Dry clean your suit and charge up your mobile!
Federal parliament is back and sitting in Canberra after the winter break.
Everyone is rested, rejuvenated and still stuck in that rut they call the budget.
Good morning from the National Capital.
A grey, misty and contemplative start to the day here.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has begun his Tuesday in Melbourne, but don't worry, he is on his way back to Canberra.
(There is no sneaky plan to move the capital back south, 1901-style ...)
Captain Abbott is on to a good thing with his war on terror.
The latest Newspoll, out this morning, shows 77 per cent of those polled are in favour of the PM's new laws.
This includes 58 per cent who are "strongly" in favour.
The two-party-preferred results for the Coalition are a lot peachier, too.
The gap has narrowed to 51 to 49 per cent.
This is still Labor's way, but a big improvement on July, where the Coalition trailed 46 to 54 per cent.
Greens senator Richard Di Natale is not impressed by the poll results, however.
"This is conservative politics 101," he told reporters on the Senate entrance doors this morning.
"You're tanking in the polls, you have got a car crash of a budget: start talking about terrorism."
The Greens' primary vote has dipped a bit in the latest Newspoll, coming in a 11 per cent, down from 13 per cent at the start of August.
While in Melbs, Tony Abbott also talked about newly announced details of his counter-terror plans.
These include about $64 million to "strengthen community engagement programs ... with an emphasis on preventing young Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups".
Or, in the words of one tabloid headline this morning: STOP JUNIOR JIHADIS.
The $64 million will also be used to "investigate, prosecute and disrupt foreign fighters".
In his doorstop, the PM stressed that the federal government is not targeting any particular part of the community.
"The enemy we have is terrorism."
He also referred to the fact that one Islamic leader has told him, "we are all part of Team Australia and you are our captain".
Why has the PM kicked things off in Melbourne?
He has visited the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre there.
From here it is just a short hop to talking about the importance of medical research in general and the government's proposed $20 billion research fund in particular ...
... and hey, presto, we're at the GP co-payment!
Which is of course still bunkered down in furious disagreement.
Parliament does not sit until the middle of the day.
The House of Representatives is back at 12pm and the Senate resumes in all its upper house glory at 12.30pm.
Before then, the Coalition will have its regular party room meetings.
Labor is one step ahead, with the caucus having met yesterday.
It always pays to start the week pre-caucused, as the saying goes.
We of course resume today after the five week winter break with the budget at the tip top of the agenda.
There are so many questions.
What will happen with the GP co-payment? University funding? The dole?
Is there a massive budget crisis or just a small fiscal hiccup?
Does Clive Palmer rule the nation?
There is also some confusion about what will happen if key budget measures do not make it through the Senate.
It has been suggested by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann that taxes may have to rise in the future if the tough stuff isn't legislated now.
In a similar vein, it has been mooted that universities face research funding cuts if the Senate does not pass the government's education reforms (which will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday).
This morning, Cormann again warned that a future government would have to impose "higher taxes or deeper cuts," if tough decisions were not accepted.
"People might think the budget is tough now, if we don't make the necessary decisions now it will only become tougher in the years ahead and that is the inevitable truth," he said.
But speaking just before Cormann, Tony Abbott appeared to tip an ice bucket on the idea.
"We don't support raising taxes, we support cutting taxes," he said in Melbourne.
The PM also stressed that the government wanted to "massively increase" Australia's research efforts.
What do you reckon?
Should that letter have taken a week to produce?
Speaking of the Palmer United Party leader, he has emerged from PUP's pre-Parliament meeting this morning declaring that:
"The co-payment will not be happening."
He says the PUP senators agreed unanimously that there will not be a co-payment.
Not even a 1 cent co-payment.
This appears to be even less lenient than Palmer's approach to the wait for the dole for young people.
Here, he has said he would back a wait as long as it was no longer than 60 seconds.
Already a busy morning for C Palmer.
He has also just released a letter he has sent to the Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaoxu, about those "mongrel"/ "shoot their own people comments" he made last Monday.
"I most sincerely apologise for any insult to Chinese people caused by any of the language I used during my appearance on the ABC television program Q&A," Palmer writes.
"I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater understanding for peace and cooperation in the future ...
"I now come to the realisation that what I said on Q&A was an insult to Chinese people everywhere and I wish to assure them they have my most genuine and sincere apology ..."
Strangely, there was no mention in Clive Palmer's apology letter to the Chinese Ambassador of Jacqui Lambie's comments about China last week.
"If anybody thinks we should have a national security and defence policy which ignores the threat of a Chinese communist invasion, you're delusional and got rocks in your head."
"Both Labor and the Liberals/Nationals have failed to build an Australian military that is able to defend us - and stop our grandchildren from becoming slaves to an aggressive, anti-democratic, totalitarian foreign power."
Five weeks is a long time to have a break.
One in which it seems like a person could do a lot.
(Or have an extra-nice holiday in Europe, escaping the Canberra winter.)
But what has the government achieved in this time?
Not much, according to chief political correspondent Mark Kenny.
He writes that the break, "has done less to improve the government's parlous reputation with voters than it had hoped.
"If anything, the lay-off has exacerbated a sense of drift and occasioned the odd break-out of political desperation."
Now, the next sitting fortnight must be used to turn this around - or Tony Abbott's first year as Prime Minister will be judged as a dud. Even by the kids in his corner.
When we left Parliament all those weeks ago, the government was doing a victory dance over *finally* passing the carbon tax repeal.
But the Coalition had no such luck with the mining tax repeal, given PUP and Co's determination to keep things like the Schoolkids bonus, that are bundled up in the bill.
On the last day of sitting, Parliament was also grappling with the breaking news of the MH17 disaster - something that has taken up so much of Tony Abbott's time and energy during the winter break.
Before question time today, Parliament will stop for a condolence motion on the "downing" of the plane.
When the House sits again at midday, one of the first items of business will be the Fair Work Amendment Bill.
This includes changes such as:
*An employer must not refuse a request for extended unpaid parental leave, unless the employer has given the employee a "reasonable opportunity" to discuss the request;
*On termination of employment, untaken annual leave is paid out; and
*An employee cannot take or accrue leave during a period when they are absent from work and in receipt of workers' comp.
The House will also receive "messages" back from the Senate that the upper house "insists" on its amendments to the Mining Tax repeal (i.e. keep the Schoolkids bonus) and the Asset Recycling Fund bills (i.e. Parliament should have a veto and there should be a cost benefit analysis on state infrastructure projects that get a 15 per cent funding bonus from the Commonwealth).
The Senate will be debating the abolition of the National Preventative Health Agency, among other things.
After question time and some tabling of documents, Queensland Labor senator Chris Ketter and WA Labor senator Joe Bullock will give their first ("maiden") speeches.
The Coalition has emerged from their various party meetings this morning.
Matthew Knott tells us that Tony Abbott moved to calm the waters here, telling government MPs: "it was never going to be plain sailing in the Senate".
In the meeting, there were also the sort of observations that Tony Jones might take as a comment.
Three people raised concerns with the way 18C was handled - with two opposing the fact that the government backed away from the reform, and another hating on the process, saying the backbench should have been involved.
Two MPs also raised the unpopularity of the GP co-payment in their electorates.
And back on team issues for a moment, the PM also told Coalition MPs in their meeting that "there are no stronger members of Team Australia than the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community".
Having said that, "we must stand up to the preachers of hate and violence".
All is not harmonious within Team Coalition, however.
As James Massola and Latika Bourke report, Liberal MP Ewen Jones has had a go at senator Ian Macdonald in front of their colleagues.
This was after Macdonald had a go at Tony Abbott for arriving late to a party room meeting.
Here's PUP-pal Ricky Muir this morning.
Not saying anything about China.
Or anything else for that matter.
Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane also dropped in to get his copy of Triumph and Demise signed.
The PM says that Paul Kelly's book is the first "considered draft" of the last six years in federal politics.
"Inevitably, daily journalism lacks perspective."
Over in the Mural Hall of Parliament House, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is launching journalist Paul Kelly's latest book, Triumph and Demise.
This is Kelly's take on the last, heavy-on-the-tumult Labor period in government (2007 to 2013).
According to the promo, "Kelly documents the most misunderstood event in these years - the rise of Tony Abbott and the reason for his success. It was Abbott's performance that denied Rudd and Gillard the chance to recover. Labor misjudged Abbott and paid the price."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the book gets a whizz bang review from the PM.
"Everyone who is interested in public life, everyone who is interested in Australian politics should read this book," he tells the crowd in the Mural Hall.
"Not just read the book, they should consume the book. They should assimilate the book, learn from the book ..."
There was no shortage of very influential peoples at the Kelly launch.
Meanwhile, banners are unfurled out the front of Parliament House.
For about 100 members of the Chinese community, Clive Palmer's apology about his China comments has clearly been too little, too late.
"Clive Palmer must step down."
The Prime Ministerial engagements keep on coming.
From Paul Kelly's book launch, Tony Abbott scooted to the Parliamentary theatrette. Here, he attended "The Power of Speech" awards, where twelve deaf children with cochlear implants have been giving speeches on the topic of their choice.
The PM left through a side door, declining to give another doorstop. He also passed up the opportunity at the Triumph and Demise launch.
Joe Hockey was a bit more verbose when he was doorstopped at the literary event.
Asked if the GP co-payment was dead, the Treasurer replied: "no".
MPs are in the House.
Tony Abbott is at the despatch box, speaking on a condolence motion about MH17.
He moves that the House "condemns" the perpetrators of the crime.
"When this Parliament last met, news was just breaking that MH17 had been shot down ... this was not just a tragedy, it was an atrocity."
The Senate has begun question time proper. Government Senate leader Eric Abetz will move a condolence motion there after QT.
Tony Abbott says a memorial will be built in the Parliamentary gardens to the victims of MH17.
"As a reminder that we will never, ever forget them."
It will be completed in time for the first anniversary of the tragedy.
There is already a memorial to the victims of the Bali Bombings in the gardens on the House of Reps side of the building.
"The suggestion of a memorial is a very worthy idea," says Labor leader Bill Shorten in reply.
He describes MH17 as a global tragedy which has "struck at Australian hearts".
The first question is not to the Prime Minister, but to the Treasurer.
Bill Shorten asks Joe Hockey if the "GP tax" will apply to people with chronic illnesses.
Hockey says this is outlined in the budget papers.
And adds that Shorten is wrong.
It's not a GP tax.
"It's a payment for services."
The primo dixer is to the PM, however.
He is asked about what the government is doing to combat foreign fighters and keep Australia safe?
"The safety of the community will always be the first priority of government," says Abbott.
Chris Bowen hops up with the second question.
Isn't it true that the Treasurer's electorate in Sydney has one of the highest bulk-billing rates in Australia*
Hockey says that "at times" bulk-billing in North Sydney has been "quite high".
"It's not that high at the moment," he observes to hollering from the Labor benches.
"The Labor party doesn't have any principles!"
*This picks up on Hockey claiming in April that his electorate had one of the highest bulk-billing rates. It was later revealed it is below the national average.
The Coalition stays on the terror (not the budget) theme with its second dixer.
Philip Ruddock asks Julie Bishop what the government is doing to ensure a "strategic and combative" approach against terrorism.
Bishop notes that she spoke to her US counterpart John Kerry this morning.
(So the strategy and combat stuff is all on the boil.)
Tanya Plibersek has a question for Hockey.
It relates to the GP co-payment, or "GP tax".
Are people in a position now where they are not prepared to give up a couple of cups of coffee to take a sick child to the doctor?*
The Treasurer says that Medicare needs to be made sustainable.
"We will not engage in inter-generational theft."
*Referring to Hockey defending the co-payment in a post-budget interview in May, questioning whether people were in a position now "where they're not prepared to give up a couple of cups of coffee, or something else in their lives, in order to take a sick child to the doctor".
Greens deputy Adam Bandt has the crossbench question.
He asks Tony Abbott if he is "already engaged in mission creep" on Iraq and what Australia might get up to there.
"Australia is a very close and very supportive partner of the United States," the PM says.
"Talks are going on ... on what can best be done to relieve the humanitarian situation in northern Iraq."
Abbott says that his government will not "commit forces" without the "fullest possible consultation" with cabinet and the opposition.
After a dixer to Scott Morrision about boat stopping, Chris Bowen asks Joe Hockey:
Is the GP co-payment a tax by any other name?
"That's a very strange question," says Madam Speaker before letting it go through.
We suspect the question has its genesis from Hockey's post-budget interview on 7.30 when he was asked, "a co-payment, a levy and a tax are all taxes by any other name. Am I correct?"
Hockey replied: "Of course they are. Yes."
As he answers the question, the Treasurer says Labor is "completely confused" on its budget rhetoric.
The Labor holler level goes up another level.
To add to the calm and methodical scene, there is a small kerfuffle in the public gallery.
A boisterous man has let off a whistle and has been resisting the efforts of the security guards. There has also been some angry pointing in the direction of Madam Speaker.
He says he has "corresponded" with Bronwyn Bishop and hasn't heard back.
Meanwhile, Clive Palmer has jumped ship from House question time and has been checking out the Senate show.
Bill Shorten asks Joe Hockey if it is the case that many poor people don't drive cars and don't drive very far.
"I dealt with that last week," says Hockey.
A dixer happens to Jamie Briggs on the status of the North-South corridor in Adelaide.
"This is a government that is getting on with the job," says the Assistant Infrastructure Minister.
What did you make of that QT?
Did you miss it? Was it like wrapping yourself in the warm embrace of an old cardigan after five weeks?
Labor was obviously very keen to go after Joe Hockey in that session and ping him on his previous budget sayings - in particular about the GP co-payment and the socio-economic background of car drivers.
Hockey has been one of the Coalition's strongest parliamentary performers, so it is interesting, no, that Labor is now honing in on him, sensing a weakness?
It is certainly an indication of what a winter breakus horribilis the Treasurer had while trying to sell the budget.
The social media types among you may have noticed that leader of the house Christopher Pyne recently did the ice bucket challenge.
In the process, the Education Minister then nominated Albo and Sarah Hanson-Young to follow suit by dumping a bucket of ice on their heads.
A spokesman for Mr Albanese has told The Pulse that, "we are considering our options" with regards to responding.
We note that Albo appears with Pyne on Friday on breakfast TV. Could that be a goer?
The Pulse has also contacted the Greens senator for comment.
Last week, Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg nominated the PM for the ice bucket challenge.
But it doesn't look like Tony Abbott will be replicating Christopher Pyne's efforts anytime too soon.
As the PM explained on Thursday, "I've got to say that I'd probably rather make a modest financial contribution than submit myself to a shower of ice. But it is a great cause and I'm happy to be helpful."
Abbott has already met with some Motor Neuron Disease sufferers and gave them a $100 donation.
We also draw your attention to a statement from the Chinese Embassy.
It relates to Clive Palmer's apology letter, released earlier today:
On August 26, Australian MP Clive Palmer sent a letter of apology to the Chinese Ambassador Mr Ma Zhaoxu, offering a genuine and sincere apology for insulting the Chinese people in a recent media interview.
Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu pointed out that after Mr Palmer’s media interview, the Chinese government expressed its strong indignation and severe condemnation at Palmer's insulting remarks. The Chinese community in Australia also strongly protested against his wrong remarks. The Australian government and people from all walks of life also expressed their strong condemnation and emphasised that Palmer’s insulting remarks on China could by no means represent the Australian government and Parliament, let alone its people.
Ambassador Ma stressed that the Chinese people are never to be insulted. Any remarks attacking or slandering China would not gain support and were doomed to failure. The healthy and stable development of China-Australia relations is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and cannot be overturned by any individual.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt is quizzed - dixer style - on the savings that have been passed on to families and businesses since the scrapping of the carbon tax.
Labor's Joanne Ryan is sent out during the process for sitting in the wrong seat.
And then at 3.10pm, Tony Abbott calls an end to question time.
The House moves on to a matter of public importance discussion on the budget.
Namely, "the government's failure to listen to the Australian people on its unfair budget".
Bill Shorten jumps up to talk about the "Prime Minister and his merry band of gaffesters".
The lower house has gone back to debating the Fair Work Amendment Bill.
But not before a whole lot of mucking around on a private member's bill that Anthony Albanese was trying to talk about.
Albo is worried that funding for the Roads to Recovery program ran out in June and wants it extended.
There is currently a bill to determine new council allocations and funding conditions before the Parliament.
Transport Minister Warren Truss says that "all the Senate needs to do is pass the legislation this week and the money will flow to the councils in full and on time".
To cut a long story short, the House has just spent the best part of 30 minutes voting on gag motions to stop Labor MPs speaking and voting down Albo's bid to suspend standing orders.
We now bring you the first speeches of two new Labor senators.
Both with a long association with the conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association.
They are Queensland's Chris Ketter and WA's Joe Bullock.
The new Labor senator goes on to talk about the family being the "basic building block" in society.
Ketter talks about Labor's history of helping families, dating back to a maternity payment in 1912.
Are there any questions?
Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King comes back at Hockey with yet another GP co-payment question.
Anyone else get the weeny sense that Labor are focussing on the Treasurer today?
We call this picture, "The Prime Minister gets some advice and Luke Hartsuyker ponders things".
Hockey is getting no respite with the dixers now either.
WA MP Steve Irons has just asked him how much profit the mining tax has made.
"If you don't have the revenue you pay the bills, you're going to be in deficit," the Treasurer instructs the House.
There is a bout of sparring over whose books about themselves will sell more copies.
Labor's Ed Husic has just waggled a copy of Madonna King's Hockey book, asking the Treasurer if he thought the fuel tax was a progressive tax.
Hockey shoots back that he understands his book is selling "quite well".
"I bet it's going to sell better than the Member for McMahon's book."
Labor's Pat Conroy has just been kicked out.
He interrupted Hockey's answer on poor people and cars with the question, "is it fair that everyone's against the Treasurer?"
Terri Butler earlier earned the honour of being the first MP to be kicked out in the Spring sitting (for heckling during a Hockey dixer).
It doesn't say that China accepts Palmer's apology, does it?
Ketter ended his career as secretary-treasurer of the Queensland Shoppies.
"I am a proud unionist," he tells the Senate, saying he is concerned by recent criticism of the movement.
(Shoppies national secretary Joe de Bruyn is in the public galleries to hear Ketter speak.)
"I can assure you ... the ALP is a wonderful party," says Bullock.
He assures the Senate that he will always vote consistently with caucus positions.
That doesn't mean he won't share his opinions, however.
And says that tolerant societies should uphold freedom of speech (is there an 18C connection here?).
There was some *cough* controversy about Bullock coming to Canberra.
Former WA Labor senator Louise Pratt was not happy that Bullock was installed on the top of Labor's ticket ahead of her (and that she subsequently lost her seat).
Bullock recalls that he had been looking forward to retirement but was worried Labor would only get one Senator in WA in the 2013 election. He prayed and decided to run.
He says he is "naturally disappointed" that Labor only returned one senator in the end anyway.
Bullock adds he is sad Pratt was not able to get across the line and keep her seat.
The new Labor Senator says that for the sake of his kids, he intends to keep trying to change the world "one speech at a time".
Promise or threat?
Next up is Joe Bullock.
Who you might remember from some of the comments he made about Labor members being "mad".
Early on, Bullock pays tribute to his parents and former Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine.
(The socially conservative Catholic independent Senator with a union background who held the balance of power during the Howard years.)
Bullock says Harradine was one of the "finest politicians" he has ever known.
First speech buddies.
We leave you with the House chatting on about the Fair Work Amendment Bill and the Senate talking about tabled documents.
But before we head out into the Canberra evening to practice pouring a bucket of ice on our heads (just in case), what did we learn?
- Tony Abbott has a new twist on "let them eat cake". We should be consuming books instead;
- Clive Palmer is sincerely sorry about calling Chinese people "mongrels" last week. So much so it took him a week to write to the Chinese embassy and tell them.
- Diplomacy is harsh. The Chinese embassy are noting the apology;
- Labor has collected an extensive cache of comments Joe Hockey has made about the budget;
- "Gaffesters" is a word. According to Bill Shorten.
Thanks for tuning in on this first day of the spring session. Andrew Meares, Alex Ellinghausen and I will see you tomorrow.