GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Tax cuts pass the Parliament

5 July 2019

  • The 46th Parliament has met for the first time and the Government’s tax cuts package has passed through both Houses.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has lowered interest rates for the second month in a row – the first back-to-back cut since 2012.
  • Incoming NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has unveiled her new Shadow Cabinet.
  • Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman announced a ministerial reshuffle over the weekend.
  • Discussion is heating up over press freedom, religious freedoms and possible changes to anti-terror laws.
  • Australian student Alek Sigley was released from detention in North Korea, following efforts by Australian officials working with the Swedish Government.
The Government has had an early win in the first week of the 46th Parliament, passing its $158 billion personal income tax cuts package to deliver a key election promise. Following extensive negotiations, Centre Alliance senators backed the legislation on Thursday morning, as did Tasmanian Independent Jacqui Lambie, guaranteeing passage through the Senate. In exchange for their support, media reports suggest the Government has committed to gas market reforms, while Senator Lambie also sought support to alleviate Tasmania’s $157 million social housing debt. Labor announced late on Thursday that it would also vote for the package but did not rule out repealing the third stage of the measures at a later date.
The Parliament was opened on Tuesday with a speech by the new Governor-General – former Defence Force Chief David Hurley – who was sworn in the previous day. The Governor-General’s speech outlined the Government’s priorities for the new Parliament, which include industrial relations reform, legislating the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund and tackling youth suicide. Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith was re-elected unopposed, and Senate President Scott Ryan was comfortably re-elected despite a challenge from the Greens. The 26 new MPs were also sworn in. In a show of unity, the PM and Opposition Leader used the opening of Parliament to pledge cooperation to bring about constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.

The Reserve Bank cut interest rates to a record low of 1 per cent on Tuesday, with RBA Governor Philip Lowe citing rising unemployment and global trade disputes as factors behind the decision. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was quick to say that the Government and the RBA were “kicking in the same direction” and that the RBA announcement strengthened the Coalition’s resolve to pass on tax cuts to working Australians. Governor Lowe also noted increased infrastructure spending could stimulate the economy, while Senator Cormann highlighted the Government’s current infrastructure program and action on power prices.

Attorney General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher met with a delegation of media heavyweights in Parliament House on Wednesday to further discuss press freedom. The group sought clarification on whether News Corp and ABC journalists could be prosecuted for their reports based on documents leaked from the Department of Defence. Competing proposals for a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom were canvassed during the week, with Cabinet agreeing to establish an inquiry through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

On religious freedom, reports indicate that the Government may introduce legislation in the next sitting week to establish a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it unlawful to discriminate against people based on religious beliefs. Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is making moves to give himself new powers to prevent Australians suspected of extremism overseas from returning to Australia for up to two years. Mr Dutton said Tuesday’s anti-terror operation further reiterated the need for such measures.


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