GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Senate rejects union crackdown bill

  • The Government’s Ensuring Integrity Bill has been voted down in the Senate after key crossbenchers joined with Labor to defeat the bill.
  • The Coalition leads Labor 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis according to Monday’s Newspoll.
  • The Government has announced up to $500 million to fund an additional 10,000 home care packages.
  • Credit ratings agency S&P Global has urged the Federal Government to maintain its plan to keep the budget in surplus, warning further spending could compromise Australia’s triple A credit rating.
  • NAB has been appointed as the main lender for the Federal Government’s first-home loan deposit scheme, which is set to begin in the new year.
  • NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has formally announced the repeal of Sydney’s lockout laws.
  • The Government’s controversial robo-debt system has been ruled unlawful by the Federal Court.
  • Liberal senator Jim Molan returned to the Senate this week, replacing Arthur Sinodinos.
It was a busy week in Canberra as MPs returned to Parliament for the penultimate sitting week of the year. Priorities for the Government included repealing the medevac laws and passing its union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill through the Senate, both of which required crossbench support. Senator Lambie asked the Government to reconsider the option of sending asylum seekers to New Zealand, while also proposing one undisclosed condition on which she will vote with the Government to repeal the medevac legislation next week. Senator Lambie has refused to disclose the condition, which reportedly relates to national security.

In a blow to the Government, the Ensuring Integrity Bill was defeated in the Senate after One Nation pulled off a last-minute blindside to vote with Labor and other crossbenchers to reject the bill. Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was disappointed with the result, but confirmed the Government will seek to re-introduce the bill “at an appropriate time”. Meanwhile, Monday’s Newspoll result was the first to reflect an improved methodology, after traditional polling methods failed at the 2019 Federal Election. According to the poll, the Coalition continues to lead Labor 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis, while Scott Morrison remains preferred PM over Anthony Albanese 46-39.

Distracting from the Government’s legislative agenda this week was the controversy surrounding the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, who was the subject of a NSW Police investigation over falsified documents. Prime Minister Morrison backed Mr Taylor, despite calls for him to step aside as Minister. Revelations that the PM called the NSW Police Commissioner to discuss the investigation sparked further debate, with Mr Morrison suggesting he was seeking further clarification on the nature of the allegations. Following intense questioning on the matter during Question Time, the PM was accused of misleading parliament, leading to further criticism from the Opposition. Mr Morrison later sought to clarify his comments in a letter to the Speaker, while the Opposition attempted to suspend standing orders in Parliament on Thursday in a bid to force the PM into making a formal statement in the House.

The fallout from Westpac’s alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws continued this week, with Labor using the revelations to argue that unions are being unfairly targeted in comparison to the banking sector. Following the dual resignations of Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer and Chairman Lindsay Maxsted, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg moved to reassure Westpac customers that the bank’s financial stability is not at stake as a result of the scandal. In further bad news for Westpac, there is ongoing speculation the bank will be ruled out of the Government’s First Home Loan Scheme.

In foreign affairs, tensions between Australia and China have continued to simmer amid allegations that a suspected Chinese espionage ring had planned to place an MP in the Australian Parliament to act as an agent of foreign influence. The PM said the rumours are “deeply disturbing”, while cautioning against “leaping to conclusions” and confirming the Government is in a good position to counter any threats. Despite the PM’s reassurance, Labor has called for tougher laws on political donations to respond to growing concerns about foreign interference, in addition to bipartisan demands for tighter scrutiny of election candidates.


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