GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

21 April 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa this week, which will replace the Subclass 457 Visa for temporary skilled migrants and is described as a method to “recruit the best and brightest in the national interest”. While the new program is said to incorporate greater English language proficiency requirements, higher work experience requirements and include conditions regarding labour market testing, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten labelled the changes “a con job” and released analysis that indicates only 8.6 per cent of current 457 visa holders are engaged in work that will be excluded under the new regime. Following the Prime Minister’s visit to India last week, the Indian Government issued a statement saying its Ministry of External Affairs will be “examining the consequences” of the visa changes “in the context” of trade negotiations with Australia. See the media coverage here.

As part of a week-long Asia-Pacific tour, US Vice-President Mike Pence will arrive in Australia this weekend following stops in South Korea, Japan and Indonesia. It is understood Mr Pence will meet with Mr Turnbull, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten where bilateral trade, investment and defence will be discussed. A senior US official reportedly indicated no objections will be raised in relation to the refugee resettlement agreement struck with the Obama administration in 2016, however, it is understood questions over North Korea and the fight against Islamic State will be considered. See the media coverage here.

In maintaining the Government’s trade agenda, Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo travelled to Japan this week to advance implementation of the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) and promote Australian food and beverage products, financial and health services. Mr Ciobo described Japan as “a vitally important trade and economic partner” and will “pursue new commercial opportunities, promote ‘brand Australia’ and forge new business partnerships.” See the media release here.

A recent Essential Research poll commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has revealed 69 per cent of Australians believe a higher minimum wage is necessary; only one in five people indicated the $17.70 per hour minimum wage should not change. The ACTU has urged the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to increase this figure by $45 per week, lifting the minimum annual wage to $37,420. While the Turnbull Government has advised the FWC against an “excessive” rise, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the increase “would not only boost family budgets, it would flow on to substantial growth across the whole economy.” The FWC will deliver the results of its annual wage review mid-year. See the media coverage here.

International affairs adviser Greg Moriarty has been appointed the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff following the departure of Drew Clarke who finishes up in the role today. Mr Moriarty was formerly Australia’s first counter-terrorism co-ordinator under the Abbott Government in 2015, and has previously served as an ambassador to Iran and Indonesia. Defence Department Secretary Dennis Richardson has also announced his resignation, effective next month. In 48 years of public service, Mr Richardson has held senior positions in the Defence portfolio, served as US Ambassador and was principal adviser to former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The High Court has rejected a challenge instigated by the Labor Party regarding the validity of South Australian Family First Senator Lucy Gichuhi’s eligibility to run for office, following a recount of the State Senate vote. The full bench confirmed that Ms Gichuhi did not hold dual citizenship with Kenya, her country of birth, at the time of running for Senator Bob Day’s position. The Court declared Ms Gichuhi duly elected and she is expected to be sworn in as Senator Day’s replacement when Parliament resumes on 9 May. Labor’s Acting Shadow Attorney-General Katy Gallagher, however, indicated a further submission would be made to the High Court. See the media coverage here.

Clive Palmer has officially disbanded the Palmer United Party (PUP) and confirmed his retirement from politics. In formerly announcing the move, Mr Palmer thanked “the Members and thousands of Australians in every state of the Commonwealth, who have supported the party and its candidates during the last four years.” See the media coverage here.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a ‘snap’ general election for 8 June, pending approval from the House of Commons. Following the triggering of Brexit last month, it is understood that while there is no process to reverse the decision, the vote will create an opportunity to control the way in which Brexit is carried out. Ms May is reportedly likely to see an increased majority and greater authority within her own party; the Conservatives are already recording a strong lead in the polls over Labour. See the media coverage here.

There is no scheduled sitting of any parliament next week.

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