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Tribute and key issues for returning politicians

Tributes will be paid to the late Liberal senator Jim Molan on the first parliamentary sitting day

Tributes will be paid to the late Liberal senator Jim Molan on the first parliamentary sitting day Photo: AAP

Cost of living and the Indigenous voice referendum will dominate the federal parliamentary agenda as politicians return to the nation’s capital.

Federal parliament will meet for the first time this year after a summer dominated by commentary on the plebiscite to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issued a passionate call on Sunday for Australians to support the referendum as a vehicle to closing the gap and improving lives as well as a national achievement for all to share.

Mr Albanese said the government was committed to addressing cost of living challenges and national security issues at the same time as progressing the campaign.

“My government has a very broad agenda of economic, social and environmental reform and that will be our focus,” he told the Chifley Research Centre conference.

“But at the same time, how about we get this (referendum) done as well?”

As inflation bites budgets across the country, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the economy would be a parliamentary priority in 2023.

“The economy is going to be front and centre, dominated by global volatility and by these pressures which are coming at us from around the world, that are being felt around the kitchen tables of this country,” he said.

“That’s why inflation is the government’s main focus.”

Parliament will start the year on a reflective note with a church service and day of condolence speeches for late Liberal senator Jim Molan.
The retired major general died in January aged 72 after a battle with cancer.

Mr Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton are expected to attend the traditional opening service on Monday, ahead of the first House of Representatives sitting for the year.

The lower house will start the week with private members’ business, including a Greens bill to lower the voting age and a call from the Nationals for parliament to overturn the ban on nuclear power.

The chamber will also deal with private health insurance changes, the National Reconstruction Fund and a bill to ensure ministerial appointments are more transparent, following former prime minister Scott Morrison’s secret portfolio scandal.

On Wednesday, progress towards stamping out bullying, sexual harassment and assault in parliamentary workplaces will be discussed.

Later in the week, the Senate will consider a coalition motion to set up an inquiry into the role and accountability of existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bodies, including land councils and native title groups.

The government has also flagged a bill to modernise the operation of referenda and proposed changes to the carbon emissions safeguards mechanism to be passed by the end of March.

However neither are on the program for this week as the government negotiates their passage.

Mr Albanese urged all sides of politics to make a “constructive contribution” to the legislative process and the shape of the referendum campaign.

MPs are expected to be lobbied to support the voice with a delegation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in Canberra for the week.

— AAP

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