GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
The full bench of the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has deliberated on the so-called ‘citizenship seven’ cases this week, hearing further argument as to whether each federal MP had breached Section 44 of the Constitution by holding dual citizenship at the time of their election to Parliament. Reports indicate that legal fees for the matter are expected to surpass $2 million, to be paid by the Turnbull Government. See the media coverage here.
The Productivity Commission(PC) has released a draft report on horizontal fiscal equalisation (HFE), analysing the current GST revenue distribution method and recommending that the objective of HFE should be revised. The draft report has revealed that the present HFE scheme is “functioning reasonably well” but that “deficiencies” exist in a number of areas, creating notable flaws in the system. Treasurer Scott Morrison indicated that the Government will aim to “deliver a fairer, more durable and more efficient system for implementing HFE into the future”, while reserving its full response until after the PC’s final report is delivered in early 2018. See the media release here.
Health Minister Greg Hunt today announced a 14-point reform plan for private health insurance, designed to make policies simpler and more affordable, in an effort to halt an exodus of members and encourage young people to take out cover. Proposed changes include discounted premiums for young adults; greater transparency around policy inclusions and exclusions; increasing access to mental health services; lowering the price of implanted medical devices; axing natural therapy cover; offering travel and accommodation costs for rural and regional patients; and increasing excess flexibility. See the media release: Major reforms to make private health insurance simpler and more affordable.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has predicted the same-sex marriage postal survey will culminate in a ‘Yes’ victory, while confirming he remains personally opposed to changing the Marriage Act. Mr Dutton commented that the survey “gives a greater legitimacy to a significant social change”, saying any other approach could cause the Turnbull Government “political difficulty in the extreme”. Results of the postal survey are expected to be announced on 15 November. When questioned on his leadership aspirations, Mr Dutton signified his allegiance to the PM, while acknowledging that “You don’t sign up to play for the Wallabies or the Socceroos or for the Australian cabinet to not be leader or have the opportunity to become leader one day”. See the media coverage here.
NSW voters will head to the polls this Saturday, for the Blacktown, Cootamundra and Murray by-elections triggered by the resignations of Labor’s John Robertson, and the Nationals’ Katrina Hodgkinson and Adrian Piccoli. Reports suggest it will be a contest between the Nationals and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) Party in the Murray and Cootamundra electorates, similar to last November’s Orange by-election where the SFF overcame the Nationals by just 50 votes. In an open letter published this week, former PM John Howard has warned the public against supporting the SFF because of its position on firearms. Mr Howard urged voters to “think carefully” about their ballot, saying “The Shooters’ first priority is to fundamentally weaken out existing firearms laws”. See the media coverage here.
The Federal Court has dismissed an appeal to overturn the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) February decision to reduce penalty rates for retail, hospitality and fast-food restaurant employees. The case was brought by workers’ unions United Voice and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), which argued the FWC had failed to consider the needs and living standards of low-wage workers in making the decision, as required by legislation. The Court ultimately held that all necessary factors had been taken into account by the FWC. Changes to public holiday pay rates came into effect on 1 July this year, while the Sunday reductions will be introduced over the next few years. See the media coverage here.
Samantha Ratnam has been appointed the new Victorian Greens leader, replacing upper house MP Greg Barber who announced his retirement last month. Ms Ratnam, a former mayor of Moreland City Council, said she is “excited, humbled and honoured” to enter the parliament and lead the state party. See the media coverage here.