GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

19 August 2016
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed a shift in the GST carve-up arrangements by floating the idea of introducing a percentage floor under which a state’s share of GST cannot fall. Speaking at the WA Liberal Party state conference last weekend, the Prime Minister said West Australians “have every right to feel aggrieved” about the current GST distribution under which the State’s share of revenue has fallen to around 30 per cent of what it contributes. Labor State Governments have pushed back against the proposal however, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in particular labelling it “absolutely discriminatory”.

The Prime Minister used a keynote speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) to call for support from the Opposition to pass an omnibus bill containing $6 billion in savings which Labor relied upon in calculating its election costings during the recent federal election campaign. Mr Turnbull said the Government will “reach across the aisle” to repair the Budget, saying that any deterioration in the Government’s budget repair efforts will place “downward pressure” on Australia’s recently affirmed, prized triple-A credit rating. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor will be “consistent” in deciding which savings measures to support but called on the Government to be consultative and “come to the party” on issues Labor considers important. Read the Prime Minister’s speech here.

Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed the Government is considering establishing a banking tribunal to hear grievances against banks, following a push by Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch and NSW Nationals Senator John Williams. Speaking on radio this morning, the Prime Minister ruled out a Royal Commission into the banking sector but said the Government is “very open to looking at action” that will improve the way banks deal with customers. See coverage by the AFR here (subscription service).

Labor plans to test the Government’s slim parliamentary majority in the House of Representatives by refusing to provide MPs for the Speaker’s panel and declining to enter into a formal ‘pairing’ agreement with the Coalition, which will make it difficult for Government MPs to miss votes due to illness or overseas travel. Pairing arrangements allow MPs from both major parties to ‘pair off’ and be absent for votes without affecting the outcome. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor will allow Government MPs a pair on “national interest” grounds and for “compelling personal reasons”. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce responded to the Opposition’s position, saying it goes against the Party’s belief in “looking after the worker”.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt announced the second and third waves of the Federal Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda, including plans to broaden its focus beyond start-ups to include support for established businesses worth between $20 million and $200 million. Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Innovation Summit on Thursday, Minister Hunt also flagged the idea of a National Innovation Fund to encourage private sector investment in innovation and science infrastructure, and outlined the Government’s plans to cut red tape and simplify regulation in a bid to “improve the business environment”. See Minister Hunt’s full speech here.

Liberal Party Senators Dean Smith and Cory Bernardi have announced they will co-sponsor a bill to amend the Racial Discrimination Act in a bid to remove the words “insult” and “offend” from section 18C of the legislation when Parliament resumes. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston also indicated her support for the changes, saying the section includes “highly subjective terms open to all manner of interpretation”. Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann confirmed there will not be a free vote on the legislation, binding Liberal and National Party frontbenchers to the Government’s position to keep the Racial Discrimination Act as it stands.

The NSW Government will establish a $30 million fund to entice companies to shift their headquarters to NSW as part of a $125 million jobs package unveiled by Premier Mike Baird in a CEDA speech earlier today. The suite of measures are designed to help achieve the NSW Government’s target of creating one million jobs over 20 years and also features a $50 million loan guarantee program for fast-growing small to medium businesses. See media release: here

The NSW, WA and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week; the Northern Territory Election will take place next Saturday 27 August.


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