GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: PM calls for calm amid bushfire crisis
- Devastating bushfires in NSW and Queensland have triggered a fierce political debate over climate change policy.
- Monday’s Newspoll shows the Coalition and Labor are tied with a 50-50 share of the two-party preferred vote for the first time following the May election.
- Australia’s annual wage growth has slowed to 2.2 per cent, its lowest level in over a year.
- The Senate has backed a Labor motion to establish an inquiry into wage theft.
- Guidelines have been released to safeguard the university sector from foreign influence.
- The Government’s ‘Big Stick’ energy legislation has passed the Senate and is set to target misconduct in the electricity retail, contract and wholesale markets.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spent much of the week focused on the devastating bushfires in NSW and Queensland which destroyed more than 300 homes and claimed the lives of four people. The PM travelled to fire-affected areas in northern NSW at the weekend, joining NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in praising the “incredible spirit” of those involved in the bushfire response. The fires instigated a fierce debate among politicians over climate change policy, prompting the PM to call on his parliamentary colleagues to “take it down a few notches”. The Federal Government has activated disaster recovery payments for those affected by the bushfires.
Meanwhile in Canberra, the Senate returned for the week. The Government’s ‘Big Stick’ energy laws passed through the Upper House despite arguments from the Greens that the laws prolong the life of coal-fired power. The Senate also passed the Farm Household Support Amendment Bill which makes changes to the Farm Household Allowance to provide further support for farmers experiencing hardship. One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson’s Protecting Australian Dairy Bill was narrowly defeated this week by the Coalition, quashing Labor’s hopes that Nationals senators would be forced to cross the floor to support the legislation. Meanwhile, Deputy Leader of the Nationals Bridget McKenzie conceded a mandatory dairy code of conduct would not be in place by early 2020. The Government has chosen to delay a Senate vote on its ‘union-busting’ Ensuring Integrity Bill, after failing to secure crossbench support from Senator Jacqui Lambie or One Nation.
Figures released this week have revealed Australia’s annual wage growth has slowed to 2.2 per cent, the lowest it has been in more than a year. Despite this, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg remains optimistic about Australia’s economic outlook, revealing a new 15 per cent concessional tax incentive to drive foreign capital investment in nationally significant infrastructure projects worth more than $500 million. Mr Frydenberg also used a keynote address at the Australian National University this week to argue that Australia should remain committed to open markets and structural reforms to enhance the country’s economic competitiveness on a global scale. Mr Frydenberg used a later address in Adelaide to urge state and territory governments to embrace a new wave of productivity reforms, which could reportedly boost Australia’s economy by $100 billion per year.
As High Court hearings commenced to investigate the validity of Australian Federal Police raids on journalist Annika Smethurst’s home earlier this year, representatives from the coalition of media companies responsible for the ‘Australia’s Right to Know’ campaign met with Attorney-General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. The meeting was reportedly “productive” and media companies remain optimistic the Government will adopt key recommendations being formulated as part of the parliamentary inquiry into press freedoms. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is scheduled to release its final report by 28 November.