GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Government Housekeeping

24 November 2017
The Federal Government has postponed next week’s sitting of the House of Representatives, suggesting that the changes to the sitting calendar will allow same-sex marriage laws to be passed and citizenship issues to be dealt with before the Christmas break. Amid criticism about this move, a Cabinet leak suggested the Government is considering reversing its opposition to a banking royal commission. Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed that “Cabinet from time to time would consider these sorts of issues”, while Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop has called for an investigation into the leak. The Government confirmed on Wednesday that it remains opposed to a banking royal commission, however LNP senator Barry O’Sullivan has circulated a draft bill to establish a commission of inquiry into the banks and other financial institutions. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has confirmed Labor’s support for an inquiry, describing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s resistance as a “last desperate gasp to protect his friends in the banks”. See the media coverage here.

Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has announced her resignation from parliament following the revelation she presently holds British dual citizenship. Citing “unfinished business”, the outgoing senator said she hopes to return to federal politics in the future. It is unclear as to who will fill the vacancy left by Ms Kakoschke-Moore, following a rift between party leader Nick Xenophon and the next candidate on the party’s Senate ticket, Tim Storer. Mr Xenophon indicated the vacancy presents “unchartered legal territory” and confirmed Mr Storer is no longer a member of the NXT. Meanwhile, former army general Jim Molan is tipped to fill the vacancy left by Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash. The High Court will first deliver its official judgement on Hollie Hughes’ eligibility. See the media coverage here.

Energy ministers have voted in favour of progressing work on the Federal Government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting today, with the ACT and South Australia the only jurisdictions to oppose the move. Queensland is in caretaker mode prior to its State Election and did not cast a vote. The energy ministers will meet again in April to consider the analysis they have requested from the Energy Security Board (ESB). New modelling on the NEG has been released this week, demonstrating the scheme could save households $120 per year from 2020. Commissioned by the ESB, the report by Frontier Economics also suggests that a reduction in wholesale energy prices could produce a 23 per cent saving for businesses. See the media coverage here.

Speaking at a Business Council of Australia event in Sydney earlier this week, the Prime Minister suggested that middle-income earners could receive a tax cut prior to the next Federal Election, stating that the Government is “actively working” to reduce the burden on middle-income Australians, while simultaneously meeting its commitment to return the budget to surplus. Mr Turnbull also reiterated the Government’s policy aim of reducing corporate tax to 25 per cent. See the media coverage here.

After a 28-day campaign, Queenslanders will head to the polls tomorrow to decide if Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will govern for a second term or be replaced by LNP Leader Tim Nicholls. A Galaxy poll published today shows that Labor is leading the LNP on a two-party preferred basis, 52 to 48 per cent. The poll reveals Labor’s primary support is at 37 per cent, compared to 35 per cent for the LNP and 12 per cent for One Nation.  In the final days of the campaign, both major parties released their election costings, with Labor revealing four new or increased taxes, while the LNP plans to reallocate around $2.5 billion set aside for the Cross River Rail project and undertake a “whole of government” efficiency program. See the media coverage here.

In an Australian first, the Victorian Upper House has passed voluntary assisted dyinglegislation, following a 28-hour debate culminating on Wednesday afternoon with a result of 22 votes to 18. If a series of amendments receive the support of the Lower House, selected patients will have the right to access doctor-assisted dying from 2019 via a three-step request process. A total of 68 safeguard mechanisms have been incorporated into the legislation, including criminal penalties. See the media coverage here.

Still in Victoria, the Greens have claimed victory in the inner-Melbourne seat of Northcote, winning the previously-safe Labor electorate in a by-election last weekend. Provisional results released by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) indicate that Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe collected 55.6 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, while Labor’s Clare Burns received 44.4 per cent. See the media coverage here.

The Senate will sit next week, along with the Victorian, Queensland, SA, WA, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments.


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