GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up

2 September 2016

Politicians returned to Canberra this week for the official opening of the 45th Federal Parliament, with all 150 MPs and 76 Senators sworn in on Tuesday ahead of Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove’s speech outlining the Turnbull Government’s agenda for the new Parliament. Despite committing to not let the results of the first Newspoll since the Federal Election and an apparent decline in support for the Government dampen their spirits, the week ended on a sour note for the Government when the Opposition won three procedural votes in the House of Representatives on Thursday after Coalition MPs departed Canberra before Parliament had adjourned. The outcome compromises the Government’s slim majority in the Lower House and allowed Labor to bring forward debate about a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector; the Government becomes the first majority government to lose a vote in the Lower House since 1962.

Other key matters on the political agenda during a busy first week back in Canberra included national security and political donations, as well as a determination by the Senate to employ the ‘order-elected’ method to determine the length of Senators’ terms – the first six Senators elected in each state will serve full six-year terms and the remaining six Senators will serve three-year terms. Liberal Member Tony Smith and Senator Stephen Parry were also returned to their previous parliamentary roles as Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate, respectively, while ALP National Secretary George Wright announced his resignation, saying it was “an enormous honour and privilege” to serve in the role for over five years.

Treasurer Scott Morrison presented the Government’s Budget Savings Omnibus Bill to the Parliament, which contains more than $6 billion worth of savings across 24 proposed measures. Prime Minister Turnbull stated that all parliamentarians have a responsibility to “support the task of budget repair” and that “failing to do so betrays our children and grandchildren”.

The Government made moves to implement a number of its election commitments this week, including introducing legislation to implement company tax cuts and curb union influence on volunteer organisations. Mr Turnbull also re-introduced the Government’s two key pieces of industrial relations legislation – the triggers for the recent election – saying the Government has a “clear mandate” to proceed with the Bills. Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said she is willing to negotiate with Senate crossbenchers to pass the Government’s bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi presented a bill to the Upper House to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act with the support of 20 Senators, including all but one Coalition backbencher and several crossbenchers. The Prime Minister reiterated however, the Government has “no plans” to make any change to legislation.

The Nick Xenophon Team has joined the Greens in announcing it will oppose the Government’s enabling legislation to establish a same-sex marriage plebiscite, leaving the future of the poll in the Opposition’s hands. Labor renewed its push for a parliamentary vote on the matter, indicating it will introduce a private member’s bill to legislate same-sex marriage, while Prime Minister Turnbull said that a plebiscite is the “very clear road” forward and accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of “standing in the way”. See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).

Labor defeated the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in a landslide victory at Saturday’s Northern Territory election, with the incumbent party led by Adam Giles suffering a 19 per cent swing against it. The CLP has secured just two seats to Labor’s 16, with four on the crossbench and three seats still in doubt as counting continues. Incoming Chief Minister Michael Gunner said Territorians had “rejected the chaos” of the CLP in last weekend’s poll and thanked voters for placing their trust in Labor.

The West Australian Parliament sits next week.

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