GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

18 November 2016

Immigration remained at the forefront of the national debate this week, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing a one-off refugee resettlement agreement with the United States for refugees currently detained in regional processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru. The Prime Minister first raised the possibility of resettlement with US President Barack Obama during his visit to Washington in January 2016. Although the deal will not apply to future refugee arrivals, concerns have emerged as to whether US President-elect Donald Trump will honour the agreement following his inauguration on 20 January 2017.

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton announced changes to the subclass 457 temporary skilled worker visa programme, which from tomorrow will see the number of days these visa holders can stay in Australia after their employment ceases reduced from 90 to 60 days. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also announced Labor’s proposal to minimise the use of 457 visas early this week in response to “a worrying rise in the number of temporary work visas that should easily be filled by local workers” but went on to criticise the Coalition’s changes, citing the need to prioritise local employment over a visa system that “sees cheap labour being imported from overseas undercutting Australian jobs”. Meanwhile, outspoken Liberal backbencher George Christensen has called for further reforms to the visa programme to restrict 457 visa holders from gaining employment in the central and north Queensland regions of his electorate of Dawson.

An agreement has been reached between the Federal and Victorian Governments for a $3 billion Victorian Infrastructure Package, which will deliver some 40 road and rail infrastructure projects, including $690 million in rural and regional development, across the State. The Federal Government’s contribution of $1.5 billion had originally been set aside for the Victorian East West Link project, which was subsequently scrapped by the State Government. See media coverage here.

In NSW, Troy Grant has resigned as Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier following Saturday’s by-election in Orange following a 34 per cent swing against the Party; the Nationals have held the seat for almost 70 years. Monaro MP John Barilaro has been elected unopposed as the new Leader of the NSW Nationals, with Niall Blair replacing Education Minister Adrian Piccoli as Deputy Leader following Mr Piccoli’s subsequent resignation. Commentators have attributed the swing against the Nationals to voter response to the now-repealed ban on greyhound racing and amalgamation of local councils, with Premier Mike Baird facing pressure over an immediate reshuffle of his Cabinet.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has called for a state-wide referendum on the proposed construction of Australia’s first high-level nuclear waste dump. With a purpose to receive “broad social consent”, the referendum will draw the issue into the spotlight at the next state election to be held in March 2018. Liberal Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has now withdrawn bipartisan support for a nuclear waste dump however, suggesting a lack in public appetite for the plan based on evidence provided by the Citizen’s Jury examining the proposal.

In other news, Prime Minister Turnbull announced Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs’ tenure will not be extended when her term expires in mid-2017. Professor Triggs was appointed President in 2012, and has faced criticism from members of the Coalition over her conduct in the role on issues such as offshore immigration detention. Her replacement is yet to be announced.

The Federal, Victorian, SA, WA and NT parliaments sit next week.

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