GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up
20 March 2015
A typically robust political week ended on a sombre note this morning with news that Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser had died. Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mr Fraser’s death as ‘a sad moment for all Australians’, noting he had been a major figure who had remained in Australian politics until the end. A memorial service will be held in coming weeks and the Parliament will speak to his legacy on Monday. You can read the Prime Minister’s statement here and the Leader of the Opposition’s statement here.
With parliament about to enter its final sitting week ahead of the May Budget, speculation is increasing about the size of the deficit, and where Treasurer Joe Hockey will find savings in his second budget. Media reports this week suggested that a new round of budget cuts should be expected if the Prime Minister is to fulfill his repeated goal of returning the budget to surplus within 5 years, a trajectory basically outlined in the Intergenerational Report. On Wednesday, PM Abbott however hosed down speculation saying this will be a ‘prudent, frugal, responsible budget’ and ‘pretty dull’.
In the parliament this week the Government’s higher education reforms were defeated in the Senate. Despite separating the more controversial elements of the original deregulation bill – the 20 per cent reduction in funding, and agreeing to continue research funding – Education Minister Christopher Pyne was only able to secure the support of three crossbenchers in Senators David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day and John Madigan. Minister Pyne said he had nevertheless found the $150 million in savings required for the continued research funding and that the details will be revealed in the budget.
In one legislative achievement, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull shepherded the Government’s controversial data retention legislation through the lower house with the support of the Labor Opposition. The bill was amended to ensure that agencies require a warrant to access the metadata of journalists.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was welcomed in Canberra this week by PM Tony Abbott to discuss bilateral relations, with both leaders signing a declaration to guide the relationship in coming years.
With just over a week to go until the NSW State Election the focus continues on electricity privatisation. GRACosway will issue its next newsletter on Monday. In the meantime, you can catch up with the most recent edition here.
Federal, QLD, SA, WA, ACT, NT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.