It’s been an extraordinary year in federal politics as the country battled a coronavirus pandemic that tipped the economy into recession for the first time in nearly three decades.
But there is a final twist for the start of the final parliamentary sitting fortnight for the year.
A virtual prime minister.
Rather than leave it to his deputy Michael McCormack, Scott Morrison will beam into parliament via video link from The Lodge for question time as he finishes two weeks of isolation after his recent official trip to Japan.
Plenty of back slapping on the government benches can be expected when the national accounts are released this week, which economists are confident will show the economy emerging from recession.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe will be at hand to give his view on the economic growth figures for the September quarter, with the report’s release coinciding with his appearance in front of the House of Representatives economics committee.
Meanwhile, the government can be expected to be further quizzed on former finance minister Mathias Cormann’s jaunt around the world in a RAAF plane trying to garner support to become the next head of the OECD.
Mr Cormann’s successor, Simon Birmingham, has defended the expense, although he declined to declare a dollar amount when interviewed on ABC television’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“There’s no point in putting an Australian candidate forward and then running a half-baked campaign,” Senator Birmingham said.
“We’re running a proper campaign because we believe that the influence of this position in the OECD is important in terms of the future policy settings for the post-COVID recovery.”
The government can also be expected to be grilled on its handling of the escalating trade tensions with China, which has now seen tariffs put on wine exports.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government will continue to defend the national interest.
“We make no apologies for various actions that we have taken on a number of fronts including having a foreign investment framework that ensures the national interest is protected,” he told reporters in Melbourne.
Laws allowing the treasurer extra powers over foreign investment are expected to be passed in the next fortnight.
Changes to industrial laws are also expected to be introduced, although they are unlikely to passed until next year.
Mr Morrison will be putting his final touches to his ministerial reshuffle following the departure of Mr Cormann, who had been Australia’s longest serving foreign minister.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese is expected to follow suite with his own frontbench reshuffle following the departure of Joel Fitzgibbon to the backbench.
New West Australian Liberal senator Ben Small is expected to be sworn in on Monday, to replace Mr Cormann.
Also in the upper house, Victorian Greens senator Lidia Thorpe is expected to deliver her first speech on Wednesday.