GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Super Saturday Delivers Status Quo
3 August 2018
- Super Saturday has left the makeup of the Federal Parliament unchanged.
- The latest Newspoll shows no change in the two-party preferred vote, however Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues his lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister.
- Debate over company tax cuts has intensified following Super Saturday.
- PM Turnbull has appointed his chief of staff as the next Australian Public Service Commissioner.
- Health Minister Greg Hunt has moved to alleviate privacy concerns over the My Health Record rollout.
- The energy debate is set to reach boiling point as next week’s crucial COAG meeting approaches.
Super Saturday leaves Parliament unchanged
Five by-elections across four states last Saturday have left the overall makeup of the Federal Parliament unchanged after Labor retained its four seats and Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance reclaimed her South Australian seat of Mayo. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed “four from four” victories for Labor and used the results to intensify pressure on the Turnbull Government as politicians prepare to return to Canberra for Parliament’s spring session, beginning on 13 August. If you missed GRACosway’s detailed Super Saturday briefing note from earlier this week, you can catch up here.
Following commentary about Labor’s strong performance at the weekend’s Super Saturday by-elections, the latest Newspoll suggests little has changed at a national level. While the results show no change in the two-party preferred result from the previous fortnight, the Coalition has increased its primary vote by one point to 39 per cent against the Labor Party’s unchanged 36 per cent. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull has maintained his commanding lead over Bill Shorten as preferred PM, 48 per cent to 29 per cent – his best result since May 2016 before the previous federal election.
Corporate tax cuts back on the agenda
The Super Saturday by-election results have sparked further debate over corporate tax cuts within Government ranks, with several members of the Coalition suggesting the Government should consider whether it wants to take the company tax cuts to the next federal election if it cannot pass them in the Senate. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the Government remains “absolutely committed” to the proposed tax cuts, while Treasurer Scott Morrison warned that, although “politically difficult”, one by-election result should not be enough to undo a signature government policy.
New Australian Public Service Commissioner Appointed
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his chief of staff, Peter Woolcott, will become the next Australian Public Service Commissioner (APSC), replacing departing Commissioner John Lloyd who recently faced scrutiny over his independence. Mr Woolcott’s appointment has triggered changes in the Prime Minister’s office, with deputy chief of staff Clive Mathieson promoted to the top position. The move is expected to sharpen the Government’s political strategy ahead of the next federal election.
Minister moves to allay My Health Record privacy concerns
Health Minister Greg Hunt has moved to strengthen privacy provisions around the My Health Record scheme following concerns raised by medical practitioners and members of the general public. The My Health Record Act will be amended to ensure that a court order is obtained before police or other law enforcement agencies can access a patient’s health data. The move comes after Minister Hunt met this week with the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who raised concerns about the ambiguity of the legislation. Under the changes, patients will also be given the option to completely delete their record, while the opt out period has also been extended.
NEG showdown looms
The Energy Security Board has this week published the final detailed design of the government’s signature energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The paper contains modelling underpinning the policy, which shows that the NEG will place substantial downward pressure on energy prices and that the uptake of renewable energy will slow without it. The publication of the final detailed design draws the final battlelines over energy policy, with all eyes now on next Friday’s COAG Energy Council meeting where Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will require the support of all his state and territory counterparts to secure the NEG’s future.
The ACT Government has already indicated it will not support the policy in its current form, with ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury calling the NEG “false advertising”. The states and territories are not expected to give final approval on the design until after the following Tuesday’s meeting of the federal Coalition Party Room, where Minister Frydenberg will also seek final sign-off on the policy. A number of high profile Liberals and Nationals have spoken out against the NEG, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who said the policy needed an “enormous amount of work”.
The NSW Legislative Assembly and Victorian Parliament are sitting next week.