GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

24 March 2017
This week’s Newspoll indicates a 3 per cent rise in support for the Coalition from 45 to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred (2PP) basis, compared to Labor on 52 per cent; previous polling in February recorded a 10 per cent lead by Labor. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also gained further ground as preferred PM and continues to lead against Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, 43 to 29 per cent. The poll also reveals the Coalition’s primary vote has increased from 34 to 37 per cent over the previous three weeks, marking its strongest result since December 2016. Despite a less-than-favourable result at the recent Western Australian Election, One Nation has retained its 10 per cent primary vote.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 has passed the Senate in the final sitting days ahead of the May Federal Budget, securing the $1.6 billion childcare package originally outlined in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017, and introducing a two-year freeze on the indexation of Family Tax Benefits (FTB). Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the passing of the Bill will achieve a $2.4 billion saving over the period to 2020-21. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, however, criticised the FTB freeze as “a sledgehammer blow to Australian families”. See the media coverage here.

The Government secured support this week to amend Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 from independents David Leyonhjelm, Cory Bernardi and Derryn Hinch, and four One Nation senators, which will see the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” replaced with “harass”. Despite increasing the numbers needed for reform, the changes will not pass the Senate without the support of the Nick Xenophon Team, who still oppose the suggested wording but will support “sensible changes” to processes surrounding complaints made under the legislation. See the media coverage here.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang touched down in Australia this week where he will spend five days visiting Canberra and Sydney for an annual leaders meeting as part of the countries’ Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and is anticipated to conclude with bilateral agreements on security, energy and beef exports. Federal Trade Minister Steven Ciobo indicated the Government will announce new trade measures under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), which originally entered into force in December 2015. Prime Minister Turnbull commented that “China contributes directly to our prosperity – supporting the jobs and growth agenda that is at the heart of my Government.” See the media coverage here.

While attending a US-led anti-terror coalition in Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop extended her “deepest sympathies to the people of the United Kingdom” in the wake of the attack in London earlier this week. Minister Bishop confirmed that no Australian citizens have been identified as involved in the incident, and reiterated the Government’s commitment to security to ensure “our law enforcement and intelligence agencies and our authorities are placed as well as they can be to ensure Australians are safe”. See the media coverage here.

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has announced three new appointments to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) who will “bring comprehensive expertise and valuable skills” to the tribunal. Peter Anderson of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Alan Colman have been appointed deputy presidents, with Sarah McKinnon of the National Farmers’ Federation to fill the role of Commissioner. See the media coverage here.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger Brexit on Wednesday 29 March, which will begin two years of negotiations with the European Union. Ms May indicated that securing a robust free-trade agreement is a priority for the British Government, along with securing collaboration on international security concerns. See the media coverage here.

The new Western Australian Labor Government has called on the Prime Minister to honour a commitment made last year regarding introduction of a ‘floor’ in national GST distribution. Prior to the election, Mr Turnbull indicated reform was not possible until the State’s GST share had increased to 70 per cent of its per capita allocation from the present level of 30 per cent. According to Mr Turnbull, new Labor Premier Mark McGowan must “get his own party onside” to convince other state leaders of the need for change. Newly-appointed State Treasurer Ben Wyatt placed the onus back on Mr Turnbull, however, indicating that “ultimately the Prime Minister needs to understand he is…responsible for delivering on the commitment he made to WA over six months ago”. See the media coverage here.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been appointed the new Chair of beyondblue to replace former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, effective 1 July. Ms Gillard has served on the not-for-profit organisation’s board since 2014, and has a “lifetime passion” for mental health advocacy. See the media coverage here.

Victorian MP Steve Herbert has announced his retirement from politics following the expenses scandal over recent months, which prompted his decision to quit the Cabinet. In a statement to the Legislative Council, Mr Herbert said he “no longer [has] 100 per cent to give”. His retirement will not trigger a byelection as Labor will replace the upper house seat through a casual vacancy. See the media coverage here.

The Federal, NSW, SA and ACT parliaments sit next week.

The GRACosway Sydney office will be in new premises as of Monday 27 March, located at Level 21, 6 O’Connell Street, Sydney. All other contact details remain unchanged.
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