GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Parliament rises for the year
- The Government has faced a tumultuous final week in Parliament, with preselection issues once again in the spotlight.
- The Liberal party room has introduced a new rule that would require a two-thirds majority vote to remove a Liberal Party leader.
- New legislation has been debated this week that seeks to control energy prices and energy company asset sales.
- New encryption laws have passed with Opposition support.
- Michael O’Brien is the new Leader of the Victorian Coalition.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison returned home from the G20 Leaders Summit in Buenos Aires to a marathon final parliamentary sitting week for 2018. The week started with further debate about conservative Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s preselection and calls from former PM Malcolm Turnbull for party members to have their say in the preselection process. However, Mr Kelly will be the party’s candidate for Hughes at the next Federal Election after PM Scott Morrison intervened, calling on the NSW party executive to endorse Kelly and other incumbent MPs Jason Falinski, John Alexander and Lucy Wicks. Mr Turnbull also called on the PM to go to an early election in March next year, ahead of the NSW State Election on 23 March 2019.
In response to recent instability, Mr Morrison convened a late-night party room meeting on Monday to pass a motion that will require a two-thirds majority vote to successfully oust a Liberal Party leader. The PM described the new rules as “a historic decision” and “the biggest change of how our party deals with these issues in 74 years”. This followed questions over Australia’s ever-changing leadership during a meeting at the G20 Summit with President Trump, and revelations that German Chancellor Angel Merkel had carried a ‘cheat sheet’ last weekend that identified different Australian leaders.
Encryption laws pass
Controversial new legislation to provide law enforcement agencies with access to encrypted telecommunications data has passed through Parliament this week, after Labor agreed to drop their proposed amendments and support the Bill. The Government has, however, conceded to a review of the new laws early next year, provided that any amendments are consistent with a report previously issued by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Amendments introduced on Thursday morning to allay chief concerns relating to the new measures were welcomed by Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes, who nonetheless warned that “serious concerns remain”.
Energy on the agenda
Described as a ‘big stick’ approach to energy price control, legislation has been introducedthis week that would define energy market misconduct and enforce prohibitions relating to retail pricing, contract liquidity and wholesale conduct. Under the legislation, regulatory arrangements would include a power to control set electricity prices, compel contracting, and enable the forced sale of energy assets. The Australian Energy Council has foreshadowed a potential legal challenge to the legislation on grounds that the new measures may contravene constitutional rules against forced property acquisition – otherwise known as The Castle defence. This comes despite a recent amendment to the legislation, requiring that the Federal Court must issue an order for divestment as opposed to the Treasurer.
Following Labor’s landslide victory at the Victorian State Election, further counting has revealed that the Andrews Government will hold twice the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly than the Liberal Opposition, with a minimum of 55 seats. The traditionally blue-ribbon seat of Hawthorn has been lost by Shadow Attorney-General – and Liberal leadership contender – John Pesutto. Michael O’Brien has been named the new Opposition Leader, tasked with re-building the State Liberal Party in the wake of last month’s devastating loss.
Former SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill has announced his resignation from state politics, saying it was “time to pass the baton on” after more than 15 years of service. His exit will trigger a by-election in the safe Labor seat of Cheltenham, which the party holds on a margin of 15.9 per cent. According to media reports, SA Unions secretary Joe Szakacs is tipped to be a frontrunner for the upcoming by-election.