down on union thuggery.