GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

21 August 2015

Despite demands for a return to Cabinet discipline, the Federal Government continued to be plagued this week by Cabinet leaks, the same sex marriage debate and repeated calls for the resignation of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, fuelling talk of leadership instability.
Adding to the Government’s woes, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) made submissions to the Royal Commission into Union Corruption calling on Commissioner Heydon to stand aside. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has, however, conceded that the Commission should continue even if the Commissioner recuses himself. The matter was heard on Friday with a decision expected early next week. Read The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey met with his state and territory counterparts in Canberra on Friday, at the Council of Federal Financial Relations. In a submission to the meeting, the Victorian Government, supported by Queensland, has called for the Medicare levy to be lifted by 2 per cent, while the NSW Government continues calls for a lift in the GST to 15 per cent. See Treasurer Hockey’s media release here.
The Senate Economics Committee on Corporate Tax Avoidance, chaired by LaborSenator Sam Dastyari, has tabled its interim report making 17 recommendations to combat ‘aggressive’ tax minimisation by multinationals. The Report, which recommends increasing public disclosure requirements, has been criticised by the Government who claim the balance to be just about right and have instead proposed a voluntary disclosure code. Read the interim report here.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Hockey announced the Government will table legislation in the next fortnight to require 30 multinationals with annual turnover greater than $1 billion to establish a taxable presence in Australia. The American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham), has called for a longer transition period to the laws which are intended to take effect from 1 January 2016. Read the AFR’s here (subscription service).
The Treasurer has also this week tabled the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Bill 2015 and the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 in Parliament, which both form part of the Government’s tighter restrictions on foreign ownership of Australian agricultural assets.
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt introduced legislation to amend Section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which according to Attorney-General George Brandis “allows radical green activists to engage in vigilante litigation to stop important economic projects.”  This follows a successful court challenge to the environmental approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. See media release:  Government acts to protect jobs from vigilante litigants and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s interview on ABC’s 7.30
Following his endorsement at a joint sitting of the Tasmanian Parliament on Tuesday,Nick McKim was sworn in as the newest senator from Tasmania on Thursday replacing former Greens party leader Christine Milne.
The Victorian Liberal Party is dealing with the fall-out of a forensic audit that uncovered more than $1.5 million in irregular expenditure claims between 2010-14. State President Michael Kroger has referred a number of unauthorised transactions linked to the former State Director to the Victorian Police for further investigation.
NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and NT parliaments sit next week.


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