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Albo hits out after Trump’s Rudd rant

QUESTION TIME
David Littleproud said negotiations could be at risk if Donald Trump beats Joe Biden in this year’s US election. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended Australia’s ambassador to the United States, former prime minister Kevin Rudd, after an extraordinary sledge from former US president Donald Trump.

In an interview with GB News, Mr Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who is leading incumbent Joe Biden in the polls, described Mr Rudd as “nasty” and claimed he “won’t be there long” should he win the race to the White House.

Mr Trump had been asked about Mr Rudd, who had in 2023 before becoming ambassador, publicly described the former US leader as a “traitor to the West”, “nuts” and “the most destructive president in history”.

QUESTION TIME
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese defended US ambassador Kevin Rudd. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Speaking in question time, Mr Albanese accused the opposition of politicising Australia’s relationship with the US, after he was asked if the PM “would assess his position as our ambassador to our most important ally’.

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“One of the things that I have never seen happen before in 28 years in this chamber is an attempt to politicise Australia’s representative overseas in an important nation such as (the US),” Mr Albanese said.

“The idea that we have a cheap-shot question like that diminishes the Opposition and says everything about why this bloke is not fit to be the prime minister of Australia,” he said, gesturing to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

‘Know better’: Rudd blamed for Trump rant

Earlier, Nationals leader David Littleproud suggested the ambassador to the US “should have known better” after Mr Rudd aired strong criticisms against the former president before assuming his new diplomatic role.

“I heard he (Mr Rudd) is not the brightest bulb. I don’t know much about him, but he won’t be there long if he is at all hostile,” Mr Trump said.

Asked about Mr Trump’s outburst on Wednesday, Mr Littleproud said it posed serious concerns for the government in its ability to negotiate with a potential Republican administration.

“Kevin Rudd should have known better to make disparaging comments about a potential future president of the United States,” Mr Littleproud told Sky News.

“It showed a lack of judgment, and particularly someone who had experience not just as prime minister but in the diplomatic core – and I think Donald Trump is lashing out at someone who is representing Australia and should have known better.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong backed Mr Rudd.

“Mr Rudd is a very effective ambassador,” Senator Wong said, referring to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton also expressing confidence in the ambassador.

“He’s recognised as doing across this parliament, as doing an excellent job in advancing Australia’s interests in the United States,” she said.

Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe called Mr Trump a “cartoon character”.

“He’s fictitious and he shouldn’t exist,” Senator Thorpe told NCA NewsWire.

QUESTION TIME
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton came under attack from the government during Question Time. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Coalition the ‘scared, weird little guys of Australian politics’: King

The stoush over mooted pollution caps for new vehicles has become personal with Transport Minister Catherine King accusing the Coalition of becoming the “scared, weird little guys” in their opposition to the proposal.

While the government is pushing ahead with the reform, the Coalition remains sceptical of the change, claiming the policy in its current form will hike prices for less fuel efficient vehicles.

But Ms King slammed the Opposition, claiming they were “paralysed” over the issue.

QUESTION TIME
Transport Minister Catherine King labelled the Opposition the ‘scared, weird little guys’ of Australian politics. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“As late as yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition told his party room that efficiency standards continue to be Coalition policy,” Ms King told question time.

“The Coalition, frankly, are all talk and no delivery. They are too scared of their own shadow to actually deliver on their own policies.

“When anything gets a little bit too hard, they crawl up into a ball - They are the scared, weird little guys of Australian politics.”

Minister won’t take back US ally call

Trade Minister Don Farrell has declined to walk back remarks in which he said he was “not sure” the United States is Australia’s most trusted ally.

Senator Farrell was filling in for Senator Wong on Monday during question time when he came under fire for arguing New Zealand was our closest ally.

QUESTION TIME
Trade Minister Don Farrell won’t walk back remarks about the US alliance. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

He was also criticised for referring to Greens senator Dorinda Cox as a “basket weaver” during the same question time.

Senator Farrell has since withdrawn the comment and apologised both privately and publicly.

Since the upper house adjourned as a mark of respect to late senator Linda White on Tuesday, the Coalition had to wait an extra day to taunt the Labor frontbencher.

Opposition senate leader Simon Birmingham questioned why Senator Farrell was prepared to withdraw one faux pas but not the other.

“Will he now take this opportunity to correct the record and apologise for those comments?” he asked.

“Make him the ambassador,” Senator Matt Canavan yelled out.

QUESTION TIME
Senator Farrell was acting senate leader for a day when he made the comment on the US. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Senator Farrell said he was a bit “puzzled” by the obsession from the Coalition about the “closeness of our allies”.

“In this troubling time, when we see sort of wars right around the world, we need very many, many close allies.”

Towards the end of his answer, Opposition home affairs spokesman James Patterson literally headdesk in frustration.

“No more leave Penny,” he exclaimed.

“Please don’t go on leave again.”

‘Niceties aside’ for Wong well-wishes

It was Senator Wong’s first question time back since her nuptials on the weekend to her long time partner Sophie Allouache.

Senator Birmingham briefly put aside his planned attack on the government to congratulate her on the big day.

He also took the time to congratulate her on overtaking former senator Amanda Vanstone as the longest serving female cabinet minister.

“This milestone is not only for Senator Wong, but of course for Australian women,” Senator Birmingham said.

“And while we congratulate her on the milestone, we also hope that it is overtaken many times in the future, perhaps by some of my colleagues behind me even.”

Senator Wong thanked him for his kind words and said she wouldn’t have known about the milestone if Ms Vanstone hadn’t reached out.

“It was very, very, very sweet of her and I appreciate that very much.”

But once Senate President Sue Lines called it time for question time, all gloves were off.

“Niceties aside,” Senator Birmingham joked.

Key detail in High Court saga

The federal government has made a stern concession after revelations it approved to lift ankle bracelet monitoring and curfew conditions imposed on an ex-detainee convicted of serious sex crimes.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said an individual known as XTVC, released under a High Court ruling in November, was released without monitoring conditions under the advice of experts, and stressed there was no other course of action that could have been taken under constitutional law.

It came after reports emerged that the 42-year-old individual, who was convicted of raping a 19-year-old in 2011, had launched a successful legal challenge to have his anklet bracelet monitoring and curfew conditions lifted.

Hosing down public safety fears on Wednesday, Ms O’Neil stressed that the government had agreed to the conditions to avoid potential litigation.

“I can’t comment on that specific case. The Community Protection Board provides expert advice to the government on these matters and the government takes their advice,” she told Today.

“I am an Australian woman and there is no way that anyone is apologising for the behaviour of this individual. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that if I could do anything to put that person in detention I would do it.”

QUESTION TIME
Clare O’Neil says $250m has been invested to protect public safety. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

But Liberal senator Jane Hume accused the government of outsourcing blame over the detainee saga, reigniting the Coalition’s calls for Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to resign.

“This is a crisis that seems to lurch from disaster to disaster every single week,” she said.

“This seems to be blaming anybody else other than yourself for your problems. Quite frankly Minister Giles needs to resign and Anthony Albanese needs to stop the protection racket for this incompetent minister.”

Shock over Trump’s Rudd spray

Inflammatory comments from Mr Trump won’t be enough to shake Australia’s deep ties with the US, politicians claim, as leaders tip-toe around his threats to have Mr Rudd sacked for criticising his controversial former leadership.

Asked about the insult on Wednesday, deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said Australia wanted Mr Rudd to remain in his role to protect Australia’s national interests. “I’m not going to make commentary on what might transpire. Except to say that I think people in this government would now be wondering why they made the comments they did at the time,” she told Sky.

Unveiling of Kevin Rudd Portrait
Kevin Rudd, Australia’s US ambassador, has previously called Mr Trump the ‘most destructive president in history’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“But Kevin Rudd is our ambassador, we do want him to succeed because he represents our national interest. It’s a very close relationship as evidenced by so many agreements most recently.”

Labor MP Julian Hill said the public should anticipate “colourful” statements to emerge from presidential candidates in the months leading up to US election.

“Our relationship with the United States is strong and there has been a traditional over many years in modern times that respected former leaders are appointed to this role,” he said.

Albo should put in ‘hard yards’

Labor should seek bipartisanship to fulfil its election promise to pass contentious religious discrimination laws, opposition foreign affairs minister Simon Birmingham says.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister signalled a retreat on his commitment to overhauling the nation’s religious discrimination laws, saying he would only go ahead with draft legislation with support from the opposition.

The reforms were shelved by the previous Coalition government in 2022 after five of its own MPs crossed the floor over concerns about protections for minority groups.

Senator Linda White Condolences
Simon Birmingham says the government has to put in the hard yards to achieve bipartisanship. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

One of the most contentious parts of the rehauled legislation concerns disagreements on whether religious schools should be able to discriminate against LGBT students and teachers.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham said bipartisanship was a “worthy aspiration” after Mr Dutton accused the Prime Minister of using a lack of consensus to dump an election commitment.

“The opposition hasn’t seen the legislation yet. Coalition members haven’t had the chance to consider the details of it or the implications of it. And nor has there been a transparent process for stakeholders to comment or engage in it,” Senator Birmingham said.

“And so I welcome the aspiration for bipartisanship, but the government has to put in the hard yards to achieve it.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus assured reporters on Wednesday that the government was working “constructively” with the opposition to achieve a bipartisan outcome.

“I’m not contemplating that we won’t reach that destination. That’s something that we’ve been talking about for a very long time,” he said.

PM must act on his promise: Archer

Bridget Archer, one of the five Liberal MPs who crossed the floor to sink her own party’s Bill on religious discrimination in the last parliament, says the delay in shelving the proposal was unhelpful.

The Tasmanian was speaking to reporters after she was crowned the McKinnon federal political leader of the year, praised for her courage in standing up to her own party and crossing the floor on certain issues.

“If we were waiting for bipartisan agreement in here, we would never get anything done,” Ms Archer said.

“I would urge the government to get on with addressing this issue and to bring something forward as a starting point, at least then we can hopefully collaborate to get a good outcome.

“They made a commitment prior to the last election to do so and I think Australians expect them to honour it.”

Independent senator David Pocock, who received the prize for emerging political leader of the year, said the government should release the two draft Bills and then work with the crossbench to pass the legislation.

“As the crossbench it’s really worrying, to see the government on a whole range of things … to be doing deals with the Coalition where you have a crossbench that is urging the government to be more ambitious,” he said.

‘Entitled’: Wong breaks silence on Keating

Senator Wong says Paul Keating will not speak on behalf of Australia during high-level talks with a senior Chinese diplomat.

The former prime minister's comments come ahead of Senator Wong’s sit down with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday, marking the first trip made to Australia by a highly-ranked Beijing official since 2017.

Ahead of her historic meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Senator Wong told The Australian that Mr Keating was “entitled to his views” but said he “does not speak for the government nor the country”.

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Foreign minister Penny Wong will sit down with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi today in Canberra for a high-level meeting. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The Labor veteran has been a fierce critic of Senator Wong’s approach to managing foreign relations with China, most recently blasting her government’s “mindless pro-American stance” during the Australia-ASEAN special summit in Melbourne earlier this month.

Senator Wong is expected to raise a host of issues with Mr Wang during Wednesday’s talks, including human rights abuses, regional security, trade barriers against Australian producers and raise opposition to the death sentence imposed on Australian citizen Yang Hengjun.

On Tuesday, Senator Birmingham, who will also meet with Mr Wang, told the ABC that Mr Keating should “reconsider” his meeting with Wang Yi.

“It is quite pointed and somewhat insulting towards Senator Wong for the Chinese Embassy to have sought this meeting, given just how publicly critical Paul Keating has been of Penny Wong and the Albanese government and their foreign policy,” Mr Birmingham said.