GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap UP

27 February 2015

Prime Minister Tony Abbott touched down in New Zealand today for his first official visit, arriving amid increasing leadership speculation and after another long parliamentary week.  PM Abbott will hold formal bilateral talks with NZ Prime Minister John Key tomorrow, where a joint deployment of Australia and New Zealand troops to Iraq is expected to be the focus of discussions.

On Monday, the Prime Minister made a major speech on national security and released the review of the country’s counter-terrorism machinery, which found that the terrorist threat in Australia is rising.  The day before, the Martin Place Siege Review was released, which found no major failings of intelligence or process in the lead up the siege.

The Government’s focus on the President of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, continued this week after a long examination in Senate Estimates.  The Opposition has asked the Australian Federal Police to examine whether a possible job offer reportedly made to Professor Triggs by the head of the Attorney General’s Department in exchange for her resignation would constitute corrupt and unlawful conduct.

Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison released the long-awaited Patrick McClure led review of Australia’s welfare system on Wednesday, telling the National Press Club that the Government will now consult on its recommendations before responding.  The report recommends a long-term road map to a simpler welfare system, including reducing eligibility for the disability support pension and folding the current system of 20 payments into five.  In other major reports, Treasurer Joe Hockeyconfirmed that the Intergenerational Report will be released next Thursday at midday following a media lockup.  The Treasurer will hold a press conference at 12.15 p.m. at Parliament House.

The Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released its bipartisan report on the government’s Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 recommending that the bill be passed, with amendments, and that the Government make a substantial contribution to the upfront capital costs incurred by service providers to retain metadata.

In the wake of the Hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berry imports, the Federal Government has established a working group comprising the ministers for Industry, Agriculture, Trade and Investment, Small Business, and the Assistant Health Minister to develop changes to food labelling designed to make it easier for consumers to identify Australian grown and processed food.

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb has welcomed the release of the Productivity Commission’s research paper examining the tourism industry.  See the full report here.

In the latest Newspoll, Labor leads the Coalition 53:47 in the two-party-preferred vote.

In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the 55th Parliament will sit from March 24.  Independent MP Peter Wellington has accepted the Premier’s offer to be nominated as the new speaker.

Federal and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.

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