GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

15 September 2017

Today marks two years since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became PM, making him Australia’s 19th longest-serving prime minister. Mr Turnbull pointed to his achievements over the past two years – including job creation, tax cuts and education reform – in recognising the milestone, while his predecessor Tony Abbott said he is “incredibly proud” of his time as PM and reflected that the experience of losing the prime ministership has made him “more conscious of the human condition”. The Government is heading into a four-week parliamentary break, with energy policy still the burning issue on Prime Minister Turnbull’s agenda. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this week revealed that a further 27,000 jobs were created in the month of August, including 22,000 full time jobs. The nation’s unemployment rate remained steady at 5.6 per cent in August, while underemployment reached a historic high of 8.7 per cent.

The energy debate spilled into the corridors of Australian Parliament House this week, with Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg arguing over the future of the Liddell Power Station in a corridor clash on Tuesday morning. After meeting with AGL chief executive Andy Vesey on Monday, Prime Minister Turnbull said he had secured a promise that Mr Vesey would ask the AGL board to consider keeping Liddell open beyond 2022, or sell the asset to someone who would. Mr Vesey said that AGL is “committed to finding the best solution for the market” and believed this could be delivered without extending the life of Liddell or selling the asset. Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman this week confirmed that five years is sufficient time to make up for the 1,000 megawatt gap that would be created by the closure of Liddell, noting “This is the longest notice we’ve ever had of a generator retiring”. See media coverage here.

The Federal Government’s landmark media reform package has passed the Senate, with the help of crossbenchers including the Nick Xenophon Team and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. The legislation – which will not become law until it returns to the House of Representatives when parliament resumes – will have wide ranging impacts on Australian media by removing legislative instruments designed to restrict media ownership. The reforms will remove the ‘two-out-of-three’ rule banning a single entity from owning more than two out of three platforms across TV, radio and newspapers in a single market, and jettison the ‘reach’ rule preventing a person controlling TV licences that reach more than three-quarters of the Australian population. The Government has made a number of concessions to secure crossbench support for the package, including developing a jobs and innovation package for small and regional publishers and requesting the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission conduct an inquiry into Google, Facebook and other internet giants to explore the impact of digital platforms on the media landscape. See media coverage here.

Fairfax-Ipsos poll has shown that only 65 per cent of adults are ‘certain’ they will participate in the same-sex marriage postal survey. Of those who indicated they were certain to participate, 70 per cent said they would vote ‘yes’. The Government introduced legislation to prevent vilification on either side of the same-sex marriage debate this week; the Bill passed through both Houses on the same day. Meanwhile, the same-sex marriage debate continues, with Prime Minister Turnbull urging Australians to vote Yes and noting that same-sex marriage has already been legislated for in 23 countries, saying “In any one of those nations, has the sky fallen in? Has life as we know it come to a halt? Has traditional marriage as we know it been undermined? The answer is no”. Mr Turnbull has rejected concerns raised by former PM John Howard about the protection of religious freedoms if the Yes vote prevails, saying “there is consensus across the parliament” to protect religious freedoms. See media coverage here.

In Victoria, Natalie Hutchins has been sworn in as the Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, replacing the late Fiona Richardson, who passed away last month. Speaking about her predecessor, Minister Hutchins said “One thing I’ve learnt from Fiona is to always stand up for what you believe in…I could only hope to fill her shoes”. See media coverage here.

The NSW, Vic, WA, Tas and ACT Parliaments will sit next week. The Federal Parliament will return on 16 October.


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