GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

18 March 2016


The Government’s position in the polls improved this week, with the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll showing the Coalition ahead on 53 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote. Despite a deterioration in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s personal approval ratings – down seven points on the previous poll – the latest results place the Government in a commanding position, with Treasurer Scott Morrison confirming company tax cuts will be his priority in the upcoming May budget, and shelving personal income tax cuts until the budget position improves.

After a marathon all night sitting on Thursday, the Senate finally passed voting reform legislation early Friday afternoon. Passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 introduces optional preferential above the line voting for the Senate, and was secured with the support of the Greens and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. The Bill’s passage through Parliament after more than 40 hours of debate has greatly added to speculation the Government will now move for a double dissolution election. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).

The Government surprised many this week following announcement of the ‘effects test’, a key recommendation of the Harper Review into Australia’s competition laws. The Government will seek amendments to section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act that will introduce new provisions preventing firms with substantial market power from acting in a manner that reduces competition. See media release: Fixing competition policy to drive economic growth and jobs

 Treasurer Scott Morrison announced on Friday that he has reached agreement with his state and territory counterparts on amendments to Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations that will now see the sale of critical state-owned infrastructure assets to private foreign investors subject to review. The announcement follows last year’s controversial sale of Darwin Port to the Chinese Landbridge Group. See Treasurer’s media release here.

Meanwhile, Australia’s newest Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson was sworn in on Tuesday and delivered his maiden speech on Wednesday, in which he outlined his opposition to the national curriculum and support for a debt ceiling. Senator Paterson – who is the Liberal Party’s youngest ever Senator – is the former Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad released the updated State Infrastructure Plan, which establishes a new $500 million State Infrastructure Fund of which $180 million will be allocated for ‘significant regional infrastructure projects’. The Plan outlines the State’s future infrastructure needs and advocates partnering with the private sector, as well as implementing a number of reform initiatives. See the Premier’s media release here and the Plan here.

Also in Queensland, voters face the first state referendum since 1992 regarding the introduction of four year fixed terms for State Parliament. Queensland is currently the only state without four year terms and, along with Tasmania, one of only two states that does not have fixed terms. Queenslanders also face local council elections this weekend, with parties making their final pitch to voters on Friday.

In Western Australia, former federal Defence Minister Stephen Smith saw his audacious bid to topple party leader Mark McGowan and become Leader of the Opposition resoundingly rejected by a special party room meeting. Smith had hoped to lead the Party to the next election from outside of Parliament in a similar manner to Campbell Newman, citing his lack of faith in McGowan’s ability to lead the Party to victory as motivation.

The NSW, Victorian, SA and WA parliaments sit next week.

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