GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
26 August 2016
The economy was once again front and centre of the political debate this week, with Treasurer Scott Morrison using a keynote address at a Bloomberg function on Thursday to emphasise the need for budget repair, saying the Government must “arrest the growth in our public debt, before it is too late”. Mr Morrison also warned of a new divide between “the taxed and the taxed nots” in referencing an over-reliance on government payments and reiterated the importance of protecting the nation’s revenue base through a crackdown on multinational tax avoidance and superannuation tax concessions reform. The Treasurer called on the Opposition and crossbench to support the Government’s savings measures – warning of a $1 trillion debt blowout over the next decade if the measures are rejected – and confirmed the Government will present its company tax cuts to Parliament when it resumes next week. See the Treasurer’s speech here.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten requesting that he abandon calls for a Royal Commission into the banking sector on the basis that it will “delay action and postpone reform”. Mr Turnbull suggested the Opposition Leader should instead appoint Labor’s “keenest minds” to a parliamentary committee to question bank executives and proposed Mr Shorten provide feedback to senior government ministers on possible consumer protection measures. Treasurer Scott Morrison also confirmed that the Ramsay Review previously announced by Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer to examine the financial system’s external dispute resolution and complaints framework, will also advise the Government on an appropriate model for a banking tribunal. See coverage by the AFR here (subscription service).
Calls from Coalition backbenchers to double the life-time limit on non-concessional superannuation contributions to $1 million have been rejected by Treasurer Morrison, who indicated that any changes to the Government’s policy will need to be offset by alternate savings elsewhere in the Budget. The Opposition released its superannuation reform plan this week, with Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen announcing the Labor Party will oppose three of the Government’s proposed superannuation measures, including plans to allow catch-up concessional superannuation contributions, harmonise contribution rules for those aged 65 to 74 and allow tax deductions for personal superannuation contributions. Mr Bowen also highlighted that the Opposition’s plan will deliver savings “above and beyond” the Government’s proposed reforms, thereby improving the Budget by $238 million over the forward estimates. See Labor’s media release here.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce has announced the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will launch an investigation into the dairy sector to “uncover inefficiencies and inequities” faced by dairy farmers and “identify a way forward” for the industry. The inquiry will commence in November, with the ACCC to release a discussion paper and conduct consultations with stakeholders before delivering a final report to the Government in the second half of 2017. See the Minister’s media release here.
Prime Minister Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash have released draft legislation to deliver on the Federal Government’s election promise to amend the Fair Work Act to prevent union influence on volunteer organisations, following the recent industrial relations dispute between the Victorian Country Fire Authority and the Andrews State Government. Minister Cash confirmed that legislation will be introduced in Parliament “as a matter of priority” next week and called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to “put politics aside” and support the bill. See media release here.
The Greens announced a portfolio reshuffle on Thursday, after losing one South Australian Senator at the recent election. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has been shifted out of the Immigration portfolio and adds Education, Arts, and Finance and Trade to her existing responsibilities, while the Party’s sole representative in the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, takes over the Climate Change portfolio. NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has picked up the Housing and Industry portfolios.
The Tasmanian Parliament has established an inquiry into the future of the State’s gambling industry, with a particular focus on the location, number and type of poker machines in Tasmania. The inquiry follows moves by the Hodgman Government to reduce the cap on electronic gaming machines (EGMs) by 150 and allocate the rights to operate EGMs via a market-based mechanism. The final report of the inquiry will be released by September 2017; changes to current arrangements cannot not occur until 2023. See media release here.
The Baird Government’s legislation to ban greyhound racing in NSW from 1 July 2017 has passed the NSW Legislative Assembly, 49 votes to 30. Three Nationals MPs crossed the floor to vote against the ban with Labor, while two other Government MPs chose to abstain from the vote. The Greens have since called for a national ban on greyhound racing, launching its campaign to put an end to the industry on Wednesday. See coverage by The Australian here.
The 39 new members of the House of Representatives were welcomed to Parliament House and given a rundown on parliamentary procedures last week, while new Senators undertook ‘Senate school’ in preparation for the resumption of Federal Parliament on Tuesday, when the new parliamentarians will be officially sworn in.
Victorian and Queensland parliaments also sit next week, while Budget Estimates will take place in NSW.
The Northern Territory Election will be held tomorrow, Saturday 27 August.