GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

8 May 2015

After weeks of positioning and speculation, Treasurer Joe Hockey has signed off on the Abbott Government’s second budget ahead of Tuesday night.  The Government will spend the final few days before the budget is released at 7.30pm on Tuesday focusing on its ‘centrepiece’, a families package, that according to media reports, is set to be unveiled on Sunday with over $800 million for childcare measures for disadvantaged families.  The package will be contingent on savings announced in last year’s budget but currently stalled in the Senate.

Announcing changes to the pension this week that would take effect in 2017, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison revealed a tightening to the assets test for wealthier retirees as well as an increase in payments for those worse off.  Minister Morrison also dumped the government’s policy announced in last year’s budget of tying future pension indexation to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The budget may include changes to how GST applies to intangibles such as online movies, music and software.  Meanwhile, some are bracing for further cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget.

After an epic standoff over reductions in the 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Federal Government and the Opposition reached a tentative agreement on Friday for a new target of 33,000 GWh of renewable energy per annum by 2020. The two sides are still haggling over what forms of energy can be included in the target, with the Opposition opposed to government attempts to include wood waste in the scheme.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed this week that WA will benefit from an extra $499 million in light of declining GST revenue to invest in road infrastructure.  See the announcement here.

Senator Christine Milne resigned on Wednesday as leader of the Australian Greens after she announced that she won’t be contesting the next election.  Victorian Senator Dr Richad Di Natale was elected the new leader, with co-deputy leaders Senator Larissa Waters and Senator Scott Ludlam.

The Victorian Labor Government handed down its first budget on Tuesday, with Treasurer Tim Pallas outlining a $1.2 billion surplus for the coming year and $22 billion in infrastructure investment over four years.  See GRACosway’s substantive briefing note on the budget here.

In NSW, Premier Mike Baird has introduced legislation to validate previous findings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that may have been open to challenge in the High Court.  Premier Baird also announced that Bruce McClintock SC and Murray Gleeson would review the scope of ICACs powers, to report back by July.

Federal, NSW, SA, WA and ACT parliaments sit next week.

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