GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Government doubles down on surplus commitment

12 July 2019


  • The Prime Minister spent time in Tasmania, hosting an NDIS roundtable and announcing a new National Suicide Prevention Adviser.
  • The Treasurer has doubled down on the Government’s commitment to deliver a surplus and met with Reserve Bank (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe in Melbourne on Thursday.
  • Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt delivered a NAIDOC Week address to the National Press Club where he outlined the way forward for constitutional recognition.
  • The Labor Party is undertaking a review of the 2019 Federal Election loss, and will wait for its release before making policy platform changes.
  • The Government has begun internal briefings on the proposed religious freedom legislation, while press freedom remains a hot topic.

On the back of the Government’s income tax cuts win last week, the Prime Minister headed to Tasmania, spending time in the north of the state. During the trip, he committed to spend significant time in the region, and held an NDIS roundtable discussion. The PM also announced the appointment of Christine Morgan as the new National Suicide Prevention Adviser and said he will take “all necessary action” to work towards the Government’s “zero suicide goal”. More broadly, the Government’s focus has been on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians during NAIDOC Week. Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt delivered the National Press Club address on Wednesday, where he outlined plans to form a “consensus option” for a referendum on constitutional recognition within the next three years.

Following the interest rate cut announced last week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has reiterated the Government’s commitment to achieving a Budget surplus, saying it is “non-negotiable”. The Treasurer also pointed out that the RBA’s call for the Government to facilitate economic growth relates to structural reforms to tackle unemployment and is not about providing fiscal stimulus. Meanwhile, the ATO has been inundated by a record number of Australians lodging their tax returns in the first two weeks of the financial year. The Treasurer said that while it’s not his place to tell people how to spend their money, he is “confident” people will use their tax refunds to “ensure greater economic activity”. Business leaders have called for Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to consider changes to the Fair Work Act – including unfair dismissal laws – as part of his review of workplace relations laws, arguing this is the best way to stimulate the economy.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has given a strong indication Labor will abandon the negative gearing and franking credits policies it took to the last election, responding “no” when asked if they were still party policy. A day later, Mr Albanese confirmed he will not make any major decisions on the future of Labor’s policies until he receives the review of the ALP’s election campaign, which will be led by former SA Premier Jay Weatherill and former Federal Minister Craig Emerson and is due in October. Labor backbenchers have welcomed the slower approach, and urged the Opposition Leader not to rush any policy decisions.

Meanwhile, Government MPs have begun receiving confidential briefings on the proposed religious discrimination bill expected to be introduced in Parliament later this year. Minister Porter explained the sessions are a first step and confirmed religious institutions and other relevant stakeholders will also be consulted. Press freedom also remains in the headlines, with reports that Australian Federal Police requested Qantas hand over an ABC journalist’s travel records as part of an investigation into national security leaks.  Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne also faced criticism regarding the raids last month during her visit to an international conference on press freedom in London. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has today refused to rule out police action against the journalists at the centre of the debate, saying “nobody is above the law”.

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