Parliament has failed to pass energy laws or set up a new process to deal with asylum seekers’ health checks, amid political point scoring on the final sitting day for the year.
But laws giving police and intelligence agencies the ability to look at encrypted messages passed at the last minute after the coalition played a high-stakes game with Labor.
The Morrison government was hopeful of getting laws passed by Christmas to give authorities the power to crack encrypted communications used by terrorists and criminals.
It was also aiming to pass laws to put pressure on big energy companies to pass on savings to customers or face “big stick” penalties and possible divestment of assets.
But political tactics from all parties in the lower house and Senate, as well as a lack of a majority in both houses, frustrated progress until the last minute.
As well, prolonged debate in the Senate ended the hopes of crossbenchers and Labor to pass amendments to fast-track health checks for asylum seekers in offshore detention.
That is despite the health checks amendment passing the Senate 31-28 late on Thursday afternoon.
Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said Labor should take the blame for higher power prices and heaped pressure on the opposition to be bipartisan on national security.
“Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and pedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring,” he said.
After the coalition shut down the lower house to avoid dealing with the asylum-seeker health checks bill, Labor decided to pass the encryption laws without amending them.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said he wasn’t going to leave Australians without the necessary protections over the holidays just because the coalition didn’t want to be embarrassed in parliament.
‘They were willing to sacrifice the encryption laws, which they know have to be amended,” he told reporters.
The coalition agreed to consider amending the laws once parliament returns in February to include recommendations from the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security.
“Australia is a safer place as a result of the passage of the encryption laws in the Senate tonight,” Attorney-General Christian Porter said.
“This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm.”