GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

30 September 2016

While the latest Newspoll released this week shows Labor has gained its biggest lead over the Coalition since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister, polling 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis, energy policy assumed the focus of the national debate this week after South Australia experienced a state-wide power blackout following extreme weather. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce questioned whether South Australia’s “over-reliance on renewable energy” is having an effect on the State’s energy security and argued that a major storm should not cause a state-wide blackout. Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reasoned that while the blackout was caused by the weather, state Labor governments have set “aggressive” and “unrealistic” renewable energy targets, and that “energy security should always be the key priority”. Mr Turnbull said he would like to see a uniform national renewable energy target and has asked Minister for Energy and the Environment Josh Frydenberg to hold a meeting with his state counterparts to discuss the move.

Prime Minister Turnbull travelled to Tasmania during the week where he visited Launceston’s University of Tasmania campus to reaffirm a $150 million federal election commitment for the University’s northern campuses expansion project. Mr Turnbull signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Launceston City Deal, which provides an extra $7.5 million for the Launceston City Heart project designed to encourage people to spend more time in the city centre.

Treasurer Scott Morrison announced that Cabinet has approved changes to the Government’s proposed ‘backpacker tax’ for working holiday makers, which it first announced in the 2015-16 Federal Budget. Mr Morrison said the backpacker tax rate will be 19 per cent on earnings up to $37,000 from 1 January 2017 instead of the proposed 32.5 per cent. The Government committed to reviewing the proposed measure during the recent election campaign after Coalition MPs raised concerns it would deter backpackers from travelling to Australia. The Treasurer also announced the application charge for working holiday maker visas will be reduced by $50 to $390. See media release: Better working holiday maker tax arrangements.

A review of the Federal Government’s $3 billion Research and Development Tax Incentive released this week found the program “falls short” of meeting its objectives and that only 10 to 20 per cent of the research and development covered by the program would not have been undertaken without government funding. Prime Minister Turnbull established the review in December 2015; it was conducted by Innovation Australia Chair Bill Ferris, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and Treasury Secretary John Fraser. Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt has invited feedback on the findings and recommendations of the review, confirming the Federal Government remains “committed to pursuing innovation and the economic opportunities and jobs it will generate”. See media release here and the review here.

Treasurer Scott Morrison used a speech to the Lowy Institute this afternoon to back immigration, trade and foreign investment as a pathway to economic growth. Mr Morrison said recent calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and similar sentiments around foreign investment and free trade agreements reflect “genuine anxiety” in the community, but noted there is “great danger” in endorsing such policies. The Treasurer said the Federal Government will continue to pursue immigration, trade and foreign investment policies “focused on the national interest” in a bid to “boost wages, increase profits and raise our living standards”. See the Treasurer’s remarks here.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has experienced a significant drop in public support according to a Newspoll conducted this week, which shows the Premier’s net satisfaction rating has fallen from positive 39 points in December 2015 to rest at negative seven points; the biggest fall in the net satisfaction rating of any mainland state Premier in the history of Newspoll. The decline in support has been attributed to the NSW Government’s ban on greyhound racing, with the poll indicating a majority of voters believe Premier Baird should have given the industry a chance to reform itself before instituting the ban.

Supplementary Budget Estimates will be held in NSW next week; no other parliaments are scheduled to sit.

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