GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Tensions over dairy and drought
25 October 2019
- Monday’s Newspoll shows no change in the two-party preferred vote, with the Coalition leading Labor 51-49.
- The House of Representatives sat this week and the Senate held supplementary budget estimates.
- Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has reiterated that Australians situated in the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria will not be extracted, stating any effort to do so would put Australian officials at risk.
- Following its gloomy economic forecast last week, the IMF has urged leaders to resolve trade tensions and pushed a “whatever it takes” approach to monetary policy to boost the global economy.
- CFMEU Secretary John Setka has been officially expelled from the Labor Party after he dropped a legal challenge against his expulsion during the week.
- A coalition of Australia’s major media companies launched the Your Right to Know campaign this week, calling for stronger protections for media freedom.
- Labor has threatened to refer Energy Minister Angus Taylor to the NSW police, alleging the Minister’s office supplied a forged document to the Daily Telegraph as part of a political attack against Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. Minister Taylor has denied any wrongdoing.
It was another busy week in Canberra, with the House of Representatives sitting and the Senate holding supplementary budget estimates. PM Scott Morrison returned from Indonesia, where he was in attendance at Joko Widodo’s second inauguration as President and held talks about the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement. In the House, the Government’s controversial ‘big-stick’ energy legislation passed with Labor’s support, although Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the laws were unlikely to ever be used. Labor has continued to face criticism from the union movement for backing the Coalition’s free-trade agreements, despite the Government making commitments designed to address some of the Opposition’s concerns in a bid to secure its support to pass enabling legislation.
The Nationals have this week hosed down rumours of a leadership spill against Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie amid reports some Nationals MPs are concerned about her handling of the Agriculture portfolio. Senator McKenzie has reportedly come under fire from Nationals backbenchers for bringing forward the introduction of a dairy industry code of conduct in response to pressure from Senator Pauline Hanson. Reports suggest that Nationals MPs – who had lobbied for the introduction of the code – were frustrated by Senator McKenzie’s swift response to Senator Hanson’s demands. A number of Nationals MPs have defended the Deputy Leader, with Party Whip Damian Drum saying “This is nothing to do with Bridget McKenzie. This is all about One Nation getting credit for something they haven’t done.”
Drought has also been a source of tension within the Coalition this week, with some Nationals MPs warning the Government could lose the next election if it doesn’t deliver major drought funding before 2022. A group of Nationals have put forward a proposal to PM Scott Morrison for up to $1.2 billion in direct funding for drought-affected communities, however the plan was leaked without endorsement from Nationals Leader Michael McCormack. The National Farmers Federation has also pushed the Government to give farming families who have been hit by extended drought ‘exit packages’ to leave the land, as well as petitioning for further financial assistance, such as better access to income support and interest-free loans for farmers. However, former Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce has dismissed the idea of exit packages, stating he’d prefer to support people in the drought rather than removing them from the farm. A drought stimulus plan is reportedly under consideration by Cabinet and could be announced as early as next week.
On Monday, Australia’s major newspapers ‘censored’ their front pages to launch the Your Right to Know campaign on press freedom. The campaign, backed by a coalition of Australia’s largest media organisations, is seeking support for six key reforms focused on decriminalising public interest journalism and securing greater protections for the media and whistleblowers. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that while no one in Australia is above the law, journalists should not be prosecuted at the “whim of politicians”. Labor has used the campaign to criticise the Government and senior bureaucrats for deflecting and refusing to answer questions at Senate estimates hearings this week.