GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: PM swept into US politics

4 October 2019


  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been drawn into the US domestic political debate, following a New York Times report earlier in the week.
  • The latest Newspoll shows no change to the two-party preferred result, with the Coalition maintaining its lead over Labor 51-49.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia has cut the cash rate to a record low of 0.75 per cent.
  • The PM has announced an audit of Australia’s role in international rule-making processes and institutions during a major foreign policy speech to the Lowy Institute last night.
  • Former senator Jim Molan has reportedly been endorsed by the NSW Liberal Party’s conservative faction in the preselection race to fill the vacancy left by Arthur Sinodinos.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been swept into United States domestic politics, just days after returning home from a week-long trip to the US. Mr Morrison was drawn into ongoing controversy surrounding an inquiry by the US Justice Department into the origins of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. With Federal Parliament not due to resume until Monday 14 October, the Coalition maintains its lead over the Labor Party in this week’s Newspoll, 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis. Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese recorded a slight improvement in the preferred PM stakes, while still trailing Prime Minister Scott Morrison 50-31.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump recently asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for Australia’s help with an inquiry into the origins of the Mueller Russia investigation. Mr Morrison confirmed the request, saying Mr Trump was seeking a “point of contact” between the Australian Government and US Attorney-General William Barr in relation to the inquiry. Speaking on Sky News, the PM described the conversation as “uneventful” and insisted it would have been “quite extraordinary” not to cooperate with Mr Trump’s request. In response, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has called on the Prime Minister to release the transcript of the conversation with Mr Trump. Notably, former Australian foreign minister and diplomat Alexander Downer played a role in triggering the initial FBI investigation into electoral interference following a 2016 meeting in London.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has cut the official interest rate by 25 basis points to a record low 0.75 per cent – the third reduction in the cash rate in five months. The decision comes amid weaker-than-expected economic growth and concern about the impact of the ongoing US-China trade dispute, along with subdued inflation. However, RBA Governor Philip Lowe insisted it was not all bad news and noted the strong growth of employment and improvement in the housing markets as sources of reassurance for consumers. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the media he was disappointed the banks had chosen not to pass on the full rate cut to customers and encouraged people to “vote with their feet” and find a better deal.

Late last week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced details of the Review of the retirement income system. First proposed by the Productivity Commission, the Review will examine the three key aspects of retirement income: the Age Pension, compulsory superannuation and voluntary savings. This week the Government has assured older Australians it will not consider changes to increase the pension age, introduce new taxes on superannuation or include family homes in the pension asset test. Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers has criticised the Government’s decision to appoint Professor Deborah Ralston – a prominent critic of the Opposition’s franking credits policy – to the review panel.

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