Weekly Wrap Up: Global issues in the spotlight

11 October 2019


  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison has held talks with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, focusing on two-way trade and the 2014 MH17 disaster.
  • Two Labor frontbenchers have called for the Opposition to adopt the Coalition’s 2030 emissions reduction target in a bid to reach a “political settlement” on climate policy.
  • The Australian Electoral Commission has asked the Federal Court to throw out legal challenges against the victories of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Victorian MP Gladys Liu, which focus on allegedly misleading election signage.
  • Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level since July 2015, dropping 5.5 per cent in October to settle 8.6 per cent lower than a year ago.
  • The Federal Government has appointed reality television host Scott Cam as Australia’s first national career ambassador to help promote vocational education.

Global issues and bilateral partnerships continued to dominate the agenda this week as Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and continued to highlight the importance of the Australia-US alliance. Prime Minister Morrison met with his Dutch counterpart to discuss strengthening the two-way trade relationship between the Netherlands and Australia, as well as collaborating to find justice for the families of victims killed in the 2014 MH17 incident. During his visit, Prime Minister Rutte was appointed as an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia for his leadership in the face of the MH17 incident.

Almost two weeks after returning from his week-long visit to the United States, Mr Morrison has continued to highlight the significance of the Australia-US alliance. In a special interview to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberal Party, the PM described the ANZUS Treaty as the Party’s “single most important achievement”. Mr Morrison further emphasised the importance of the US alliance while speaking at the launch of an aircraft manufacturing facility in Bankstown alongside Minister for Defence Industries Melissa Price. In his remarks, the PM noted the alignment between Australia and the US when it comes to the “investment and manufacturing and jobs agenda that both countries share”.

Mr Morrison has confirmed he is in “direct contact” with the United States following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria during the week. The PM said the move was unsurprising, given the President had flagged the decision over a year ago. However, following the commencement of Turkey’s military operation in Syria, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has acknowledged the withdrawal of troops could have major consequences, including for Australians in refugee camps in the area. Mr Morrison has since contacted the Turkish government directly amid concerns about the security implications of the operation and has urged caution and restraint on all sides.

In domestic politics, a new split has emerged within the Australian Labor Party after Shadow Minister for Climate Change Mark Butler rejected calls from Labor frontbenchers Joel Fitzgibbon and Matt Keogh to adopt the Coalition’s 2030 emissions reduction target. Mr Butler stated the Coalition’s target is inconsistent with the Paris agreement, which aims to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, Mr Fitzgibbon – who suffered a 9.5 per cent swing away from the ALP in his coalmining NSW seat of Hunter at the 2019 Federal Election – believes that a shift in policy would improve Labor’s vote amongst blue collar and regional voters. The debate over climate policy comes after former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accepted blame for Labor’s loss in May, stating he had “misread the mood” on franking credits. Labor’s internal review into its election loss will be presented to the National Executive next month, before sections of the report are made public.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, the Federal Parliament will sit next week, with debate expected to include the Government’s contentious ‘big stick’ energy laws. According to reports, the legislation is expected to pass through both houses, with the likely support of both Labor and the Senate crossbench. Labor has reportedly sought confirmation the legislation will not result in the partial privatisation of public assets. In response, a Government source said, “This is about increasing competition, not privatisation. If there’s a loophole there we’ll close it.”

The NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA, NT and Tasmanian parliaments will also sit next week.

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