GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

4 August 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Cabinet visited Western Australia this week, where State Premier Mark McGowan and Mr Turnbull debated the issue of GST distribution in the State. The WA Government has requested Commonwealth intervention following revelations that the State’s revenue share may further fall by $2 billion over four years, due to shifting population projections. Treasurer Scott Morrison has indicated “there is no flexibility” to intervene, saying “I have no legal ability to ignore the numbers of the chief statistician”. While in WA, the Prime Minister also officially opened the $236 million Mitchell Freeway extension in Perth’s outer northern suburbs. See the media coverage here.

Following an alleged aviation terror plot in Sydney last weekend, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has downgraded the national aviation threat level from “probable” to “possible”, with increased security measures to remain in place at airports. On social media, the Prime Minister said that “The number one priority of my Government, and my commitment to the Australian people, is to keep them safe.” See the media coverage here.

Same-sex marriage has dominated discussion this week, with Prime Minister Turnbullscheduling an emergency Coalition party room meeting on Monday to debate the issue ahead of the resumption of Parliament on Tuesday. In an attempt to end the deadlock, moderate Liberal MPs have indicated they will push for a conscience vote in Parliament, contravening the party’s election promise to hold a plebiscite and drawing criticism from conservatives within the party. Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that “[Coalition] backbenchers have always had the right to cross the floor”, while remaining committed to the party’s policy of holding a plebiscite. The renewed push for same-sex marriage has attracted criticism of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, with some commentators suggesting he may face a leadership spill if the issue is not resolved. See the media coverage here.

Findings from the Melbourne Institute’s latest annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)report have revealed increased levels of mortgage debt; rising childcare costs; an increased retirement age; a drop in home ownership in the 18-39-year-old age bracket; and a greater number of young people living with their parents. Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor suggested the report supports Labor’s message about growing inequality, saying “people are feeling that they are being left behind”. Assistant Minister for Social Services Zed Seselja said the findings – particularly in relation to home ownership – are concerning, but argued that the Federal Government is taking action to address housing affordability issues. Find further information on the report here.

The Opposition has announced a plan to tax distributions from discretionary trusts at a minimum rate of 30 per cent, targeting high-income earners who use the legal mechanism “to park their money in a lower tax bracket”.  Speaking at the NSW Labor conference on Sunday, Opposition LeaderBill Shorten indicated that the majority of Australians would be unaffected by the change, while noting that the proposal could raise $17 billion in revenue over 10 years. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann described Labor’s plan as a “tax hike” on small business operators who use trusts “as a legitimate way of managing their financial affairs”. Bill Shorten also announced over the weekend that a future Labor Government will hold a referendum to determine whether Australia should convert to a republic. Mr Shorten indicated the public vote would likely support constitutional change, saying “Our head of state should be an Australian”. See the media release here.

It has been revealed this week that Federal Labor MP Justine Keay only took action to formally renounce her UK citizenship in the month before nominations closed prior to last year’s Federal Election. Acknowledging that she only received confirmation of her amended citizenship status in the weeks following the election, Ms Keay stated that “it’s about the process the candidates take before they nominate”, in reference to the constitutional provision specifying that a candidate must take “all reasonable steps” to relinquish dual citizenship. Ms Keay was elected to the Tasmanian seat of Braddon in last year’s poll. See the media coverage here.

NSW Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson announced her resignation this week, ending an 18-year career in State Parliament. Her abrupt resignation will force a by-election in upcoming weeks; her seat of Cootamundra is held with a 20.4 per cent margin. The Nationals are likely to face a strong challenge from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. See the media coverage here.

Federal Parliament resumes next week following the winter break. Additionally, the NSW, Victorian, Queensland, SA, WA and Tasmanian parliaments are sitting next week.


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