Shorten to PM: I want a ‘smooth transition’
Labor Leader Bill Shorten believes he has the upcoming election in the bag, informing Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a letter that his Opposition front bench will try to meet with senior public servants in the coming weeks to ensure a "smooth transition of power".
Mr Shorten has taken the extraordinary step of effectively putting an election deadline on the Coalition government despite it being up to Mr Morrison to decide when the country goes to the polls.
While it is widely speculated the election will be held by May 18, so that the election of both houses of parliament are held at the same time, there does not technically need to be a lower house election until August.
In the letter, Mr Shorten said the pre-election guidelines state the Opposition has the right to seek public service briefings in the three months before an election - which he deemed to be now.
The government would likely argue that access would only begin once an election was called or three months out from August.
Mr Shorten said in his letter the pre-election briefings were "intended to ensure a smooth transfer of power if an election results in a change of government".
"This letter serves as notice that the Opposition intends to begin exercising its right to seek public service briefings under the guidelines, noting that we have now passed the three month deadline from the effective expiry of the parliament," Mr Shorten states.
"According to the Parliamentary Library, the latest date for a regular House of Representatives and half-Senate election is 18 May, 2019.
"The three month deadline from the effective expiry of the parliament is therefore 18 February, 2019.
"Opposition Shadow Ministers will contact departmental secretaries to begin arranging briefings in coming days."
Mr Shorten yesterday accused the government of avoiding talking about real issues, claiming it was instead focused on a fear campaign over boats and medical transfers.
"This is a government who doesn't want to talk about their record. They just want to run a despicable and shameful fear campaign," he said.
Last week Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo told Senate Estimates the medevac bill would signal the "unravelling of regional processing" to people smugglers regardless of the fact it would not apply to any new asylum seekers detained.
But seemingly at odds with Mr Shorten's claims, the PM was in Tasmania and Victoria yesterday, announcing initiatives that do not relate to asylum seekers. He announced more funding for water infrastructure and a city deal for Hobart which he did not characterise as election commitments. "Everything that I'm announcing all around the country, is fully committed in the budgets and in the forward estimates.''
SHORTEN SHIFTS ON BOATS AGAIN
Mr Shorten backflipped yesterday for a second time on the issue of bringing asylum seekers to Christmas Island for medical treatment.
After first being against the idea, then giving it his support last week, Mr Shorten has again gone cold on the plan, yesterday declaring he does not support boat people from Manus Island and Nauru being sent to Christmas Island for medical transfers.
The Labor Leader initially called the Morrison government's decision to reopen the detention centre a "political gesture" before last week issuing an about-face, saying it was "fine".
Yesterday, a wavering Mr Shorten said: "In terms of the government wanting to talk about medical treatment and Christmas Island, I'm not falling for that bait. The reality is that Christmas Island doesn't have very much in the way of medical care."
The double backflip comes as The Daily Telegraph can reveal the medical organisations the government must employ on the independent medical transfer review panel - which has the final say on who comes to Australia for treatment - have already declared they want to end offshore processing.
The panel includes representatives of the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians - bodies which have either stated their opposition to offshore detention or want ill asylum seekers brought here. Immigration Minister David Coleman said Labor had "up-ended" Australia's border protection policies.
"Under Labor's law the government of Australia no longer decides who comes to Australia," he said.