GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

20 October 2017
Energy dominated parliamentary debate this week, with the release of the Government’s new energy policy featuring the two-part National Energy Guarantee (NEG)Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled the plan a “game changer” that will deliver “affordability, reliability and responsibility” by requiring energy retailers to offer ready-to-use dispatchable power under a reliability guarantee, and placing emissions reduction obligations on retailers under an emissions guarantee. While the Opposition has criticised the lack of modelling and policy detail available, Labor frontbencher Tony Burke has indicated the plan “might end up being something Labor can support”. The Government entered the week trailing Labor 46 to 54 per cent in two-party terms, according to the most recent Newspoll.

The energy plan received mixed reviews from state and territory leaders, with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill dubbing it a “coal energy target” and Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio raising concerns about the lack of analysis behind the policy. The Prime Minister has confirmed the policy will be considered at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in November; it is understood COAG support will be required to implement the plan, as it amends the National Electricity Rules. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on the states to “put the politics aside for a moment” and “focus on delivering a genuinely bipartisan energy policy”. For a more in-depth look at the Government’s energy policy, see GRACosway’s briefing note here.

In international news, Australia has been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term, commencing 1 January 2018. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said Australia is “ready to work closely with other countries and civil society to protect and advance human rights around the world” as a member of the Council. See the media release here.

Senator Nick Xenophon has declined to comment on which major party he would support should the March 2018 South Australian election deliver a hung parliament. A privately-commissioned Galaxy Poll has revealed strong support for Senator Xenophon, who leads as preferred premier on 41 per cent, in front of Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall on 21 per cent each. The poll indicates that the State Liberals hold 31 per cent of the primary vote, while Senator Xenophon’s SA Best is a close second on 30 points, and the incumbent Labor Government trails on 26 per cent. See the media coverage here.

Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team have together blocked proposed changes to Australian citizenship laws in the Senate this week. Immigration Minister Peter Duttonindicated that the Government will not be “distracted by a political stunt” and will continue negotiating with the crossbench. The measures sought to introduce a values test; a more robust English language test; and a four-year wait for permanent residents who hope to become citizens. See the media coverage here.

NSW voters have re-elected the Nationals to the seats of Cootamundra and Murray at by-elections held last weekend. In Cootamundra, a 20 per cent swing was recorded against the Nationals, while it nonetheless won over 45 per cent of the primary vote. A 15 per cent swing against the Nationals was observed in Murray, while Labor comfortably claimed victory in Blacktown. Nationals leader John Barilaro described the results as “the first test of my leadership”, acknowledging that “there has been a message” from the now-marginal seats. See the media coverage here.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced changes to the Victorian Government ministry, ahead of the November 2018 State Election. Representative for Niddrie Ben Carroll, a former Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, will take over the Industry and Employment portfolio recently vacated by Wade Noonan. Treasurer Tim Pallas will adopt Resources, while Families and Children and Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos will add the new portfolio of Early Childhood Education to her existing responsibilities. Further, Philip Dalidakis will become the new Minister for Trade and Investment, and Innovation and the Digital Economy. See the media release here.

The Federal, Queensland and ACT parliaments will sit next week; Supplementary Budget Estimates will take place in Federal Parliament.


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