GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

23 September 2016

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spent the week in the United States, where he attended the United Nations General Assembly Leaders’ Week in New York and participated in summits on refugees and migration. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister advocated for strong border protection policies and global cooperation to tackle issues such as climate change and terrorism. Mr Turnbull also announced a range of new immigration measures, including $130 million in extra funding to support refugees and a permanent increase in Australia’s humanitarian refugee program, and spent time promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, urging members of Congress to ratify the agreement as a “statement of America’s commitment” to the Asia-Pacific region.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has confirmed that Cabinet will be asked to consider a proposal to amend Australia’s guidelines on foreign investment, following Treasurer Scott Morrison’s recent decision to block the proposed 99-year lease of NSW electricity transmission operator Ausgrid to Chinese and Hong Kong bidders. Under the proposal, Cabinet will consider creating a list of “critical infrastructure” that will attract a higher level of scrutiny for foreign investors in a bid to provide clarity and support investment. Speaking at an investment conference in Hong Kong this week, Minister Ciobo said Australia has benefited from its openness to foreign investment and reiterated that the Government is working to maintain an “attractive environment” for foreign investors. Read Minister Ciobo’s remarks in full here and coverage by the Australian Financial Review here (subscription service).

Social Services Minister Christian Porter revealed details of the Government’s welfare reform agenda in a speech to the National Press Club earlier this week, which was followed by the release of welfare system analysis taken from data collected over the past 15 years. Minister Porter announced a $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund under which service providers would be invited to apply for funding to test a policy designed to reduce welfare system reliance by young carers, young parents and students. Applications for funding will open by the end of 2016. See Minister Porter’s media release here and speech here.

In Western Australia, Premier Colin Barnett has retained leadership of the Liberal Party after a motion to hold a leadership spill was defeated 31 votes to 15 at a party room meeting on Tuesday. Mr Barnett said the vote was “therapeutic” and “overdue” and called on his colleagues to “lick their wounds and get on with it”. The spill motion came after Transport Minister Dean Nalder and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson resigned from Cabinet at the weekend, and allegations of “bullying and intimidation” coming from the Premier’s office were raised by former minister Helen Morton. A Cabinet reshuffle to fill the vacancies left by Mr Nalder and Mr Simpson has seen Liberal Upper House MP Mark Lewis appointed Agriculture Minister; Paul Miles will serve as Local Government Minister and current Minister Bill Marmion has added the Transport portfolio to his responsibilities.

South Australian Labor Senator Don Farrell has replaced outgoing Senator Stephen Conroy as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, which comes with an automatic Shadow Cabinet position.

South Australian Parliament sits next week.

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