GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Eventful first week in Parliament

7 February 2020

  • PM Scott Morrison announced a ministerial reshuffle which saw Keith Pitt and Darren Chester elevated to Cabinet.
  • The reshuffle comes after Michael McCormack was re-elected as Nationals leader in a leadership spill on Tuesday. David Littleproud was elected as deputy leader of the Nationals and will once again serve as Minister for Agriculture.
  • The latest Newspoll places Labor ahead of the Coalition 52-48. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is ahead of PM Scott Morrison as preferred leader 43-38.
  • Melbourne MP Adam Bandt was elected as Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens following Richard Di Natale’s unexpected resignation earlier this week.
  • The RBA has kept interest rates on hold at 0.75 per cent and maintained its forecast of above average growth of 2.75 per cent in 2020.
  • The Government has announced a new National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention.
  • The Australian Federal Police dropped its probe into Minister Angus Taylor over the use of allegedly doctored documents.

Nationals leadership changes spark reshuffle

In an eventful first week of Parliament, Michael McCormack has fended off a leadership challenge from Barnaby Joyce to retain leadership of the Nationals. David Littleproud was elected as deputy leader, replacing outgoing deputy Bridget McKenzie who resigned at the weekend. The leadership changes sparked a Cabinet reshuffle which saw Mr Littleproud add Agriculture to his existing portfolios of Drought and Emergency Management. Meanwhile, Queenslander Keith Pitt was appointed Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, and Darren Chester’s portfolio of Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel was elevated to Cabinet. The proposed ministry list is available here. There is ongoing speculation about the stability of the Nationals’ leadership following this week’s spill, with reports that Barnaby Joyce and his supporters may cross the floor to block Coalition legislation in retaliation for being left out of the ministry.

In the chamber

Both chambers of parliament spent the first sitting day paying tribute to victims of Australia’s recent bushfires. During an emotional tribute to fallen firefighters, PM Scott Morrison declared the summer of 2019-20 as the “Black Summer”, while confirming plans to establish a Royal Commission into the bushfire emergency. Meanwhile, fall-out from the ‘sports-rorts’ scandal continued as Labor successfully established a Senate inquiry into the controversial scheme. This week marked one year since the Final Report of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission was released and the Government continues to progress its financial services reform agenda.

Focus on veterans

The PM this week announced the establishment of a new national commissioner to investigate veteran suicide and make recommendations on mental health and wellbeing. The Commissioner will have powers similar to those of a Royal Commission and will investigate the deaths of over 400 serving and ex-service personnel who have taken their own lives since 2001. The Commissioner will present an interim report to the Government within 12 months, and deliver an annual report to the Parliament. Newly-elevated Cabinet Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel Darren Chester will oversee the new Commissioner.

Coronavirus impacts travel and economy

Elsewhere, the rapid spread of Coronavirus forced the Government to impose an unprecedented travel ban on anyone arriving from mainland China, prompting alarm from Australia’s tourism and education sectors. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned of the significant impact on the Australian economy from the virus and recent bushfires, with forecasts suggesting Australia could record negative growth for the first quarter of 2020. Despite concerns, the RBA has resisted pressure to loosen monetary policy, holding interest rates steady at 0.75 per cent. The RBA also reconfirmed its previous growth forecasts of 2.75 per cent for 2020.

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