The federal government has fallen further into minority status after the member for Chisholm, Julia Banks, announced her resignation from the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench. Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Banks said the actions of “the reactionary and regressive right wing, who talk to themselves rather than listening to the people” had prompted her to resign from the Liberals. Banks hit out at “the major parties’ obstructionist and combative actions and internal games,” and said the leadership coup against former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull “was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence”. While Banks guaranteed to support the government on matters of confidence and supply, her move will likely make it even more difficult for the government to resist motions brought forward by Labor, the Greens and the crossbench, which now comprises seven MPs.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the date of the next federal budget, likely setting the stage for a May election. Speaking on Tuesday, Morrison said the government would deliver the budget on April 2, 2019, with the election to follow. Morrison told reporters he would “let you do the maths” about the likely date of the next election, and that “it is our intention to deliver a surplus budget”. Governments traditionally avoid calling elections on public and school holidays, which likely rules out much of April.
More than 4000 federal public servants say they have witnessed corruption in the past year, according to a new report from the Australian Public Service Commission. Tabled in parliament on Monday, the APSC’s State of the Service report found that 4395 public service employees “witnessed behaviour that may be serious enough to be viewed as corruption”, with “cronyism, followed by nepotism” being the most common. The number of public servants investigated for corruption has fallen sharply in the last few years, with just 78 people investigated in 2017-18 compared to 209 in 2014-15. The report also noted “an ongoing decline in the trust Australians have across all three tiers of government”.
And NASA’s InSight lander has begun sending back photographs from Mars after successfully landing on the red planet on Monday. Launched in May, InSight became the first spacecraft to touch down on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012. InSight will measure seismic activity and the temperature on Mars, charging its batteries by using solar energy. “There’s a quiet beauty here. Looking forward to exploring my new home,” the lander mission said in a Tweet.