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Red parliament
Cloudcatcher Media with Midjourney AI.

The Australian Senate was the site of most of the action last week as parliament resumed. On Friday, the red chamber sat alone, going until after 4am on Saturday morning as Liberals and Nationals spun out the debate on whether there should be a Voice referendum, led by the pen-pointing cyborg-impersonator Michaelia Cash.

Earlier in the week, the Senate heard parliamentary-protected allegations from independent Senator Lidia Thorpe that Victorian Liberal Senator David Van and other ‘powerful men’ in parliament had behaved inappropriately, with sexual comments, propositions and unwanted touching leading her to believe that federal parliament was not safe for women.

This was followed by further revelations about Senator Van from former Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker about sexual harassment, which led Liberal leader Peter Dutton to finally do something about this man whose only previous moment in the spotlight related to him making dog noises while Jacqui Lambie was speaking.

Victorian Senator David Van, a safe distance away from female parliamentarians, in Ukraine, 2022. Wikipedia CC.

Having been told to resign, Senator Van quit the Liberal Party, but refused to leave the Senate before the end of his term.


While the opposition sought to further weaponise the Lehrmann/Higgins rape allegation by attacking now Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher over how much she knew before the story became public back in 2021, a few things actually moved forward.

There was progress on the affordable housing debate (there will be an additional $2bn for social housing after sustained pressure from the Greens), and the government established Creative Australia to update and strengthen the old Arts Council, promising to improve things for the nation’s (non-operatic) artists since the bad old days of COVID and George Brandis.

In a week when the global climate crisis officially worsened, again (and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said ‘we are hurtling towards disaster, eyes wide open’), debate was postponed on Labor’s plan to give billions more to the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund (known for backing tropical white elephants), along with Zali Steggall’s associated proposal to remove climate-damaging projects from consideration for further public money.

Verbal torture

Late last week, the Senate’s attention swung back to the Voice referendum, with the opposition delaying the inevitable by subjecting government representatives and observers to a particularly unpleasant form of verbal torture which continued for most of Friday and then well beyond midnight, repeatedly asking questions which had already been answered, apparently in the hope of generating ammunition for further scare campaigning.

Labor Senators Murray Watt and Malarndirri McCarthy bore most of the brunt of this appalling, time wasting attack, led by Senators Michaelia Cash and Jacinta Nampijimpa Price, with support from Bridget McKenzie and a rotating gallery of sniggering supporters. Senator Pat Dodson, unwell, was not present in the chamber.

Independent Victorian Senator Lidia Thorpe.

After some fiery words of truth to power about the history of Australia, Senator Lidia Thorpe tried and failed to amend the bill to include a new section about the sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Senator Watt said the constitutional expert group had concluded that the Voice provision would have no impact on sovereignty. He said the Voice was necessary because it was a new approach to heal the wounds and injustices of the past, and all the old approaches had failed.

Over multiple questions, Michaelia Cash sought to discredit the Voice proposal on the grounds of legal jeopardy, cost, and risk.

Senator Jacinta Nampijimpa Price said the people who were invited to contribute to the Uluru Statement from the Heart were not truly representative. She talked at length about abuse of Aboriginal women by Aboriginal men, questioned whether the Voice would help remote communities in any way, and suggested that First Nations people (an inappropriate Canadian term, in her view), were already represented by people in parliament such as herself.

Senator Cash objected to Senator Watt’s answer to many questions of detail in the Voice, which was that these would be decided by parliament – comprising all parties – if the referendum succeeded.

Claiming to be acting in the interests of future Australians, and courts, Senator Cash wasted hours questioning already accepted definitions of such things as Aboriginality and executive power, apparently confusing the Senate for a courtroom and herself for a prosecutor.

Lawyers or communicators?

The whole sorry display was a reminder that lawyers are perhaps not the best people to be in parliament, with the adversarial system in their DNA and of little use in nation-building, where unification and joint purpose is required.

First-time NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who comes from a media background, said, ‘We have to improve the lives for our people across this country, First Nations and all Australians… That’s what this time in Australia’s history is about. To take the leap of faith to be a better people, a better country with all our faults, and to do it with dignity and determination.

Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Wikipedia CC.

‘This is your chance to be a part of something special to create the Australia that we could have done a long time ago, if we’d had the opportunity,’ she said.

Senator McCarthy described the referendum as ‘an invitation to walk in faith, with hope and with a great deal of love. That means everyone. We can do this. We should do this. We must do this,’ she said.

The 2023 referendum on a Voice to Parliament will only succeed if it achieves a majority of supporters in a majority of states. This is a very high bar to clear, as both sides know very well. No referendum has ever succeeded without bipartisan support, and only one referendum has ever succeeded under Labor.

The Senate is likely to approve the Voice referendum later today, with national campaigns pushing the Yes and No cases due to ramp up before the people of Australia have their say later this year (the ironically named Australians For Unity won deductible-gift status to campaign against the Voice on Friday).

Sadly, if what has happened so far is anything to go by, the nastiness and division surrounding this issue has barely begun.

David Lowe
David Lowe. Photo Tree Faerie

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.

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  1. It’s hardly a co-incidence that after ‘The Mean Girls’ [now down to just two examples] finding themselves in trouble over “misleading” statements during & after The Higgins Affair – ‘Hey Presto’ – up pops historic groping charges against Senator Van.
    But these two politically charged examples are wildly different.
    The difference being the sharp division between (alleged) carnal lust Vs outright politically-weaponised semantics and even dishonesty.
    Sadly, I suppose this will have play out as “equality” as a weak Labor response in the mud-slinging world of Federal party-politics.
    Nero’s reported actions ‘seen fiddling as Rome burned’ surely pale into insignificance in comparison to our emerging crises.

    • Well the mean girl, sky news garbage again.with comments like that no wonder women don’t come forward with complaints. How about adapting to the real world than repeat demagogue garbage.
      So tied of this Tory reaction to a court case.

      • Rod, you must have missed that it was now deceased Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching describing fellow Senators Gallagher, Keneally and Wong as “the mean girls”.

        You wonder why women don’t come forward, look no further than the Brittany Higgins situation where the ALP and the LNP are as bad as each other.

  2. One nation ..two races ..no thanks ..
    But yes very happy to happy our Aboriginal people’s recognised in the constitution…
    One proposal already put forward
    In WA any lands owners including
    Suburban blocks ..if you want to dig down
    As little as 100mm you will need permission
    From Aboriginal people’s culture awareness
    Bodies..no thanks ..

    • Diversity + Proximity = Conflict
      It’s not a matter of IF this continent will end up with multiple Nation States, it’s simply a matter of how much will be destroyed, and how many people will die, before the inevitable consequences of introducing radically different racial groups into a single polity, is accepted by the White populous.

    • Barrow, we’ve been here before about scare campaigns and city land blocks.
      A pity though that there wasn’t something similar already in place at Juukan Gorge, WA – a thousands of years old cultural site got blown to smitherens.

      • Scare campaigns and city blocks ?
        Joachim it’s not just maybe it will
        Happen if the voice gets up ..it was
        Live on the 6pm news in Perth ..
        Have many friends in WA ..
        As for what happened in WA
        How the hell did it ? Lack of respect
        Poor communication.. just one Question
        Joachim how will voting the Voice in improve
        The remaining 97% of the Nation ?

        • I’d love a few more details about this WA stuff, Barrow. However already own only the first few metres of your land. Any goodies below that are ripe for exploitation. The land above? Try stopping planes flying over.

          How will the rest of us be better? What about me? 🎶 🎶Just maybe:
          We’ll save some general revenue on schemes that don’t work because they are often, as the local mob say, devised after fly in fly out bureaucrats visit, half listen then take them back for some politico media speak.
          We’ll be a better country after coming to terms with our history.

          Who knows?

          • You don’t own the first few metres of your land. In fact you only own the title of ‘Owner’. Property rights and interests are retained by a government owned corporation called ‘King of Australia’. It’s written clearly on the bottom of your land title.

  3. It’s hard not to be sceptical when such circus performers are supposedly directing our nation. They’ve become overpaid buffoons!

    I’d be happy with more bread and less circus.

  4. What a brilliantly Lowe-key article by David. Manages to be insightful, informative and entertaining all at once. Learnt well the late great Mungo!

    • [Quote] ‘the pen-pointing cyborg-impersonator Michaelia Cash’.
      I’m glad Hans hates and smears MIchaelia Cash.
      It just shows how effective she is in doing her job on questioning Labor.
      As they are forever hiding their pre-planned Agendas from the too trusting hoi polloi electors.
      Keep it up Michaelia !

      • Hi Rob, our journalist David Lowe wrote this story NOT our editor Hans Lovejoy.

        I’m glad you like to smear Hans
        It just shows how effective he is in doing his job on questioning everything.

        • Well pointed out Eve – though I haven’t noted that much questioning of Greens policy anywhere in the Echo.

        • My apologies to Hans and David for my slip-up on my presumed authorTree Fairy, but anyone must agree all their articles are very much ‘peas in a pod’!

          • All blurs together after a while. You don’t get ‘duelling articles’ anymore at any of the legacy media outlets anymore. Hans throws in a little diversity here and there, sometimes, and it’s appreciated.

  5. Great summary of events! It just goes to show, that the LNP/ Hanson and the other usual suspects, filibustering debate till 3am in the morning! They can and will politicise anything and everything, aided and abetted by an absolutely gross MSM!
    Beware Australia, we are slipping into the disastrous thoroughly corrupted political/media epidemic that has already inflicted the USA? It’s amazing that there are people out there that would vote for these Dutton, Van, Hanson, Price, Thorpe, Cash, Ruston, Mackenzies. We all know what these people stand for, yet some people approve of this behaviour to the detriment of the basic fabric of society?
    Great to see that 12 Liberals ignored the deplorable Dutton Dog Whistle and supported the voice in the Senate vote!

    • Uh tweed..how many times have Labor been in power the last 50 years ? People vote and have
      Voted for the coalition the majority of times
      In those fifty years.. how could they 😭 or dare they

  6. Well David, you have shown that you are a are of the problem of our society’s malaise when you write such biased things as that.

    It is dishonest to not state that Senator Gallagher misled parliament and then lied saying she had not, when you have brought up the issue.

  7. Mr Adams, if Katie Gallagher knew of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, in the office of a Liberal Ministers office, who was part of a Liberal Govt, shortly afterwards, you would have to be the most naive person on the planet to not realize the entire Morrison Govt would have also known. This whole disgraceful attempt to somehow blame Katie Gallagher for “weaponizing the alleged rape” by the Coalition, is beyond contempt; and how good was it to see such a spectacular own goal from these unscrupulous thugs when they in turn lost one of their own Senators over more sexual assault allegations. There should be a lesson here for that potato-headed moron, “handle dangerous material with great care, it can blow up in your face”.

    • I thought the lesson would be that politicians and civil servants can’t be trusted. Thinking that female politicians and civil servants can be trusted is sexist.

    • Keith, WOW.
      Wow, what a post.
      Keith R U O K. Get some help, fast.

      Treatment of women, the ALP and LNP using sexual assault as some sort of sport for political point scoring.
      The Brittany Higgins situation, the people that I know are appalled at the ALP and LNP game playing.
      There is a sickness within both the ALP and LNP. They can’t help themselves, stepping into the sewer, desperately smearing each other and themselves with faeces.
      Then there is the sickness within people like yourself that want to celebrate some sort of political ‘win’ off the back of a sexual assault issue.
      Shame on the lot of you.

      Keith, the treatment of women.
      One would have thought that you might have learnt something by now.
      We had in 9/10/2012 ex-PM Julia deliver her famous ‘misogyny speech’ in parliament.
      It was a lightbulb moment that resonated around the world.
      We had 4/3/21 we had the ‘March 4 Justice’ rally outside of parliament.
      Treatment of women, Nothing changes, Nothing learnt.

      Keith, when is “enough is enough” for you, your ALP and the LNP?
      We can be better, we need to be a whole lot better than the slop served up by a sicko ALP and LNP.
      They aren’t fit to represent us.
      But here you are, its all about poor Katy and whooping it up at sordid point scoring.
      There really are no words.

      • Marx once said, ‘The key to success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’re set’. The key to success, in this time and place, is victimhood status.

      • Oh dear Joachim, you need to brush up your history as well as your maths. As someone who has actively fought for equality most of my life, including gender equality, I know which party has done more to advance the rights of women than any other.

        Breathtaking that you see the current situation as you do. You need to get some anger management strategies to deal with your Labor obsession.

        You didn’t listen to Amy Remeikis like I suggested did you? I’ve read your suggested sources!

        • Well now that straight White Men are the globally oppressed minority, I assume I will see you at the next meeting?

          • While straight, white men are a minority group (in that they’d be less than 50% of the population) I don’t really see that they are more “globally” oppressed than many other minority groups. Nonetheless, I think men (LGBTQI or straight, black or white) do face forms of oppression. To that extent, I’m with you brother! When and where’s the meeting? 🙋

          • Straight White men are about 3% of the population. At the beginning of the 20th century, we were 15%.

      • Tell me EXACTLY what point scoring Katy Gallagher has been doing in relation to Brittany Higgins? Who has begged the senate to consider Brittany Higgins’ mental health – your favourite senate leader, Penny Wong.

  8. Joachim, Joachim, Joachim, my man, you are not even making any sense any more, (as if you ever did), your anti everything rants are not even worthy of a dignified response, if you want to write idiotic posts that’s your problem, but don’t insult our intelligence; like I said, we know what you Green clowns are up to, and you definitely need to heed what happened to Dutton when the dangerous material he was handling blew up in his face when he tried to politicise the Brittany Higgins affair. It seems you Greens are never going to grow up and behave like responsible human beings.

    • Keith Ms Higgins politicised herself mate..
      She sat dormant for how long before making
      a complaint..not to police from the outset
      But to Lisa & Peter ..dumb & dumber ..
      and was promptly offered a six figure book
      Deal .. how convenient.. that whole sad saga
      had on purpose, and that was to portray
      The coalition as having a woman problem
      and Morrison was the number one Hit Job..
      The media went into meltdown especially the ABC
      and most others..! The national press club
      Debacle staring Ms Higgins and that ungrateful
      Ms Tame ..where everyone agreed with
      Everyone especially Ms impartial Tingle..
      The above 💯 percent was the undoing
      In the end for the Coalition.. !

    • Keith, we feeling your pain. Such a great disappointment for you that the Greens haven’t stooped down into the sewer to join your the ALP mob and the LNP in the sexual assault smear-a-thon.
      The Greens chose not to walk that ALP and LNP sewer pathway, the Greens learnt something about the treatment of women but your ALP mob and the LNP are the No-Learners. They will get their ‘reward’ soon enough, turning off more voters at the ballot box come next Fed Election.

      Keith: treatment of women, sexual assault; blame the Greens for not jumping into the sewer with your ALP and the LNP; blame the LNP duking it out over sexual assault with ALP; but never acknowledge the ALP dishing up its slop in the whole affair…calling Keith, “No one had any knowledge. How dare you. Its all about protecting yourself” – Katy Gallagher.
      From the ‘misogyny speech’ to ‘March 4 Justice’, we get the Australian no-Learner Party.

      • I asked you, how EXACTLY has Katy Gallagher, or any other Labor member, politicised the leaking of sub judice material from Brittany Higgins’ reluctantly surrendered phone.

        You need to provide a little more than this hyperbolic hysteria that just makes you sound like a ranter.

        • Lizardbreath, “no one had any knowledge…”, except that poor Katy did and away she and her ALP mates went, turning sexual assault into a political point scoring game.
          And poor old Albo he hitched his horse to this rubbish and now with a straight face tells us there no misleading of Parliament, just more of the same game play bollocks.
          But hey, keep voting for this “new politics”, Lol and restoring “integrity and transparency”, Lol.

          • HOW did they turn it into a point scoring exercise? You’ve repeated yourself rather than supplying the elucidation.

            Tell me you’re not in fierce agreement with your mate Barrow above?

      • Joachim, Joachim, my man, we are seeing your self inflicted pain, are you alright?, from what far-flung region of your troubled brain did you dream up that little gem of an incoherent rant, again it’s not even worthy of a dignified response, have you been a naughty boy and been listening to Donald Trump again, and got infected with his alternate facts my man? We know you Greens are under enormous pressure, not only from the Labor Govt but also from the majority of the cross-bench to stop grandstanding and pass Labors much needed Affordable Housing Legislation. You see this is one of the heinous consequences resulting from rogue Greens like yourself selling their souls and getting down into the sewer with the likes of Peter Dutton, Michaelia Cash, Sussan Ley and Pauline Hanson, over their deplorable attempt to smear Katy Gallagher that spectacularly blew up in all of their faces, you see shit when thrown, stinks to whoever is in the way, including yourself. And how dare you Greens lecture the Labor Party on ethics, your deplorable excuse for a political party is incapable of economic responsibility, incapable of political responsibility and incapable of moral responsibility, thank God we in Richmond have an honest, responsible, hard-working MP in Justine Elliott, who actually delivers and not some grandstanding Green who promises everything and delivers nothing but feelgood vibes, and popularist articles.

        • Bit disrespectful Keith regarding your comments to Joachim..we are all of a political persuasion and have vastly
          Differing opinions and views on the
          Political front..general keith the
          Party that is in power has to be held
          Accountable for its decisions that
          Affects the the one’s that voted for
          Labor ! Did they not have the lowest
          Primary vote keith ? Must not be to critical
          Of the greens keith without the preferences
          Albo & co are not leading the country..
          Nothing personal keith ..it’s just labors
          Turn to be in the spotlight..

          • Barrow, thank you for the intervention on my behalf.
            The Keith, he a troubled soul.
            He knows his ALP mob, still talking like they in Opposition, just can’t cut it now they in Government. So cue, the bad word insult that have come my way and the Keith with his latest run and hideaway line, “not even worthy of a dignified response”.

          • Mr Barrow, if old mate Joachim choses to make disrespectful comments on an almost daily basis, he will be treated accordingly. As for the Labor Party low primary vote, you as usual neglected to mention the primary vote for the Liberals at the last election was the lowest on record, OOPS.

        • Keith, have you considered trying stand up comedy?
          Your above audition is just, GOLD!

          Smears, you moan. Poor Katy, her self smearing is one for the ages, she didn’t need any help from anyone else, did she Keith. And poor PM Albanese , just as clueless as he self trashed his vow of restoring ” integrity and transparency” after poor Katy admits she did have knowledge; ‘how dare’ Albanese take us all for idiots.
          But there are some fools out there that swallow the ALP bollocks to try defend the indefensible…calling the Keith.

          Great that you brought your mate the Donald into affairs – the Canberra swamp / the ALP and LNP sewer, needs draining alright. It can’t come soon enough, thankfully we have the Greens ADULTS ready to step in and take charge, to turn this nation around from the deep dive into disaster that your out its depth ALP is staking us.
          Yes Keith, keeping citizens in poverty, not delivering to Flood Victims, dragging out the Housing and Rent Crisis, what a great advertisement of “moral responsibility”, Not, is your wretched ALP that somehow prioritises a Budget Surplus over actually urgently giving real help to those in immediate need.

        • Keith, have you considered trying standup comedy?
          Your above audition with the daily talking points from ALP HQ is just, GOLD!

          Smears, you moaning.
          Poor Katy, yeah, self smearing herself and the ALP all in one go, its one for the ages. Poor Katy, “no one had any knowledge”, did they Keith. And then there is poor PM Alabanese just as clueless as he flubbers around self trashing his vow of “new politics”, of restoring “integrity and transparency”. Poor PM Albanese, wouldn’t know ‘misleading parliament’ if it hit him in the head, you just couldn’t make it up if you tried.
          How dumb does PM Albanese take us for? But Keith, there are fools out there that swallow this slop, aren’t there.

          But hey Keith, it great that you mentioned your mate, the Donald.
          The Donald failed to “Make America Great Again”, the Anthony a Fail to ‘Make Australia Great Again’.
          The Canberra Swamp – the ALP and LNP cesspit – needs draining alright. It can’t happen quick enough, the Greens ADULTS ready to take charge to stop the nation on a deep dive into the ether.

          Keith, your man Albanese to the nation – “no one held back, no one left behind”.
          Australia, one of the richest countries in the world; deliberately keeping people in poverty; not delivering for Flood Victims; dragging it out with action on the Housing and Rent Crisis, just great advertisments of your ALP mob that prioritises Budget Surplus over taking urgent action to help those needing help

          Albanese to Kathryn Robodebt Campbell, ‘I won’t hold you back, I won’t leave you behind’….yay the new job at Defence / AUKUS! You just couldn’t make this stuff up it you tried.
          But Keith, there are fools out there swallowing the ALP’s slop, aren’t there.

          • Lizardbreath, mind the language, your mentor the Keith is not a great example to follow.

            ” Echo once was more than enough of this on rotation commentary.”
            You’ve hopped in and made a generalisation, always a dangerous activity.
            My original post in the morning , got hung up and then I was met with a ‘Bad Gateway Error’ response. Was that you trying to hack into my computer putting the blockers on me?

            I came back in the afternoon, my morning post didn’t appear. I thought it was lost, so I re-wrote as best I could from memory what I originally wrote in the morning.

            Now, as I and you see, two post, the original post has appeared.

            From myself to the Echo, apologies that you have received such a poor reaction from Lizardbreath as a result of my posting / computer troubles.

          • Thanks Joachim, I was sooo wanting to know all that.

            I’m sorry too Echo if my potty mouth caused offence. After all these naughty words so rarely stain the pages of this respectable establishment newspaper.


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