GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

5 May 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a 10-year Federal Government funding plan to “bring the school funding wars to an end” by raising current expenditure from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $30.6 billion by 2027. Dubbed “Gonski 2.0” by Mr Turnbull, the plan will introduce a needs-based assessment to allocate financing to schools across Australia. Labor’s Education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek has described the plan as “an act of political bastardry”, as the original Gonski proposal presented under the Labor Government in 2011 recommended a further $22 billion in funding. The Greens, however, have indicated their potential support in the Senate in the interest of ending ongoing funding disputes between the Federal and state governments and providing greater certainty in the education sector. The Prime Minister also stated an additional $2.2 billion in education funding over the forward estimates will be provided in next week’s Federal Budget. See the media coverage here.

Still in education, Senator Simon Birmingham has signalled the introduction of a “clean slate” in higher education policy, with potential reforms to include a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend over two years on universities; lowering the HELP debt repayment threshold from $55,000 to $42,000; and increasing education fees. Labor and the Greens have indicated staunch opposition to the changes, while crossbenchers Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson have said their parties may offer the support needed for the changes. See the media coverage here.

Malcolm Turnbull has visited the US this week to hold defence meetings with President Trump and meet with the Joint Terrorism Taskforce in New York. It is understood Mr Turnbull used his two-day visit to discuss defence, trade and business relationship issues with the US. Speaking to the media, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop commented that “strong national interests” will drive a cooperative relationship between the two leaders, while acknowledging that “they don’t have to be best friends” in order to work together on these common causes. See the media coverage here.

The Government has flagged potential changes to funding mechanisms for state infrastructure in the upcoming Federal Budget. Under a $50 billion infrastructure plan, states will be required to demonstrate returns from the private sector on future investments in order to receive federal funding, a portion of which will be shared with the Turnbull Government. Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester indicated a value-capture approach is necessary as “the list of projects being presented by the states exceeds the Commonwealth’s capacity to pay for them and we are keen for more innovative approaches.” See the media coverage here.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has handed down his third State Budget this week, forecasting major expenditure in areas of infrastructure, transport, health and education. Infrastructure expenditure included $1.5 billion for the Regional Rail Revival upgrade package; $100 million to complete planning and pre-construction of the North East Link; and $300 million to construct the Mordialloc Bypass. Significant resources were also allocated towards law and order; new and existing healthcare projects; and education and training. See GRACosway’s briefing note here.

The Northern Territory State Budget has also been handed down this week, detailing the most significant deficit in the Territory’s history at an expected $1.3 billion. The 2017-18 operating budget is worth $8.1 billion, with major expenditures of $1.1 billion allocated to the Remote Housing Investment Package; $1.57 billion for health and hospital services; and $1.75 billion for infrastructure development. See GRACosway’s briefing note here.

A recent Galaxy poll has revealed increasing support for the Federal Opposition in Queensland; Labor’s primary vote is up from 31 to 33 percent since the last Federal Election. The Coalition’s primary vote has remained steady since February on 35 per cent, while One Nation’s primary vote has fallen from a previous 18 per cent in February to its current position of 15 per cent. See the media coverage here.

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

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