GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered his second Budget on Tuesday night, which predicts an operating deficit of $29.4 billion, or 1.6 per cent of GDP, in 2017-18. In his speech, the Treasurer described the Budget as “responsible” and based on “principles of fairness, security and opportunity”, and said it is “honest about our challenges and opportunities”. Notable features include an across-the-board 0.5 per cent increase to the Medicare levy from 2019 to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); a lift of the Medicare rebate freeze; new compliance measures for welfare recipients; and $6.2 billion in fees over four years for the nation’s five largest banks. Later in the week, the Federal Government indicated the full cost of its company tax cuts over the next decade will amount to $65.4 billion, up from an original estimate of $48.7 billion. See GRACosway’s budget night briefing note here.
In delivering his budget reply speech on Thursday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the Budget as “devoid of values” and called for the Medicare levy increase to be limited to the top 20 per cent of income earners. He indicated that Labor would not block the levy on Australia’s largest banks, but remained sceptical that fees would not be passed on to customers. Mr Shorten said a Labor Government would invest in renewable energy, universities and schools; protect Medicare; Close the Gap between Indigenous communities and the wider population; and contribute towards affordable housing without providing tax incentives to wealthy investors. See Mr Shorten’s budget reply speech here.
Earlier this week, controversial former Labor leader Mark Latham announced his decision to join David Leyonhjelm’s Liberal Democratic Party. The NSW Labor Party responded by placing a life ban on the one-time Federal leader ever rejoining the party. See the media coverage here.
In international news, Emmanuel Macron has been elected the new president of France with 66 per cent of the vote, defeating far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen who collected just under 34 per cent. Following months of debate, Macron’s victory speech recognised the deep divisions within current French public sentiment and acknowledged his responsibility to understand the frustration and anxiety expressed throughout the election campaign. Malcolm Turnbull congratulated the incoming president, and highlighted the cooperative relationship Australia and France share. See the media coverage here.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet have announced the conclusion of the State’s poles and wires recycling program with the lease of 50.4 per cent of Endeavour Energy to Advance Energy, an Australian-led consortium. The agreement will deliver over $7.6 billion to the NSW Government, which will retain its 49.6 per cent interest in Endeavour Energy to oversee licensing arrangements and related issues. See the media coverage here.
After repaying $37,800 in claimed second residence expenses, former Victorian Speaker Telmo Languiller has returned to State Parliament with the intention of serving his full term as the Member for Tarneit. Labor-turned-Independent Melton MP Don Nardella, however, has refused to pay back the $100,000 he claimed, provoking anger in the Victorian Parliament this week. See the media coverage here.
Long-serving chief of staff to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Angela MacDonagh, has resigned this week. The Premier thanked her for her five years’ service, which included three years in Opposition. While her replacement has not been announced, Michael Stephenson, a senior staffer to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, has recently been appointed deputy chief of staff. See the media coverage here.
The SA and WA parliaments sit next week.