GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up
1 April 2016
At Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull secured ‘in principle’ support from his state and territory counterparts to continue the conversation on his proposal to grant the states and territories income taxing powers. Following announcement of the bold proposal earlier in the week, the Prime Minister said there was a fundamental need to address Australia’s federal fiscal imbalance, which currently sees the Federal Government with the largest sources of revenue but leaves the states with primary responsibility for delivering services. Mr Turnbull has suggested the Federal Government could transfer all funding responsibility for public education or healthcare to the states in exchange for granting them the authority to levy income taxes. To date, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett is the only premier to show support for the proposed reform. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
The Government appears to be making headway in its quest to pass two key industrial relations bills through the Senate, with Prime Minister Turnbull calling on Senator Bob Day earlier in the week to seek a common position from the crossbench on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013. At present, seven of the eight crossbench members have indicated their preparedness to negotiate on the legislation, however, Tasmanian Senator Jacquie Lambie has refused discussions with the Government, saying she is not afraid of the Prime Minister’s threat of a double dissolution.
Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan announced his support for a referendum on splitting the state of Queensland in two to create the new state of North Queensland. Minister Canavan’s declaration follows a renewed push by state Katter Australian Party MPs Rob Katter and Shane Knuth for a poll on the matter, which has been opposed by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Mr Canavan’s counterpart Josh Frydenberg has also indicated he is not in favour of the proposal.
Liberal Member for Murray Sharman Stone announced her intention to retire from Parliament this week, having marked 20 years in March since her election to the north-west Victorian seat. The Nationals have confirmed they will contest the electorate, which was once held by party leader John McEwen and sets the stage for a three-cornered contest between the Coalition partners.
The Victorian Government has indicated the auction for the 50-year lease of the Port of Melbourne could be concluded by October, with indicative offers due by mid-June and final binding bids expected in September. Government advisers for the sale, Morgan Stanley and Flagstaff Partners, have reportedly briefed potential bidders on the proposed auction structure, the Port’s operating performance and the expected sale timetable.
Also in Victoria, Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced a package of measures for residents effected by the $1.6 billion Caulfield to Dandenong level crossing removal project. For properties that back onto elevated sections of the Sky Rail, the package includes the option of voluntary acquisition as well as grants for fencing and landscaping works. See media release here.
The WA, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.