TOM TILLEY: Now, first to Canberra and you’ve probably been back at work for quite a few weeks already since your Christmas break but for our politicians today is their first day back in Federal Parliament and our reporter John Barrington has been walking and stalking the halls of power, finding out which issues will start the biggest brawls in 2012.
JOHN BARRINGTON: To find out what else the Coalition will keep on the Government’s case about, I knocked on the door of Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: As a South Australian, I want to see this as the year when we finally get agreement on a Murray-Darling Plan that gives national management to our biggest and most important river system and hopefully can take the politics out of it once and for all.
JOHN BARRINGTON: What are some of the ‘big ticket’ legislation that’s going to be coming through this year that you’re keeping an eye on?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, the Government’s been pretty quiet about what its legislative agenda, in some ways, is. The Senate will now debate the mining tax and so that will take up much of this early part of the year for the Senate. I’m very concerned about the impact of that.
JOHN BARRINGTON: A few weeks back, talks about asylum seeker policy failed between the Government and the Opposition. Labor’s still keen on the Malaysia swap deal but they don’t have enough support for it across the Parliament, so we don’t know when we’ll see any legislation on that.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … the combination of Nauru for offshore processing, temporary protection visas and, yes, reserving the right to turn boats around, where that was safe and possible, was working and was helping to stem the flow. It’s easy for the Government to accept that.
JOHN BARRINGTON: Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young reckons the Government and the Opposition need to calm down.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: … so we’re not being flooded or inundated, despite what some people may suggest. The couple of thousand asylum seekers that we have each year – and there are the bells – means that we can deal with this but let’s do it in a proper way. Fair treatment… we shouldn’t be locking people in mandatory detention; children should not be locked up. Let’s increase our humanitarian intake so that people don’t have to catch the boats in the first place.
JOHN BARRINGTON: Both Liberal Simon Birmingham and Green Sarah Hanson-Young believe there should be a debate this year around same sex marriage. Today, Sarah called for the Greens’ Marriage Equality [Amendment] Bill to be pushed to an inquiry.