GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

14 August 2015
Federal Parliament resumed on Monday after the six week winter recess. It was a disappointing start for Prime Minister Tony Abbott with the release of the latest Newspoll showing primary support for the Coalition has slipped to 39 per cent. The Labor Party now leads the Government by 54 to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

The first act of business for the Parliament was the election of a new Speaker withVictorian Liberal MP Tony Smith duly elected after winning the Liberal nomination 51-22 over Russell Broadbent in an internal party ballot.  Mr Smith declared that he would not attend Party Room meetings as a matter of course, but would continue to vote in significant matters such as leadership ballots.

Same sex marriage dominated the week, with the Prime Minister calling a surprise joint party room meeting to debate the issue of a conscience vote. The Coalition reportedly voted against such a move 66 to 33, with Mr Abbott indicating his support for a plebiscite on the issue following the next election. The decision to hold a joint party room meeting angered many within the Liberal Party and induced Education Minister Christopher Pyne, also leader of government tactics, to accuse the Prime Minister of branch stacking. Three members of the Liberal Party have since indicated their intention to cross the floor should a same sex marriage bill be successful in reaching a vote pre-election.

Meanwhile, the Opposition called on the Government to replace the Chair of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption, Dyson Heydon, amid allegations of bias after it was revealed he had agreed to address the Sir Garfield Barwick memorial lecture, a NSW Liberal Party fundraising event. The NSW Liberal Party has sought to clarify the event is not a fundraiser, despite invitations to the function including donation forms.  Mr Heydon has since withdrawn from the event.

In a boost to primary industry, Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce welcomed the Chinese Government’s ratification of the Australian feeder and slaughter cattle import health protocol. It is hoped that the deal will see 40,000 head of cattle exported to China in the coming year, growing to more than 1 million per annum over the decade. See media release Joyce welcomes ratification of historic China live export deal.

Separately, Minister Joyce welcomed Indonesia’s decision to double Australian cattle import permits to 100,000 for the period July to September, having initially cut the quota by 80 per cent from the previous quarter. Read more on the ABC Online here.

In NSW, Premier Mike Baird announced his government will adopt all recommendations made by the panel examining the powers of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Mr Baird ordered the review following a High Court ruling in April which cast doubt on the extent of the ICAC’s jurisdiction. The legislation, when tabled, will extend ICAC’s reach to include non-public officials but will limit the authority to making findings only on matters of ‘serious’ corrupt conduct.
The Opposition Leader Luke Foley has said Labor supports the recommendations. See the Premier’s media release here.

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula announced the appointment of Jane Dixon QC to the State’s Supreme Court, replacing the Honourable Justice Betty King, who retired after 15 years of service to the Court. See the Attorney-General’s media release here.

Federal, Victorian, Queensland, WA and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.


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