GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

13 April 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited New Delhi this week to pursue trade talks and further develop international security ties. At the top of Mr Turnbull’s agenda was an Australia-India Fair Trade Agreement (FTA), with similar previous talks said to have stalled over recent months due to a lack of agreement over India’s desire for greater labour mobility and Australia’s requirement for increased agricultural land access. On his return, Mr Turnbull indicated that while little progress had been achieved this week, he and Indian Prime Minister Modi have agreed to “ensure that our negotiators get back to the table”. During his three day visit, Mr Turnbull’s agenda also included education in the hope of attracting more post-graduate students to Australia as well as the energy industry. The PM met Adani Group Chair and founder Gautam Adani to discuss his company’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Queensland Galilee Basin, following consideration by the Australian Government to provide a $900 million concessional loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility for construction of a 388km rail line. See the media coverage here.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has confirmed the May Budget will include a policy response to housing affordability issues, flagging this may take the form of a first-home buyer mutual obligation superannuation plan; tax concessions for downsizing the family home; and a number of social housing measures. It is understood the potential superannuation model will allow first-home buyers the ability to establish a home savings account using diverted superannuation funds that would be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis with personal savings. In an address to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute this week, the Treasurer outlined key issues and challenges facing the housing sector and highlighted the importance of increasing and diversifying the supply of rental stock, while cautioning against changing negative gearing policy settings. See the media coverage here.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has indicated the Government is “absolutely committed” to the Work for the Dole program, following discussions by the Expenditure Review Committee over repealing the $648.5 million scheme. While there has been support this week for the program to be retained, a 2016 government-funded study has revealed that the chance of individuals securing employment had only increased by two per cent as a result of the program. Coalition Senator Eric Abetz stating “the overwhelming feedback from participants was that this is a positive program that builds self-confidence and helps people to find friends and the support to find work.” The program was originally introduced under the Howard Government in 1998 and later revived by the Abbott Government. See the media coverage here.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called on the Federal Government to pay out almost $619 million in Financial Assistance Grants for local councils one year earlier than planned in order to stimulate infrastructure investment and boost employment. As part of the 2014 Budget, the Abbott Government announced a three-year indexation freeze on local government grants, which Local Government Minister Fiona Nash recently acknowledged as “unpopular” yet “necessary”. Mr Shorten stated that this repair to local council budgets will “provide local economies with a shot in the arm which will mean more local jobs and more investment.” See the media coverage here.

A quarterly Newspoll analysis has revealed a decrease in support for Malcolm Turnbull in the older demographic, recording an almost-10 per cent drop in the primary vote among people over 50 years of age since the July Federal Election from 49.9 to 40 per cent. Labor has conversely increased its popularity among older voters, with the Party’s primary vote rising from 30.6 to 34 per cent. See the media coverage here.

A review of Queensland’s emergency services has been ordered in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Debbie and the widespread clean-up of Rockhampton. Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan indicated the review will consider the State’s disaster management system and is intended to “heighten the strength and effectiveness of our arrangements even further”. A telephone survey of 900 residents will be conducted in addition to requesting input from emergency response agencies and local councils. See the media coverage here.

The results of the three NSW by-elections over the weekend have revealed an 11 per cent swing (2PP) towards Labor in the marginal seat of Gosford. The NSW Liberals have retained the two key seats of Manly and North Shore but suffered a reduction in primary votes with a swing of more than 10 and 12 per cent, respectively. See the media coverage here.

There is no scheduled sitting of any parliament next week.


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