Q&A recap: Libs and Labor clash over refugee bill and franking credits

In case you hadn't noticed, Q&A was on hand to remind you: there is a federal election campaign coming on.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.Credit:ABC

Dreyfus declared Labor would vote for the bill – probably.

"We are going to vote for the Phelps' bill or the Phelps' amendment. But we are negotiating with the crossbench for three clarifications."

Tony Jones wondered: "Sarah Henderson, is the Government looking at facing a massive political defeat tomorrow on this bill?"

And as we watched and waited for the kettle to boil, Henderson turned on the waffle iron.

"This is all about politics, Tony!" she told the nation, which recoiled at the suggestion that politics might be about politics.

Liberal MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderson.Credit:ABC

She went on: "Labor has been forced to crawl back into this position… the political consequences are that all Australians will see that Labor will do anything to unravel border protection in this country."

Drefyus thought this allegation "bizarre and disgraceful".

The nation thought: please, Lord, not another election about border protection. We've had seven in a row, to no sensible outcome.

Campaign-heavy cynicism hung in the air.

Jones asked Henderson if this debate – along with Labor's contentious franking credits policy – amounted to free kicks for a struggling government looking for weak spots to exploit.

"Will those things gift you your electorate?" he asked of the Coalition's most marginal MP.

"Absolutely not," replied Henderson, though she was going to do her best to ensure they did.

She had declared the franking credits policy "an appalling theft of older Australians money… Labor intends to steal this money from older Australians".

Panellist Stephen Mayne, the journalist and shareholder activist, pushed back: "Is it possible not to call it theft? It's not theft."

Dreyfus, in defence: "It's not theft and it doesn't affect pensioners."

Henderson: "I'm out in Corangamite, Port Arlington, St Leonards – also campaigning for a new pool for the North Bellarine."

She went on to throw the switch to compassion – we also help the homeless! We're very proud! – which prompted this from Tony Jones: "Sarah, we're not quite in the election campaign yet."

Really? We're not?

You'd have a hard time convincing most Australians of that, as they sit and wait for the kettle to boil. The jolly swagman with his billy would have tossed himself in the billabong weeks ago.

And in these phoney-war days, if a politician offered you a choice between waiting for that official campaign cup of tea and your house burning down… well, let's be frank, you'd have to think about it.

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