GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

28 October 2016

Housing affordability and paid parental leave dominated the national policy debate this week, replacing the previous week’s focus on gun laws. In an address to the Urban Development Institute of Australia on Monday, Treasurer Scott Morrison said constraints such as complex land planning and development regulation make it difficult for people to break into the housing market and called on state governments to remove unnecessary land planning regulations that “impede housing supply”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicated the Government is prepared to negotiate over its planned crackdown on paid parental leave ‘double-dipping’, additionally noting he is “understanding and sympathetic” to pregnant women facing retrospective changes to their leave entitlements.

In polling news, Labor maintained its lead over the Coalition in this week’s Newspoll, 52 to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. While the results show the Prime Minister’s satisfaction rating has fallen to a new low of 29 per cent, Mr Turnbull emphasised that good governments are not distracted by polling and said his job is to “get on with the job of governing and delivering”. In getting on with business at hand, the Prime Minister travelled to Central Queensland where he spoke about the need for more water infrastructure and said the State Government is holding up key water projects for “political reasons”. He also announced an extra $440 million for capital works on water projects across the nation under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson stepped down from his position following a dispute with Attorney-General George Brandis over a direction that restricts the Solicitor-General from providing legal advice to anyone in the Government without first obtaining permission from the Attorney-General. Mr Gleeson said his relationship with Senator Brandis is “irretrievably broken” and rejected “each and every attack and insinuation” made upon his office. The Attorney-General accepted Mr Gleeson’s resignation, saying it was the “proper course of action” given the circumstances.

South Australian Family First Leader Dennis Hood indicated his Federal colleague Senator Bob Day may be able to serve out the remainder of his three-year Senate term if a potential investor steps in to save Senator Day’s home building companies, which went into liquidation following debts totalling $37.8 million, including $19.6 million to unsecured creditors. On Twitter, Senator Day said that there is no time to install a Family First replacement before the end of the parliamentary year, meaning the Party would not have a vote on matters such as same-sex marriage plebiscite legislation and the Bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Labor has called on the Government to refuse Senator Day’s vote on its ABCC legislation, saying it would be the “ultimate sign of weakness” to accept his support in light of recent revelations about his business dealings.

The Government has suggested it will revisit proposed laws to curtail the rights of environmental activists to appeal major projects, with Prime Minister Turnbull saying he is concerned that “systematic, well-funded” environmental campaigns are targeting major projects. Mr Turnbull said the Government does not want to “short-change the environment” but argued that there is “too much delay and too much red tape” and that decisions should be made “in a prompt and efficient way”. The Prime Minister confirmed the Government will “reassess the tenor of the new Senate” to see whether the proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act are likely to win support in the Upper House.

In the nation’s capital, Alistair Coe has been elected as ACT Liberal Leader, replacing Jeremy Hanson who had held the role since 2013. The Party suffered a 2.2 swing against it at the recent election and will spend a fifth consecutive term in opposition with Mr Coe at the helm, along with Deputy Leader Nicole Lawder. Formal declaration of the poll results this week revealed that 13 of the 25 ACT parliamentarians are women, which is understood to be a record for any parliament in Australia. See coverage by the Canberra Times here.

Queensland and South Australian parliaments sit next week.

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