GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

8 September 2017
This week’s Newspoll reveals a two-point bump in the Turnbull Government’s primary vote to 37 per cent, with Labor maintaining an increasingly narrow lead on a primary vote of 38 per cent. In addition, Labor’s two-party preferred (2PP) lead over the Coalition has decreased to 6 points, 53 to 47 per cent. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remains preferred PM on 46 per cent, while support for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has dropped from 33 to 29 per cent since previous polling. With parliamentarians returning to Canberra after a fortnight’s break, the spotlight remained on energy, same-sex marriage and the citizenship status of MPs.

The Federal Government welcomed a unanimous decision by the full bench of the High Court on Thursday to dismiss two legal challenges to the proposed same-sex marriage postal survey. The cases, lodged by Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, contended that the Government had inappropriately used its power to apportion $122 million for the postal vote, without meeting the necessary “urgent” and “unforeseen” criteria. The other primary debate considered whether the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is lawfully empowered to collected personal opinion data. Following the High Court decision, it is understood the Government will introduce legislation to prevent vilification during the same-sex marriage campaign, with Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann reportedly hoping to introduce a Bill as early as next week. See the media coverage here.

Prime Minister Turnbull has announced that the Government is considering financially backing AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley, or ensuring private investment in the asset is facilitated, in an effort to boost energy security to 2022. Delta Electricity has indicated its interest in the power station. This announcement follows the release of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s report on dispatchable power, flagging a possible gap of 1,000 megawatts in baseload dispatchable energy generation after 2022, when AGL has flagged it will close Liddell. Labor’s energy spokesperson Mark Butler has criticised the Prime Minister’s actions, arguing a Clean Energy Target should be used to encourage investment in new technologies. See the media coverage here.

The June National Accounts released by the ABS this week have revealed a 0.8 per cent rate of economic growth, increasing from 0.3 per cent in the March quarter. According to Treasurer Scott Morrison, the results show “solid and more balanced growth for our economy”, driven by household consumption, new public final demand, net exports and new business investment. The Treasurer highlighted the 1.1 per cent improvement in new private business investment, marking a third consecutive quarterly increase, noting that “Improving the incomes of wages and salary earners remains our most important challenge”. See the media release here.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a major shake-up of Federal Departmental Secretaries this week, following the recent resignations of two department heads. Mr Finn Pratt AO PSM has been appointed Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy following the retirement of Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM, and Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM has been appointed Secretary of the Department of Health, replacing the outgoing Mr Martin Bowles PSM. Other reshuffles have been made in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; the Department of Social Services; the Department of Communications and the Arts; and the Department of Human Services. Two resulting vacancies have been filled by Ms Kerri Hartland, who has been appointed Secretary of the Department of Employment, and Dr Steven Kennedy PSM, who will take over as Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. Additionally, Mr Michael Pezzullo will become the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, following its establishment. The new appointments will be for a five-year term, commencing 18 September 2017. See the media release here.

West Australian Treasurer Ben Wyatt has handed down the first Budget of the McGowan Labor Government, vowing to overhaul the State’s finances after years of debt and deficit. With a $2.3 billion deficit forecast for 2017-18, Mr Wyatt called on WA businesses to help return the State’s fiscal position to good health while announcing a hike in gold royalties and an increase in payroll tax. He has delivered a Budget that raises taxes on business and industry to soften the blow of fiscal austerity on suburban Mums and Dads, who flocked to Labor at the State Election in March 2017. The Treasurer said the Budget “addresses the fiscal legacy we have inherited” and “strikes the balance of delivering on our election commitments, of creating jobs and getting the State’s finances back on track”. See our WA Budget briefing note here.

The Federal, NSW, WA, ACT and Tasmanian Parliaments will sit next week.

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