GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

21 July 2017
A new Office of National Intelligence (ONI) has been announced this week, described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “the most significant reform of Australia’s national intelligence and domestic security arrangements in more than 40 years”. Mirroring the UK’s Home Office, the new so-called “super-ministry” will centralise communications between primary intelligence agencies and the Government; and take an active role in intelligence policy development. Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton will head the ONI in the new role of Director of National Intelligence, as recommended by former Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Michael L’Estrange in a recently-released review of intelligence operations. A new Australian Cyber Security Centre will be led by the Prime Minister’s cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon and will work in cooperation with the Australian Signals Directorate to combat cyber security threats. Labor has not ruled out its support of the sweeping structural changes, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten indicated he will be briefed by multiple intelligence agencies before his party makes a decision on the reforms. See the media coverage here.

Malcolm Turnbull has told the Melbourne Institute Economic and Social Outlook Conference this week that interest rates are set to rise. According to the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Monetary Policy Meeting in early July, the cash rate will remain unchanged at present, on 1.5 per cent. The minutes reveal a range of factors were considered, including domestic and international conditions; as well as the state of financial markets, noting low volatility over preceding months. Mr Turnbull reflected that “Monetary policy remains accommodative and will stay that way for a while yet, but it means that rates are more likely to go up than down”. Meanwhile, Treasurer Scott Morrisonchampioned the Government’s economic strategy, suggesting a “clear momentum starting to build again within our economy”. See the media coverage here.

Senator for Queensland and Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens Larissa Waters has resigned following revelations that she presently holds dual citizenship with Canada. Her departure follows the resignation of fellow Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who stepped down last Friday after it emerged that he held dual citizenship with New Zealand. Under the Australian Constitution, dual nationals are ineligible for election. In announcing her resignation on Tuesday, Senator Waters apologised to her supporters and took responsibility for the “grave mistake and oversight”. Malcolm Turnbull said the Greens had demonstrated “extraordinary negligence” and “incredible sloppiness”; Labor Leader Bill Shorten said the party must “get their house in order”. The Senate is now required to consider a motion to send the matter to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, which will formally rule on the disqualifications and order a recount of votes from the 2016 Senate election. Former Democrat-turned-Green Andrew Bartlett has been flagged as a possible candidate to replace Ms Waters, while In WA, Greens candidate Jordon Steele-John is hoping to become Australia’s youngest-ever senator at age 22, replacing Scott Ludlam. See the media coverage here.

In a speech to the Australian Clean Energy Summit early this week, Bill Shorten has confirmed Labor’s support of all 50 recommendations made in the recent Finkel Report, saying the party would back the implementation of a Clean Energy Target to ensure “better, bipartisan energy and climate policy”. Following the Summit, Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg called on Mr Shorten to pressure the Victorian and Northern Territory governments to lift their onshore gas development moratoriums in order to strengthen national energy supply. Mr Frydenberg said that inaction by the Opposition Leader in this area “will be further proof that his only interest is in the politics of energy policy, not real outcomes”. See the media coverage here.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has requested Mark Bailey stand aside as Energy Minister pending an investigation by the State Archivist regarding Mr Bailey’s deactivation of a personal email account which was used for ministerial business. This follows a report by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), which found “sufficient evidence to raise a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct” over the potential destruction of public records in violation of the Public Records Act 2002. The CCC recommended members of the Department of Premier and Cabinet restrict ministerial business to their professional email addresses in order to enhance transparency. See the media coverage here.

No Parliaments are sitting next week, however, Budget Estimates will take place in Queensland and SA.


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