GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

22 September 2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used his tour of Queensland this week to focus on national energy policy. While awaiting reports from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) on the recommended scale of east coast gas export restrictions, the Prime Minister indicated that the Government is likely to take the “unprecedented step of restricting exports” by triggering the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism and enforcing limits from January 1, 2018. However, responding to industry protests, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann later said that imposing export restrictions is not the Government’s preferred course of action, and that any market intervention could be scaled down. See the media coverage here.

The debate about gas export restrictions follows ACCC chairman Rod Sims’ address to the National Press Club earlier in the week, in which he acknowledged that “we are in a very, very bad place” on electricity stability and affordability. Mr Sims indicated that the impending ACCC reports on the affordability of retail electricity, and gas market supply and demand will identify a range of reasons for the Australian power crisis. See the transcript of Mr Sims’ speech here.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Abbott has threatened to derail the Coalition’s energy plans, confirming that he will cross the floor of parliament and vote against any attempt to legislate a clean energy target (CET), beyond the existing Renewable Energy Target legislated during his prime ministership in 2015. His comments have escalated energy policy divisions within the Coalition, with as many as six backbenchers indicating they will support Mr Abbott in blocking increases to subsidies for renewable technologies, either by abstaining or voting against CET legislation. See the media coverage here.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has spent the week in New York at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, attending a number of conferences and forums on nuclear disarmament; counter-terrorism; slavery; malaria; and climate change. She has also met with world leaders, including President of the United States, Donald Trump, to discuss the escalating threat posed by North Korea. Ms Bishop has used the week as an opportunity to promote Australia’s credentials as a potential member of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018-20, and to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to delivering justice for the shooting down of flight MH17. See the media release here.

Debate over the legalisation of same-sex marriage has continued, with the Coalition for Marriage officially launching the “no” campaign last weekend, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirming that a “no” survey result would rule out a parliamentary vote initiated by the Coalition during this parliamentary term and the next. Polling this week found that public support for marriage equality has dropped 4 per cent over the past fortnight to 55 per cent, with 34 per cent of voters opposed to the change and 11 per cent still undecided.

The High Court has begun proceedings to investigate the eligibility of One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts to sit in the Australian Parliament; he is the first of seven parliamentarians facing possible disqualification on the basis of citizenship. The Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has heard from Senator Roberts, who said, “It would have been my firm belief at that time that I did not have citizenship of another country”. See the media coverage here.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has announced his new ministry following the resignations of Minister for Health Jack Snelling, and Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Leesa Vlahos. Major changes include Peter Malinauskas’ promotion to Minister for Health, and Mental Health and Substance Abuse; and Katrine Hildyard entering the Cabinet as Minister for Disabilities, and Assisting for Recreation and Sport. Chris Picton also enters the Cabinet, taking on the portfolios of Police; Correctional Services; Emergency Services; and Road Safety; and Assisting for Health; and Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Martin Hamilton-Smith has added a newly-created Space Industries portfolio to his responsibilities, reflecting Premier Weatherill’s recent focus and investments in the sector. See the media release here.

The South Australian and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week.


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