Weekly Wrap Up

21 May 2021

Highlights

  • New Zealand Finance Minister Hon Grant Robertson delivered the 2021 Budget. For more information, please contact Mark Watts at GRC Partners at mark.watts@grcpartners.nz.
  • Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas handed down the 2021-22 State Budget. For more information, please see our dedicated analysis.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell 0.2 points in April to 5.5 per cent.
  • The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications published its final report for the Inquiry Into Press Freedom. The Committee made 17 recommendations, including to improve protections for journalists and media organisations that write about Special Intelligence Operations.
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced that Frances Adamson will end her term as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 25 June. Ms Adamson will take on the role of Governor of South Australia in October.
  • The NSW Upper Hunter by-election is scheduled for Saturday. In all, 13 candidates are running for the seat which was previously held by the Nationals on a margin of 0.35 per cent.
  • Member for Lyons Rebecca White announced she will stand aside as Leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party.

#AusPol

Labor retained its two-party preferred lead of 51-49 in the recent Newspoll, despite record levels of spending in the 2021-22 Budget which was welcomed by the public. Significantly, 60 per cent of voters agreed that the Government should continue to stimulate the economy even though it increases debt. In his Budget-in-reply speech, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the ‘trillion dollars of debt’ was uninspiring and argued the Budget offered low growth and productivity opportunities. Newspoll results also found that 73 per cent of voters would like Australia’s borders to remain closed until at least mid-2022, reinforcing the public’s trust in the Prime Minister’s handling of the pandemic.

Foreign Relations

Sino-Australian relations continues to lead the political debate this week. In a significant speech, Shadow Minister for Foreign Relations Penny Wong suggested the Prime Minister doesn’t ‘fully understand’ Australian interests in China and instead is motivated by political opportunity. Senator Wong said the Morrison Government had failed to diversify Australia’s economy, leaving the country vulnerable to economic coercion. The Senator committed Labor to maintaining bipartisanship on global human rights issues but said actions that incite panic are political and should end. Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox spoke at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, also calling for the Government to de-escalate tensions with China. In a similar manner to Senator Wong, he reasoned inflammatory language was unnecessary and that ‘negotiation, common sense and diplomacy’ would be preferred by business. His comments were welcomed by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Following negotiations between Trade Minister Dan Tehan and British Trade Secretary Liz Truss earlier in April, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed concerns from members of his Cabinet and the Scottish National Party that a zero-tariff agreement with Australia would negatively impact local farmers. If passed, the trade deal will be the first post-Brexit agreement.

Looking ahead

The Federal House of Assembly will sit next week, and the Senate will hold Budget Estimates. In the states, the Victorian, Queensland, South Australian, Western Australian and Tasmanian Parliaments will sit.

Click here for information on Finance, Resources & Energy, Infrastructure, and Health updates.

 

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