GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: “Back in the Black” Before Election

5 April 2019

  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the Federal Budget on Tuesday, which featured tax relief measures and significant infrastructure spending.
  • Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has used his Budget reply speech to announce a $2.3 billion cancer plan. Labor also released a comprehensive climate change policy ahead of the May election.
  • The PM has officially announced a three-year Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, to be led by former Federal Court judge Ronald Sackville. Over $500 million was allocated in the Budget to the Brisbane-based inquiry.
  • New laws were passed to penalise social media companies that fail to remove violent content from their platforms.
  • The NSW Cabinet was sworn in on Tuesday following the 23 March State Election.

Federal Budget 2019-20 released

Handing down his first budget on Tuesday night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declared “the Budget is back in the black and Australia is back on track”. Described by commentators as a “pitch to win back middle Australia”, this year’s Budget foreshadows an election battle over income tax cuts, fiscal policy and infrastructure spending to combat congestion. The Budget has forecast a deficit of $4.2 billion for 2018-19 and a surplus of $7.1 billion in 2019-20, with a total of $45 billion in surpluses over four years that are projected to eliminate Commonwealth net debt by 2030 or sooner. Reports have suggested that the election may be called as soon as this weekend. For further information on the 2019-20 Federal Budget, see GRACosway’s Federal Budget overview.

In his Budget reply speech on Thursday night, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten placed fairness and equality at the heart of Labor’s election campaign, with a focus on health and education spending and personal income tax relief. Mr Shorten announced a $2.3 billion cancer plan that would deliver 6 million free scans, 3 million free appointments with specialists, and more affordable treatments for cancer patients. He also announced extra funding for TAFE – including a $200 million fund to renovate campuses – and matched the Government’s tax offset for low and middle-income earners, while offering further tax relief for those earning less than $40,000 per annum. However, Mr Shorten refused to support the Coalition’s plan to flatten tax rates in 2024-25, saying “this is not a tax plan, it’s a ticking debt bomb”.

Driving to election in electric cars

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten unveiled Labor’s Climate Change Plan earlier in the week – a policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. As part of the announcement, Mr Shorten confirmed that Labor will not use carry-over carbon credits, or implement a carbon tax or carbon price to meet targets. The plan will extend the Government’s existing safeguard mechanism to cap emissions produced by around 250 of the nation’s biggest polluters, and sets an ambitious national electric vehicle target of 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030. New pollution regulations on car retailers will include phase-in standards of 105g CO2/km for light vehicles, in line with US standards but more relaxed than those in the EU.

Spotlight on social media giants

In what is likely to be one of the last sitting weeks before the election, legislation to penalise social media platforms that fail to remove “abhorrent violent material” has cleared Parliament. Labor supported the move despite holding “serious concerns” with the new laws as drafted, vowing to revise them should the Opposition be successful in the May poll. The legislative changes were proposed in response to the Christchurch terror attack in March, which was broadcast live via Facebook. In related news, the Senate has passed a censure motion against Independent senator Fraser Anning following “shameful” comments made in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

New look Cabinet for New South Wales

A revamped NSW Ministry was sworn in on Tuesday, representing the most significant change in personnel since the 2015 State Election. Following the departure of six ministers, new faces in Cabinet include former Speaker Shelly Hancock, former ICAC Committee Chair Damien Tudehope, and former parliamentary secretaries Kevin Anderson, Geoff Lee, John Sidoti, Brownyn Taylor and Gareth Ward. The former Resources portfolio has been folded into Industry and Trade and assigned to the Deputy Premier, while Energy and Environment have been merged into a single portfolio.

Looking ahead
The WA and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week; Budget Estimates will take place in Federal Parliament.

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