GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Government successfully repeals Medevac legislation
- The Reserve Bank announced interest rates will stay at the record low of 0.75 per cent.
- The Government successfully repealed the Medevac legislation in the Senate.
- Minister for Drought David Littleproud announced an investigation into the operation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, to report by March 2020.
- The PM left open the possibility of a Royal Commission into Veterans Suicide.
- The PM announced significant changes to Federal Government Departments, set to commence from February 1, 2020.
- The ACCC has ordered Coles to pay $5.25 million to farmers, claiming the supermarket giant failed to fully pass on the 10c drought levy.
- Independent Senator Cory Bernardi bid farewell to the Senate after a 13-year political career.
As MPs returned to Canberra for the final sitting week of the year, the Government looked to finish the parliamentary year on a high note. On Wednesday, the Government finalised an agreement with cross bench Senator Jacquie Lambie and successfully repealed the Medevac legislation. Lambie came under fire from Labor and the Greens for withholding information about a “secret deal” with the Government that was a key factor in gaining her support. However, the Senator defended her decision explaining the issue in question is a matter of national security. Senator Lambie also signalled she would be open to negotiate with the Government when the “ensuring integrity” bill returns to the Senate. This followed the rapid passage of the bill through the House of Representatives. The Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was open to negotiating further changes to the legislation with the Senate cross bench, including One Nation Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts, who unexpectedly voted against an earlier version of the legislation last month.
On Thursday, the PM announced significant changes to the Australian Public Service, reducing the number of federal departments from 18 to 14. The PM insisted these changes will deliver better services, rather than cut costs, and there would be no changes to the Ministry. The new departments are: the Department of Education, Skills and Employment; Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and Communication. Labor Deputy Leader Richard Marles urged the Government to manage the public sector in a way which protects stability and morale.
Meanwhile, the RBA decided to keep interest rates at the historically low level of 0.75 per cent. RBA Governor Philip Lowe said the economy had reached a “gentle turning point” and projected Australia’s growth to climb to 3 per cent by 2021. Despite the RBA’s cautious optimism, there is ongoing concern of potential future reductions in interest rates by mid-2020, following reports Australian households have chosen to save rather than spend the dividend of the Government’s $25 billion in tax cuts, with household saving levels at their highest in over two years. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended the cuts, stating the Government could not dictate what Australians did with the extra cash. The Government’s surplus plan has also taken a hit according a new report, with slow wage growth set make an $8.1 billion impact on next year’s budget. Mr Frydenberg will release the mid-year budget update within the next fortnight, which will reportedly downgrade forecast wage growth and inflation predictions.
The PM has announced the formation of the Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce this week, led by domestic spy agency ASIO, to strengthen Australia’s response to inappropriate foreign influence. The taskforce will receive $88 million in support and will work with the Department of Home Affairs’ foreign interference co-ordinator to develop “specialist capabilities”. The PM said the initiative facilitates collaboration across intelligence agencies to identify, disrupt and prosecute threats. The PM’s announcement came as a Labor-led push to open an inquiry into foreign interference through social media was supported by the Coalition on Thursday. The new Senate Select Committee on Foreign Interference is set to report by May 2020.