GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

16 June 2017
National security was at the centre of the debate this week, with the Government introducing legislation into Parliament to amend Australian visa and citizenship requirements. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said Australia will “accept the right people” under a new values-based test and enhanced English language requirements. While Labor is yet to confirm its position on the legislation, the Opposition has accused the Government of “stretching” by linking the citizenship changes to national security. In a further announcement today, Justice Minister Michael Keenan revealed that a three-month gun amnesty will commence on 1 July 2017, in response to the “deteriorating national security environment”. It will be the first national gun amnesty since 1996, following the Port Arthur Massacre.

Energy policy also sparked debate during the week, following the release of Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel’s review of the energy sector last Friday. According to media reports, a group of Coalition MPs, led by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have raised concerns over Dr Finkel’s proposed Clean Energy Target (CET) and potential effects on energy prices, along with the declining role of coal under a CET. Labor has reportedly indicated it will support a CET, on the condition it excludes coal technology. See the media coverage here.

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt handed down his third Budget this week, revealing a surplus of $2.8 billion this financial year and predicting a modest surplus of $146 million for 2017-18 due to the economic impact of Cyclone Debbie. The Budget focuses on new infrastructure spending, regional jobs and funding for health and education. In his address to Parliament, the Treasurer was upbeat about the state of the economy, saying “…confidence has made a comeback.” The Budget also features $5.4 billion for the Cross River Rail project; an extension of the first home owners grant; and a 1.5 per cent land tax increase for foreign owners. In his reply speech, State Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls described the Budget as “a fraud and a flop”, referencing increasing debt. See the media coverage here.

In South Australia, proposed changes to the State’s bail and parole laws will see people charged with a criminal offence automatically denied bail if they are known to have links to terrorism. The changes come after last Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, where it was resolved that there should be a presumption against parole or bail for those with links to terrorist activity. Meanwhile, three Turnbull Government ministers have been called to appear before the Supreme Court of Victoria after accusing the State’s judiciary of being lenient with sentences for terrorism offences. Health Minister Greg Hunt, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge are required to make submissions about why they should not be referred for prosecution for contempt. See the media coverage here.

WA Senator Chris Back has announced his retirement after eight years in politics, and has been described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “an indefatigable advocate for the West.” According to media reports, Senator Mathias Cormann’s former chief of staff, Slade Brockman, and Matt O’Sullivan, the Liberal candidate for Burt at the 2016 Federal Election, have been flagged as possible replacements for Senator Back. See the media coverage here. In Victoria, State Greens Leader Greg Barber and Deputy Leader Colleen Hartland have announced they will not recontest their upper house seats in 2018, alluding to a possible move to the lower house. See the media coverage here.

The Federal, NSW, Victorian, SA, WA, NT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.


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