GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

4 March 2016

Tensions flared within the Government this week amid reports the AFP had been called in to investigate the leaking of sensitive information from the Defence White Paper regarding the deferred delivery of Australia’s next generation of submarines. Comments made by Tony Abbott – who said he was flabbergasted by the decision to delay their delivery – have been widely interpreted as a veiled swipe at Prime Minister Turnbull.

Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield announced the long-awaited media law reforms, with legislation introduced into the Lower House on Tuesday. The reforms seek the abolition of both the two-out-of-three and reach rules, and introduce higher local content requirements, but have angered the industry who say the changes do not address broadcaster licencing fees. Minister Fifield has said this issue will be considered in the May Budget. See the Minister’s release here.

Senate voting reform legislation is set to progress through Parliament, with the Government agreeing to the Greens’ amendments to the Bill that will allow for optional preferential voting below the line as well as above. The latest amendments follow a one day hearing on the legislation earlier in the week and also include greater vote-saving provisions and come with a guarantee from the Government that a double dissolution election won’t be held before the end of June.

Meanwhile, Gary Gray has stood down as Shadow Special Minister of State following his declaration of support for the proposed Senate voting reforms, which are contrary to Labor’s position. Mr Gray, who is retiring at the upcoming election, will remain in Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has appointed Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor Shadow Special Minister of State.

The ALP is set to lose yet another Federal West Australian Parliamentarian following the retirement of Senator Joe Bullock, who announced this week he could not support the Party’s stance on same sex marriage. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten revealed the Party’s National Executive will determine Senator Bullock’s replacement and clears the way for Mr Shorten’s preferred candidate, ‘father of reconciliation’ Pat Dodson. The Executive will also determine pre-selection candidates for the NSW federal seats of Barton and Hunter, and the state seat of Canterbury. Joel Fitzgibbon will contest the seat of Hunter, while current State Member for Canterbury, NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney, confirms she will stand for the federal seat of Barton. Read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
The Productivity Commission has called on the Government to review anti-dumping provisions, warning existing laws may be harmful to national productivity. In a research report published this week, the Commission claims that nearly all of the efficiency and fairness arguments in support of the existing regime lack credibility. Read the report here.

NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian delivered a keynote speech on Monday, in which she foreshadowed a possible reduction in the number of government departments, agencies and state owned corporations following recommendations from the Government’s Commission of Audit. Ms Berejiklian said streamlining government structures would better enable the delivery of key services and infrastructure to the people of NSW. Read more of the Treasurer’s comments in the SMH here (subscription service).

Also in NSW, Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello announced a Taskforce and hotline to combat compulsory third party (CTP) insurance fraud ahead of a government review of the State’s $2.2 billion CTP insurance scheme. See the Minister’s media release here and read more in the AFR here (subscription service).

The NSW, Victorian, South Australian, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.

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