GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

2 December 2016


As Federal Parliament rises for the year, Labor continues its lead in the polls with the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll indicating the Opposition remains ahead of the Coalition Government, 51 to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

The Government has, however, ended the year by successfully passing legislation to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), with the 36 to 33 vote victory described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “another vital element in our national economic plan”. Conversely, CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan criticised the amended legislation, saying the new laws “will take away rights, will endanger safety and conditions for ordinary workers in the industry”. The ABCC legislation has previously been rejected by the Senate, which contributed to the July double dissolution election earlier this year. See media coverage here.

The Coalition also passed the backpacker tax legislation late yesterday, with the Senate voting 43 to 19 in favour of a 15 per cent tax rate as part of an eleventh-hour deal with the Greens in which the Government agreed to provide an additional $100 million to the National Landcare Program, and reduce the tax on backpacker superannuation payments from 95 to 65 per cent. Passage of the legislation marks the culmination of negotiations with the One Nation party and Senators Derryn Hinch and David Leyonhjelm, and has been described by the Prime Minister as marking a “term of delivery” for the Coalition Government. See media coverage here.

Treasurer Scott Morrison announced an Exposure Draft Bill and Explanatory Memorandum to implement the Diverted Profits Tax (DPT), which will boost the Australian Tax Office’s (ATO) power to tackle multinational tax avoidance and strengthen anti-avoidance rules in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and associated legislation. The DPT is expected to raise $200 million in revenue by imposing a 40 per cent tax on profits diverted by multinationals, which will commence on 1 July 2017. Submissions from interested parties are open until 23 December 2016. See media release here.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen addressed the National Press Club on Wednesday, where he spoke of the potential loss of Australia’s AAA credit rating and warned that in combination with downgrades to banks, such a result would “ricochet through the economy”. His speech further highlighted the drop in homeownership and living standards as well as rise in underemployment and budget deficit, with the Shadow Treasurer pointing out that “this is not an esoteric debate between economists, focused on theory and accounting and prestige” but a genuine threat that would increase the Government’s borrowing costs, divert resources and add undue fiscal pressure to the states. See media coverage here.

The NSW Government released its Innovation Strategy, Bringing Big Ideas to Life, which outlines its vision to improve innovation across the government and non-government sectors. The Strategy focuses on the Government’s role as a leader in innovation; efforts to foster research and development; developing skills for the future; and providing a home for entrepreneurs. A Ministerial Innovation Committee will oversee its implementation. See media coverage here.

A formal investigation into the actions of current Victorian Labor MP Cesar Melhem has been launched by the Fair Work Commission in relation to allegations of fraudulent deals brokered while Mr Melhem was the State Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU). The Fair Work inquiry will reportedly examine a series of payments made by employers to the AWU as a trade for workplace agreements, which allegedly saved employers millions at the expense of workers. See media coverage here.

Justice Susan Kiefel has been appointed Chief Justice of the High Court this week and will replace Chief Justice Robert French to become the first woman to hold the position in Australian history. She was appointed to the High Court in 2007 under the Howard Government. See media coverage here.
The Victorian and SA parliaments sit next week for the final time in 2016.

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