Australia’s politicians will use the first parliamentary sitting day of the year to pay tribute to the victims of the devastating bushfire crisis.
Federal parliament returns on Tuesday with the entire day to be dedicated to condolences after more than 30 people died during the horror fire season.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will attend a traditional church service during the morning.
Legislation to make bushfire relief payments and loss-of-income grants for volunteer firefighters is set to be rushed through both houses by the end of the week.
That includes grants for businesses and farmers, as well as disaster recovery allowance payments.
A fire continues to burn in the ACT’s Namadgi National Park, making it likely thick smoke will provide the backdrop as MPs and senators return to Canberra.
Beyond the fires, the political focus will be on whether the prime minister has done enough to deal with the sports grant rort saga.
On Sunday, Bridget McKenzie tendered her resignation from cabinet and as Nationals deputy leader after an investigation found she had approved grants to gun groups of which she was a member.
Mr Morrison said it was a breach of ministerial standards for her not to have declared the memberships.
However the investigation by prime minister’s department secretary Phil Gaetjens found the grants scheme had not been politicised, contrary to a report by the auditor-general.
A Senate inquiry is still possible, given lingering questions about whether the prime minister’s office played a role.
The Nationals will meet on Tuesday to determine a new deputy leader, widely expected to be Queenslander David Littleproud.
Labor will also be keen to reapply the blowtorch to Energy Minister Angus Taylor over doctored documents used to attack Sydney’s mayor.
Meanwhile, President of South Australia’s Legislative Council Andrew McLachlan will be sworn in as a new Liberal senator to replace Cory Bernardi after his preselection this weekend.
The Senate is expected to deal with legislation to crack down on illegal phoenix activity on Wednesday.
Bills giving the vocational education and training regulator more powers and relaxing rules for financial technology companies to test products are also on the upper house’s agenda.
On Thursday, the government hopes to make four more recommendations from the banking royal commission law.
The latest response to the inquiry includes extending unfair contract terms to insurance contracts, and ensuring consumer protection applies to funeral expense policies.
Under the bill, mortgage broker pay will be linked to the amount drawn down by borrowers rather than loan values.
Brokers will also have a duty to put consumers’ interests first.
© AAP 2020