GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has returned to Australia, following the G20 and subsequent trips to France and the United Kingdom, where he met with European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron. At home, Labor continues to lead in the polls, with this week’s Newspoll revealing Labor’s two-party preferred (2PP) vote remains on 53 per cent, compared to the Coalition’s 47. Both major parties’ primary votes have fallen by one point in the last three weeks, with the Coalition at 35 per cent and Labor on 36. One Nation and the Australian Greens have recorded a primary vote of 11 and 10 per cent, respectively.
Following a week dominated by debate about energy policy, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council is meeting in Brisbane today to discuss the implementation of recommendations made in the Finkel Review. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Government hoped to make “substantial progress” at today’s meeting, while confirming that it has not made any firm decisions regarding the Clean Energy Target (CET), a key proposal by Dr Finkel. Mr Frydenberg has urged State and Territory governments to be patient, following threats by Labor-led states to establish individual CETs and effectively bypass the Federal Government.
The Turnbull Government is also expected to use the COAG meeting to press the Victorian and NT governments to lift their moratoriums on onshore gas exploration, in line with recommendations made in the Finkel Review. Mr Frydenberg has argued that unlocking these gas resources is “critical” to reducing energy costs and securing jobs. The COAG meeting comes in the wake of claims made by Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who this week argued that “people will die” if they cannot afford to heat their homes. Labor’s Energy spokesperson Mark Butler has attributed increasing energy prices to “policy paralysis”, accusing Mr Kelly of scaremongering. See the media coverage here.
The NSW Government has refunded nearly $262 million to mining company Shenhua, in order to scale back the company’s mining exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains and protect agricultural land. Shenhua paid $300 million to the State’s then-Labor Government in 2008 for its licence, which was later renewed. Opposition Leader Luke Foley criticised the refund as “unjustifiable corporate welfare”, arguing that the mining giant has not yet applied for a mining lease and has therefore violated a contract clause requiring the company to engage in substantial exploration activity. See the media coverage here.
NSW Customer Service Commissioner Michael Pratt AM has been appointed the new Secretary of the State Treasury and Secretary of NSW Industrial Relations, as of 1 August. Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Mr Pratt’s new roles this week, saying he has the “perfect mix of private sector and public service expertise” and will “bring the best of both worlds in leading the Treasury at this exciting and important time for our State”. See the media release here.
Premier Berejiklian has additionally announced $35 million in State Government funding to establish the Sydney Startup Hub, creating an entrepreneurial space for business idea development, with an aim of creating employment opportunities across metropolitan and regional NSW. The Hub will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and will create approximately 6,500 new jobs. See the media release here.
WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has announced he will resign from the Federal Parliament after it was revealed today that he presently holds dual citizenship with New Zealand, in violation of constitutional rules concerning election eligibility. It is expected the Greens will retain the seat following a special recount. Senator Ludlam has apologised and taken responsibility for the error, with party leader Senator Richard Di Natale commenting “It has been an honour to sit in the Senate with Scott, and to have him as a deputy leader”. See the media coverage here.
No Parliaments are sitting next week, however, Budget Estimates will take place in Queensland.