GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

16 October 2015

Federal Parliament resumed on Monday with Malcolm Turnbull facing his first full week at the dispatch box as Prime Minister. The Labor Opposition continued its assault on Mr Turnbull’s personal wealth, criticising his links to an investment fund registered in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

Meanwhile, the Royal Commission into Trade Unions s continued this week with allegations that secret payments totalling more than $450,000 were paid by a glass manufacturing company to the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Victoria, during Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s tenure as AWUnion Secretary. However, the AWU maintains the fees were legitimate payments for employee safety training programs. Separately, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) announced on Friday it will merge with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to create one of Australia’s largest unions.
On Tuesday, Mr Shorten outlined Labor’s support for the China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) in exchange for greater safeguards for local workers through amendments to the 457 visa program. Labor has called for the minimum base rate of pay for 457 visas to be lifted to $57,000 a year and require all jobs to be first advertised locally. Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said he will consider Labor’s proposals in good faith. See media release here.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed his state and territory counterparts to the Council of Federal Financial Relations in Sydney on Friday. Mr Morrison labelled the group as the ‘board of directors of growing Australia’s economy’. NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian used the meeting to continue the State’s push for an increase in the rate of the GST to 15 per cent to help fund rising healthcare costs.

Treasurer Morrison also announced that the Government will revive the Harper Review into competition law, reversing the Abbott administration’s decision to place it on hold. Mr Morrison said he hoped to release the Government’s response to the Review before Christmas. Read the coverage in the SMH here (subscription service).

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) released its proposed redistribution for NSW that will see the State lose one seat with the abolition of Hunter, held by Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Joel Fitzgibbon. The AEC has also recommended Throsby be renamed for former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. See AEC report here and SMH coverage here (subscription service).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a Statement of Issues (SoI) on the proposed Brookfield acquisition of freight logistics company Asciano, raising concerns that the vertical integration could result in a substantial lessening of competition in freight rail services in Western Australia and Queensland. See SoI here.

The ACCC has also this week issued a draft determination which opposes the authorisation of taxi booking app iHail, arguing it would have a significant impact on competition in the industry, which may result in higher prices and a poorer quality of service. See the draft determination here. The industry has said it will reassess its model.

Federal Parliament sits next week Budget Estimates, as do NSW, Victoria, WA and NT parliaments.

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