It’s another big day in parliament, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison set to reveal a reworked “Closing the Gap” strategy, the government facing the risk of another defeat on the floor of the House and refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi visiting parliament. Follow all the latest news live.
PLAN TO WAIVE TEACHERS’ HECS DEBTS
Scott Morrison will hand down his first Closing the Gap report today and announce a plan to waive teachers’ HECS debts if they work in remote Indigenous communities.
The report is expected to contain plenty of disheartening news, with progress on five of the seven goals not on track.
HANSON: BURSTON ‘NEEDS ANGER MANAGEMENT’
Pauline Hanson spoke to reporters about her spat with Brian Burston — and his physical altercation with her adviser James Ashby last night — as she arrived at parliament.
“I just think it’s retaliation and it’s a shame that this is happening in parliament, it’s not what I wanted to see happen,” Ms Hanson said.
“You know, he really needs to go and get some anger management. It’s a real shame. I don’t need to see this, I hold this place up very highly. What’s happened is so wrong.
“It wasn’t a fight, you know,” she said of last night’s altercation.
“That will come out. I can’t really speak on behalf of James Ashby because I wasn’t there at the time.”
SHORTEN: GOVERNMENT USING ‘FEAR AND HYSTERIA’
Bill Shorten has accused the government of seeking to “whip up fear and hysteria” and “lure people smugglers” to restart the boats.
“They just want to rule by fear and slogans, they should be ashamed of themselves for luring people to Australia by somehow implying that this country doesn’t have strong borders,” Mr Shorten told reporters after attending the International Women’s Day Breakfast.
“People smugglers are vicious criminals. They will twist the words of the current government.”
He warned the government’s rhetoric on asylum seekers could have “tragic consequences”.
But Mr Shorten said he was not worried the debate would hurt him politically.
“I think Australians can see through desperate political tactics,” he said.
“I think this country in 2019 is not the same nation as 2001. I do not believe that Australians want a government that governs by slogans and fear.”
The Labor leader said he would not be “distracted” from other issues.
“This government loves to talk about boats. But it never talks about the fact that everything is going up in Australia except wages.
“Why after six long years are the energy prices of Australians out of control?
“Be it the circus antics in One Nation, be it the government’s policy of fear and slogans, we’re not going to get distracted.”
Speaking of One Nation, Mr Shorten had only a brief comment on the spat between Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston.
“Violence is unacceptable. The footage that I’ve seen has no place in parliament.
“Some of these small parties are just consumed with themselves. It would be comic, except it isn’t.
“Clearly One Nation has descended back into chaos, which it tends to do.”
HAKEEM VISITS PARLIAMENT
Hakeem Al-Araibi is in Canberra today to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
The refugee footballer, who was freed from a Thai prison earlier this week, visited the Senate Oval at parliament this morning, where he observed a football game held to welcome him back to Australia.
Former Socceroo and Matildas captains Craig Foster and Kate Gill were there. Mr Foster played an instrumental role in building international pressure on Thailand to release Mr Al-Araibi.
Today he thanked Mr Morrison and Ms Payne for their help.
“This is just one example of what we all should be doing,” Mr Foster said.
“Football and the broader sports community — we had Olympians, rugby union, everyone came out — I think have demonstrated what should happen for every vulnerable human being.
“He (Hakeem) is a young man who deserves the same opportunities as you and I have.”
Ms Payne acknowledged Mr Al-Araibi’s desire to become an Australian citizen, and told him he and his wife would be Australians very soon.
The footballer’s local MP Andrew Giles told him he would write to the government about granting him citizenship.
“I’ve got a letter to give to the immigration minister on your behalf,” Mr Giles said.
“Thank you so much,” Mr Al-Araibi replied.
ONE NATION HARASSMENT ROW EXPLODES
Senator Brian Burston and One Nation adviser James Ashby physically clashed in Parliament House last night amid claims and counterclaims of sexual harassment involving Pauline Hanson.
Mr Burston told The Australian Mr Ashby ran up to him as he and his wife were leaving a dinner function and put a phone close to his face.
“I told him to f*** off,” he said.
Mr Burston claims Mr Ashby then pursued he and his wife.
“I lost it,” he said.
“I grabbed him and I pushed him against the wall.”
Mr Ashby said the senator’s claims were false and he had been trying to take images of Ms Hanson leaving the same function when Mr Burston attacked him.
Mr Burston was once a member of One Nation, but left the party after falling out with Ms Hanson. He now represents Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
On Tuesday, Ms Hanson accused an unnamed senator of sexually harassing his staff and using taxpayers’ money to pay some of them off.
Yesterday Mr Burston revealed she was referring to him. He told the Daily Telegraph it was “bulls***” and one of the reasons he left One Nation was because of sexual harassment from Ms Hanson spanning two decades.
She laughed off that allegation on Paul Murray Live last night, saying she was not “that desperate”.
“I cannot stop laughing over this, I think it’s hilarious. I’m sorry I should be serious about it but I can’t stop laughing about it,” Ms Hanson said.