GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

12 February 2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to announce a major Cabinet reshuffle in the coming days, following the retirements of Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Minister for Trade Andrew Robb, announced this week, and the resignation of Human Services Minister Stuart Robert, following breaches of the ministerial code of conduct during a private visit to China in 2015. Mr Turnbull is also expected to fill the vacancies left by the departures of Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough late last year.

At the Nationals party room meeting on Thursday, Barnaby Joyce was elected unopposed to replace Mr Truss as party leader and will soon be sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister. Senator Fiona Nash is said to have defeated a field of six other candidates to claim the deputy leadership, guaranteeing her a position in Cabinet under the Coalition Agreement.

The Prime Minister also declared the prospect of GST reform all but over, stating that it had failed to clear the first hurdle. Treasurer Scott Morrison reiterated that the Government remains committed to tax reform, and that doing nothing isn’t a viable option. The Government is now understood to favour a much more gradual cutting of company and person income tax rates.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley confirmed the Department of Health is looking at ways to digitise the payment systems of Medicare, Aged Care and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which together process $42 billion worth of payments each year. The Minister has established a taskforce to investigate options for a faster and simpler transaction system for Medicare and other payments, including the possibility of outsourcing the system to the private sector. See media release: Medicare Payment Technology Innovation and coverage in the West Australian

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne announced that dumping duties will be applied to Italian canned tomatoes entering Australia, in line with a recommendation by the Anti-Dumping Commission. The decision imposes a dumping margin of 8.4 per cent to Feger and 4.5 per cent to La Doria tomato products, which the Minister said will allow Australia’s only canned tomato producer, SPC Ardmona, to compete on an equal footing. See Minister’s media release here.

The Government has reportedly reached agreement with the Greens and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon on Senate voting reform ahead of the next election. Under the proposal reported in The Guardian on Friday, voters would be required to vote one to six above the line, or number every box below. Read more in The Guardian’s coverage here.

The Victorian Government confirmed it intends to send legislation allowing for the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne to a parliamentary disputes committee, which will then have 30 days to make a recommendation. If the legislation then fails to pass the upper house, where Labor is short seven votes, the State may face the possibility of an early election with Premier Andrews empowered to call for a double dissolution. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).

The NSW, Queensland, WA and ACT parliaments sit next week.

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