GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up
24 March 2016
After securing Senate voting reforms last Friday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday he has requested the Governor General to prorogue and recall Parliament for Monday April 18 for a period of three weeks. The Prime Minister’s move follows attempts by Labor and the Greens in the last sitting to prevent the Senate from returning before 10 May in the hopes of preventing a double dissolution. The Prime Minister has said that if the Senate does not pass the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 he will call a double dissolution election for 2 July.
The Prime Minister also confirmed the Federal Budget will be brought forward one week to 3 May to allow Opposition Leader Bill Shorten his right of reply and to allow the Senate time to pass an appropriations bill, before the Parliament is potentially dissolved on 11 May – the last possible day a double dissolution can be called. Mr Turnbull’s surprise announcement highlighted tensions within the Government, when it was revealed Treasurer Scott Morrison was not consulted on the move. Victoria has announced it will bring forward its state budget to avoid a potential clash.
As the nation effectively enters a 14 week campaign, the Prime Minister may have hoped for better news from the latest Newspoll, which shows Mr Turnbull’s personal approval rating down a further five points, representing a combined fall of 21 points since November 2015. However, in good news for the Coalition, it has edged slightly ahead of Labor on two party-preferred terms, and now sits on 51 per cent.
The NSW Electoral Commission announced this week it is withholding $4 million in public funding from the NSW Liberal Party until it reveals the identities of donors who contributed to its 2011 election campaign via Liberal fundraising body the Free Enterprise Foundation. As revealed by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2014, the Foundation was used to hide the identities of illegal donors such as property developers. The announcement has led to renewed calls by the Federal Opposition for the resignation of Cabinet Minister Arthur Sinodinos, who was Finance Director and Treasurer of the NSW Division at the time. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
Premier Mike Baird has marked the one year anniversary of the re-election of the Government, with an extensive media interview in which he declared his desire to remain in the job as long as he can. The declaration follows suggestions, earlier this month, the Premier was considering a tilt at federal politics. While the Premier acknowledged there is community anger over a number of issues – such as the WestConnex Motorway and forced council amalgamations – he highlighted his Government’s record on infrastructure. Read the SMH interview here (subscription service).
Meanwhile, Upper House Government Whip Peter Phelps resigned from the position this week following a tense debate within the Government on minimum ethanol mandates. Dr Phelps opposed the legislation, for what he argued criminalised service station owners for the decisions of their customers, and became the first Government MP to cross the floor since its election. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
Local Government elections in Queensland last Saturday saw the re-election of Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, with the LNP holding 18 of the wards in Brisbane, to the Labor Party’s five. A number of other high profile mayors were elected, including former state Police Minister Jack Dempsey, who was elected Mayor of Bundaberg. Voters in Queensland also faced a referendum on the question of four year fixed parliamentary terms, with the proposal receiving the approval of more than 53 per cent of voters. Read GRACosway’s note from earlier in the week here.
On Tuesday 29 March, the Victorian Government will receive the report from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Government is expected to respond strongly, with several announcements to follow. See the Royal Commission site here.
No parliaments sit next week.