GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
25 November 2016
WEEKLY POLICY WRAP UP
As the end of the federal parliamentary year draws closer, Labor continues to hold its fifth consecutive lead over the Coalition Government in the polls, with this week’s Newspoll indicating the Opposition remains ahead of the Government 53 to 47 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
In a victory for the Government however, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 passed the Senate in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 33 votes to 30, after being twice previously rejected. The Bill passed with the support of all crossbenchers, with the exception of Senator Jacqui Lambie, and sees the Coalition fulfil an election commitment made by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013. The amendments will bring unions under the same regulations as corporations, establish the Registered Organisations Commission to replace the Fair Work Commission, and increase union whistle-blower protections. See media coverage here.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attended a meeting with world leaders in Peru as part of the three day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. In discussions with US President Barak Obama, Mr Turnbull highlighted the need to preserve the $27 trillion Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), following President-elect Donald Trump’s proclamation he would end US involvement in the free trade agreement. Mr Turnbull also made clear his role in any forthcoming negotiations, stating “the important thing for me as Australia’s Prime Minister is to defend Australia’s interest, that’s my job”. See media coverage here.
Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher announced the Federal Government’s response to Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan, agreeing to support 69 of the 78 recommendations. The Coalition has committed to five key initiatives, which will see targeted investment in critical public infrastructure and help ensure Australia’s long-term productivity. IA Chief Executive Philip Davies welcomed the Government’s response, noting it is “an important first step on the journey towards infrastructure reform”.
Nationals Senators Bridget McKenzie and John ‘Wacka’ Williams crossed the floor to vote with crossbencher David Leyonhjelm in a bid to re-instate the import of the contentious lever-action Adler shotgun. A further three Nationals abstained from the vote but the attempt was defeated 45 votes to 7, with Labor and the Greens supporting the Coalition’s position to uphold the ban on importing the firearms. Labor Senator Penny Wong commented that the Coalition was “now in tatters”, with members openly criticising the Prime Minister’s position on the ban. See media coverage here.
The Turnbull Government also lost ground on the backpacker tax in the Senate this week, following the passing of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s proposed amendment to drop the tax from 19 per cent to 10.5 per cent with the support of Labor, the Greens, four One Nation Party (ONP) Senators and crossbencher David Leyonhjelm, 37 votes to 30. The Lower House rejected the reduced tax rate however, insisting on the original 19 per cent tax rate and sending the legislation back to the Senate. See media coverage here.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton came under fire for his comments suggesting that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser erred in resettling Lebanese-Muslim families in Australia, stating that many individuals charged with terrorism offences are from similar backgrounds. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended Mr Dutton and whilst not directly commenting on his remarks, described him as a “thoughtful”, “committed” and “compassionate” minister. In contrast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has characterised Mr Dutton’s remarks as “loud, lazy disrespect”. See media coverage here.
The ONP was in the spotlight this week, with Pauline Hanson agreeing to support the Government’s referral of the case regarding ONP West Australian Senator Rodney Culleton’s eligibility at the July election to the High Court. Senator Culleton also failed to inform Ms Hanson of a letter he had written to a Queensland magistrate that is now being said is a possible attempt to pervert the course of justice and has been referred to police. Following a public, on-camera request by Ms Hanson, a meeting was finally held between the pair to discuss differences, with Senator Culleton saying his relationship with the ONP Leader remains “all good”. See media coverage here.
In NSW, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Member Philip Donato claimed victory in the Orange by-election by 50 votes, ending the Nationals 68-year hold in the region. A former police prosecutor, Mr Donato cited community dissatisfaction with council amalgamation and poor handling of the greyhound racing industry for his success, as well as his emphasis on supporting local issues. See media coverage here.
Still in NSW, Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Commissioner Megan Latham has announced her resignation at the end of end of the month after learning she will be forced to reapply for the position under a restructure by the Baird Government in NSW. Ms Latham has criticised the changes as creating a “fundamentally weaker organisation”, stating she will instead resume her role as a Supreme Court judge. See media coverage here.
The Federal, Queensland and SA parliaments sit next week for the final time in 2016.