The citizenship crisis rolls on. Last week, The Griffith Innovation Hub published a piece I wrote, reflecting on some aspects of the issue. Within 24 hours it was out of date, as yet another Senator resigned on citizenship grounds.
At the same time, the government announced it was cancelling a sitting week for the House of Representatives. This was based on the improbable claim that it was to allow the same-sex marriage bill debate to conclude in the Senate before the bill came to the House. This is a lose-lose argument from the government. Even if they are to be believed, it just suggests they are so incompetent that they are incapable, despite the support of thousands of public servants and parliamentary staff, of doing more than one thing at a time. What is far more likely, as the most experienced commentators immediately concluded, was that they did not want to lose control of parliamentary votes in the period before Barnaby Joyce was returned after his by-election. Which in turn raises questions of judgement. In particular, what are they hiding, that they would go to the extent of cancelling parliament rather than face even the possibility of a Royal Commission on the banks? It appears the exact kind of move that alienates voters from government. Scrutiny of the banks is a rare issue: one that unites factions as diverse as the Greens, One Nation, Labor, and parts of the National Party. Cancelling parliamentary activity to avoid something so widely supported in politics and in the community seems a poor political judgement.
Either way, these last few weeks have highlighted the extent to which policy work is being impeded. The Prime Minister, the media, the Cabinet, backbenchers, the Opposition - everyone is distracted by the citizenship crisis and its various ripple effects. As Michelle Grattan has noted, the Queensland State election result just increases the importance of the by-election in Bennelong. After that, MPs will have nearly two months to think about what the new parliamentary year will hold. Politics will continue to detract from policy. Its going to be a long summer.