GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Budget deficit shrinks to $690m

20 September 2019


  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Final Budget Outcome for the 2018-19 financial year which revealed a lower than expected deficit of $690 million.
  • The Federal Government has announced a parliamentary inquiry into the family law system, chaired by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews with crossbencher Pauline Hanson as deputy chair.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Canberra this week for a bilateral meeting as the two leaders signed the Vuvale Partnership which covers economic, security, and community ties.
  • The Morrison Government’s ‘big stick’ energy legislation was reintroduced into Parliament on Wednesday.
  • Challenges to the election of MP Gladys Liu and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg over allegedly misleading election signage at polling booths will go to trial in the Federal Court.
  • A class action has been launched against the Federal Government’s ‘robo-debt’ scheme, claiming the automated debt system is unlawful.
  • Mr Morrison has left for the United States where he will attend the second state dinner President Donald Trump has held since beginning his presidency.

It was another busy sitting week in Canberra, with the Government reintroducing its ‘big stick’ energy legislation, establishing an inquiry into the family law system and releasing the 2018-19 Final Budget Outcome. The PM has embarked on a week-long visit to the United States where he’ll attend the second state dinner US President Donald Trump has held since taking up his presidency. It is the first state dinner invitation for an Australian prime minister in 13 years. While in the US, Mr Morrison is also expected to hold high-level meetings with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper.

Yesterday Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Final Budget Outcome for the 2018-19 financial year which contains the smallest budget deficit since the last surplus in the 2007-08 financial year. The 2019-20 Budget handed down in April had initially forecast a $4.2 billion deficit for the 2018-19 financial year, however the Government has announced a much lower than expected $690 million deficit. Mr Frydenberg attributed the results to employment growth and higher commodity prices than initially estimated as nominal gross domestic product (GDP) grew 5.3 per cent and employment grew 2.6 per cent. Economists have, however, been critical of the announcement and believe the Government needs to shift its focus from delivering a budget surplus to investing in an increasingly struggling economy.

The Government’s ‘big stick’ energy legislation was reintroduced into Parliament this week after lapsing earlier this year due to the prorogation of parliament in the lead up to the federal election. The proposed legislation creates three types of prohibited conduct for energy companies, focused on retail prices, preventing competition and withholding supply to the wholesale market. Under the proposal, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would have a range of penalties to use against energy companies, depending on the seriousness of misconduct. Companies could face fines into the tens of millions of dollars or even be broken up via a court-ordered divestiture for the most serious offences. Labor had previously opposed the bill and is once again reviewing the updated legislation before making its position known.

On Tuesday, the PM announced the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the family law system which includes a review of child support and a proposed merger of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The inquiry will be chaired by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson as deputy chair. The announcement has been met with criticism from both Labor and the Greens and more broadly by anti-domestic violence groups, including anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty who has said it is merely “procrastination” on addressing family violence issues. Critics have zeroed in on Senator Hanson’s appointment as deputy chair after she made comments during the week suggesting women make false domestic violence accusations to prevent fathers having access to their children.

Meanwhile in NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has come under fire from three NSW Liberal MPs who mounted a short-lived leadership spill during the week over the Premier’s handling of the bill to decriminalise abortion. The trio – Tanya Davies, Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato – initiated the spill, however called it off soon after, claiming they had received “further concessions” on amendments to the proposed legislation. Ms Berejiklian said she is “entirely relaxed” about the debate, despite two Liberal MPs previously confirming they are prepared to move to the crossbench if “essential amendments” are not passed.

Looking ahead, the NSW, WA, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week.

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