GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Bishop calls time as election looms

22 February 2019
  • Julie Bishop has announced her retirement from politics during the final sitting week before the Federal Budget as a number of other retiring MPs gave valedictory speeches.
  • Labor has announced a change to its position on the remuneration of mortgage brokers, in contrast to recommendations made by the Hayne Royal Commission.
  • A royal commission exposing abuse in the disability sector is anticipated after a motion supporting the move passed the House of Representatives.
  • New legislation will enable small businesses to apply for a ‘no adverse costs order’ when taking legal action against large corporations.
Final week before the Budget

Ahead of another gruelling week in Parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison headed to Tasmania over the weekend to roll out the Regional Forestry Hubs under the $20 million National Forest Industries Plan, before returning to Canberra for the final sitting week before the 2 April Budget. Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced she will not recontest the seat of Curtin at the next election, declaring “the Government will be returned to office because it is focusing on what matters to the Australian people”. Ms Bishop’s statement came on the back of a Fairfax Ipsos poll earlier in the week which signalled a drop in Labor’s popularity, with the ALP narrowly leading the Coalition on a margin of 51 to 49 per cent, according to the poll. Minister Kelly O’Dwyer delivered her valedictory speech to Parliament on Wednesday, along with a number of other retiring MPs throughout the week.

Border protection issues and climate change have continued to dominate debate, following announcement of a $1 billion top-up to the Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund and the Coalition’s fresh attack on Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target as a “great big new tax” on wages. Meanwhile, an indefinite halt on Australian thermal coal exports at five Chinese ports has raised eyebrows over international diplomatic relations and caused a drop in the Australian dollar. Labor frontbencher Richard Marles came under fire for commenting that the collapse of the global market for thermal coal was good “at one level”.

Hayne Royal Commission response

Labor has shifted its position on mortgage broker remuneration after initially committing to implement all 76 recommendations made by the Financial Services Royal Commission. The Opposition has released its response, including a lender-paid remuneration structure rather than a consumer-paid fee for service as proposed in the Final Report, capping commissions at a fixed percentage of a loan’s size, and regulating that a commission can only apply to an amount drawn down by a borrower.

Labor has also pledged a compensation scheme for banking misconduct victims that includes payments of up to $2 million for individuals and small businesses. This surpasses the Government’s $30 million scheme of last resort, announced earlier this week, which will compensate victims with up to $500,000 for consumers, $1 million for small businesses and $2 million for primary producers. Labor’s scheme will include improved oversight and the creation of an insolvency pool after a two-year period, funded via a new levy to be paid by members of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Expected royal commission into disability sector abuse 

Labor and the Greens have welcomed a win in the Lower House this week, after the Government supported a motion calling for the establishment of a royal commission into abuse within the disability sector. In a statement on Monday, the PM said that “we must be vigilant in ensuring the standards of care for people with disabilities are at their absolute highest” and confirmed the Government has “no interest” in “making any partisanship of this issue”. Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek has announced that Labor will commit an additional $300 million to improve education standards for students living with a disability if successful at the upcoming federal election.

A win for small business – and Labor

Small businesses will now find it easier to challenge major corporations in the courtroom, following the passage of new measures this week enabling SMEs to apply for a ‘no adverse costs order’. Long-opposed by the Coalition, the Labor policy passed Parliament this week after the Government caved to pressure imposed by a group of Nationals MPs, led by Barnaby Joyce, who threatened to cross the floor. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Labor’s Andrew Leigh said in a joint statement that Labor’s Access to Justice policy will “level the playing field” between small and large businesses. The Business Council of Australia has since commented on the “harmful unintended consequences” potentially arising from the legislation.

Looking ahead

The Queensland and SA parliaments will sit next week.


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