GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

6 November 2015

Tax reform continued to dominate the public debate this week, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull vowing to put fairness at the centre of the conversation. Speaking at the Economic and Social Outlook Conference in Melbourne on Thursday, the Prime Minister did not rule out any options for tax reform but emphasised the Government’s goals of increasing productivity, innovation and competition. See the full speech here: Rebuilding foundations for reform

Treasurer Scott Morrison also weighed in on the tax reform debate, reiterating that all measures – including raising the GST to 15 per cent – are on the table. Mr Morrison said the current tax system is “punishing” workers and stifling economic growth but explained he was not under pressure to present a reform package immediately. Meanwhile, Liberal backbencher Senator Ian Macdonald has vowed to vote against any increase to the GST, saying the Howard Government promised the tax wouldn’t exceed 10 per cent.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said Labor is “resolutely” opposed to raising or broadening the GST. Instead, the Opposition will continue to pursue its previously announced revenue-raising measures of combating multinational tax concessions and high-income superannuation tax concessions. Read coverage in The Australian here (subscription service).

In a taste of the reform proposals under consideration, Victorian backbencher Michael Sukkar, a member of the Government’s tax reform team, has publicly supported the dumping of the anti-detriment payment associated with self-managed superannuation funds. Closing the “death bonus” loophole would save the Government about $100 million annually. See the coverage in the Australian Financial Review (subscription service).

Outside of the tax debate, Prime Minister Turnbull has overturned the former Prime Minister’s controversial reintroduction of imperial honours, describing the titles of Knight and Dame as “anachronistic, out-of-date, and not appropriate” in 2015 Australia. In a statement on Monday, PM Turnbull said the Queen had agreed with Cabinet’s recommendation to remove Knights and Dames from the Order of Australia. See statement here: Changes to the Order of Australia

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb welcomed the release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text on Thursday, saying the public will now have an opportunity to examine the agreement. Minister Robb responded to criticisms that climate change is not mentioned in the TPP by emphasising that it is a trade agreement, not a climate change policy. See media release here: Text released for historic trade pact (TPP)

The Government is poised to pursue amendments to media regulation before Christmas, with the reach rule set to be abolished and the two-out-of-three rule under consideration. While it is understood there is support among regional MPs and the crossbench, it has been reported that Labor remains divided on media reform. See coverage from the AFR here (subscription service).

Newspaper columnist and doctoral student Nicolle Flint has been preselected as the Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Boothby in South Australia after it was announced veteran Liberal MP Dr Andrew Southcott would not contest the next election. Ms Flint has previously called for increased female participation and leadership in the Liberal Party.

The Federal Parliament sits next week, along with the NSW, QLD, WA and Victorian Parliaments.

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