GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

9 June 2017
The nation’s political leaders are in Hobart today for a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, where debate is expected to focus on energy policy, in light of Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s final report on the national energy system which was handed down this afternoon. The report recommends a Clean Energy Target; greater use of gas; and the implementation of a National Electricity Market (NEM)-wide integrated grid plan in order to enhance energy security and reduce carbon emissions. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for “ideology and politics” to be taken out of energy policy, saying his approach is instead “grounded in economics and engineering”. See the media coverage here.

The March National Accounts released this week revealed 0.3 per cent real growth in GDP, down from 1.1 per cent in December last year. According to Treasurer Scott Morrison, the “very moderate” results reflect the “continued resilience of the Australian economy”. The figures showed an increase in business investment, offsetting a 4.4 per cent fall in home building investment, while household consumption rose by 0.5 per cent. Overall, the data shows that 17 of 20 industry sectors in the economy recorded growth over the quarter. Opposition Treasurer Chris Bowen accused Mr Morrison of using “hollow rhetoric”, stating that “The Australian economy is currently experiencing the lowest annual GDP growth since the Global Financial Crisis”. See the media coverage here.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has raised the national minimum wage by 3.3 per cent, bringing the hourly rate to $18.29 and the minimum annual income to just over $36,000. FWC President Justice Iain Ross said the decision was based on subdued inflation and robust company profits and is consistent with the Commission’s view that “modest and regular wage increases do not result in disemployment”. The Australian Retailers’ Association expressed dissatisfaction with the increase, saying it will affect the “growth and stability” of the retail industry. The Commission also ruled that reductions to weekend penalty rates will not take full effect until 2019-20, with initial pay reductions to begin in July 2017.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews faced questions about the State’s parole system this week, following a terrorism incident in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton on Monday. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for the issue to be addressed, saying “There have been too many cases of people on parole committing violent offences of this kind.” There will be a strong presumption against granting bail or parole to anyone connected with terror offences, under a deal struck between state and territory leaders, ahead of today’s COAG meeting. Premier Andrews said Victoria “has the toughest parole laws in the country”, while acknowledging that “more needs to be done”.

The ACT 2017-18 Budget was handed down this week, delivering $867 million for new capital works including schools and hospitals. Treasurer and Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the Budget as delivering “a positive plan for renewal”. Featuring a deficit of $83.4 million, highlights of the Budget include $443 million in new investment in health infrastructure; $210 million worth of new investment in schools; and $236 million to develop a Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency Centre at the Canberra Hospital. See the media coverage here.

The $16.5 billion Adani Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland has received official approval from Chairman Gautam Adani, who described the decision as a “historic day” for investment in Australia. With pre-construction set to begin in September, the mine will reportedly produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal per year once operational. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk opened Adani’s regional headquarters in Townsville this week, saying the Government’s goal is to make Queensland the “investment choice state of the nation”. See the media coverage here.

In international news, early reports suggest the UK General Election may result in a hung Parliament, with a BBC exit poll indicating Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party may lose its overall majority. Track the live updates here.

The Federal, Queensland, WA, NT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.


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