GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up
21 November 2014:
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane last weekend where leaders agreed to increase global growth by 2.1% over five years, and made commitments to boost infrastructure and reduce profit shifting. See the communique here and the Brisbane action plan here.
Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb, secured the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) this week, with a signing ceremony taking place in Canberra following President Xi Jinping’s address to Parliament. ChAFTA opens up China for the export of Australian services and reduces tariffs in numerous areas including food and resources. The agreement also raises the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) screening threshold for Chinese private sector investments in non-sensitive areas in Australia from $248 million to $1,078 million. FIRB will still monitor all investments by Chinese State-Owned Enterprises.
Coinciding with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the Australian Parliament this week, PM Abbott announced a new Framework for Security Cooperation between the two countries, which includes new measures for collaboration in defence and counter-terrorism, and an agreement to hold regular meetings at the Defence Minister level. See the joint statement here. Mr Abbott and PM Modi also announced their intent to sign a free trade deal by the end of 2015.
In domestic politics, the Government suffered a setback in the Senate this week after a ‘coalition of common sense’ Senators, including Palmer United Party (PUP) Senator Jacqui Lambie and Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir, joined Labor to vote down the Government’s changes to the Freedom of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws. The vote means arrangements now revert to the previous law passed by the Gillard Government. In response, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann has asked the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) to facilitate a transition to the new arrangements for the sector by 1 July 2015.
Following the FOFA vote, Senator Jacqui Lambie was removed as Deputy Leader of the PUP in the Senate and suspended from the party. Senator Lambie will consider her future in the party this weekend. The Government’s task of negotiating with key crossbenchers and therefore ability to pass legislation in the Senate has become all the more unpredictable following the week’s events. The development also brings into question Clive Palmer’s ability to guarantee 4 votes on the floor of the Senate.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced funding cuts to the ABC and SBS this week, with the agencies’ funding to be cut by 4.6% and 1.7% respectively over 5 years. For further details see Minister Turnbull’s speech, ‘The future of our public broadcasters’ here.
In the latest Newspoll this week, Labor leads the Coalition 55 per cent to 45 per cent in the two-party-preferred vote.
City of Joondalup (WA) Mayor Troy Pickard has taken up the role of President of the Australian Local Government Association.
In NSW, former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald have been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions that they will face misconduct charges. The charges follow corruption hearings at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The Victorian election campaign enters its final week next week as the opinion polls continue to point to a Labor victory come Saturday 29 November. For all the details and policy announcements from this week, see GRACosway’s newsletter here.
Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes will become the new Lord Mayor of Newcastle after she won last week’s by-election, which was held after the resignation of independent Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy following ICAC inquiry Operation Spicer.
Federal, QLD, WA, ACT, NT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.