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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
25 May 2018
 
Highlights
  • The date for the five federal by-elections has been announced as Saturday 28 July. 
  • Negotiations over the company tax cut package continue between the Government and One Nation.
  • Budget Estimates kicked off, along with the third round of hearings of the Financial Services Royal Commission.
  • Australia will begin formal negotiations with the European Union on a free trade agreement.
The Week at a Glance
 
Federal Parliament has returned to a busy post-Budget sitting week, with by-elections and tax cuts dominating the news. Senator Pauline Hanson has caused a headache for the Government, flip-flopping on One Nation’s position on company tax cuts, while in a win for the Government, Labor has backed the full personal income tax package in the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Tony Smith told Parliament he would issue the writs for the five upcoming by-elections to be held on July 28, attracting outrage from the Opposition who have argued the date for ‘Super Saturday’ is a calculated attempt to disadvantage the ALP as it clashes with the Party’s national conference. While Budget Estimates took place this week, it was largely overshadowed by further revelations of misconduct and unethical behaviour during the third round of hearings for the Banking Royal Commission, which focused on loans to small and medium enterprises.
 
Super Saturday Set
 
Voters will head to the polls on Saturday 28 July to decide the outcome of by-elections in Perth, Fremantle, Mayo, Longman and Braddon. Labor looks set to hold onto its WA strongholds of Perth and Fremantle, where no Liberal candidates will run, while the outcomes in Longman, Braddon and Mayo are less certain. Susan Lamb will recontest her marginal Queensland seat of Longman against Trevor Ruthenberg for the LNP, and One Nation’s candidate Matthew Stephen. Labor’s Justine Keay and former Liberal MP Brett Whiteley will go head-to-head in the Tasmanian electorate of Braddon. The Liberals hope to win back Mayo in the Adelaide Hills with high-profile candidate Georgina Downer, who is challenging incumbent Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie.
 
Labor has criticised the decision to hold the by-elections on July 28 – the same weekend as the Party’s national conference – and argued that the timeline for the by-elections is far longer than usual. In Senate Estimates, Labor frontbencher Senator Penny Wong accused Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers of making a “partisan call” which would prevent Labor members from campaigning on the day of the polls. Mr Rogers rejected the accusations. Breaking with tradition, the Speaker also defended his chosen date in parliament, outlining advice from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) stating that new regulations to the nomination process are being finalised by the Special Minister of State and will require sign-off by the Governor-General as well as approximately two weeks for the AEC to implement.
 
Government Tax Agenda Wins and Losses
 
After withdrawing One Nation’s support for the Government’s company tax cuts a fourth time earlier in the week, Party Leader Senator Pauline Hanson will again consider supporting company tax cuts, but only for businesses with turnover of up to $500 million. While withholding a firm commitment until she has consulted with her party and the Finance Minister, Senator Hanson’s new position has the support of Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, but is still short one crossbench vote. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to reassess the viability of the remainder of his company tax cut package, but insisted that he would take the policy to the next election. Despite these setbacks, Treasurer Scott Morrison received the backing of the Labor Party for the full personal income tax package, allowing the legislation to pass the House of Representatives this week. However, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is seeking further details about the cost of the package in determining possible amendments in the Senate.
 
EU Trade Agreement
 
Prime Minister Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo have welcomed the decision by EU member states to open negotiations for an Australia-EU free trade agreement. Despite resistance from the European agricultural sector to reducing tariffs, Minister Ciobo has said that while agriculture was only one aspect of the deal, “A good-quality trade deal with Europe will include enhanced agricultural access for Australian exporters”. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will visit Australia in June to “politically launch” negotiations.
 
Greens Senator Retires
 
NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has announced she will retire in mid-August to clear the way for current state Upper House MLC Mehreen Faruqi, who overcame Senator Rhiannon in a preselection race last year to claim the number one spot on the Greens’ NSW Senate ticket.  
 
Looking Ahead
 
The Federal House of Representatives and SA Parliament will sit next week; Budget Estimates will continue in Federal Parliament.
 


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has introduced a Bill into Parliament this week to allow a one-off amnesty for the historical underpayment of superannuation entitlements, as part of the Government’s superannuation guarantee integrity package. The amnesty will set aside penalties for late payments – that are usually paid to the Government by employers – for a 12-month period.
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced the appointment of Mr Andrew Stevens as the interim Chair of the Data Standards Body for the Consumer Data Right, which will give consumers greater control over their personal data. Mr Stevens is the current Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre and is a director of MYOB, Stockland, the Thorn Group, and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. He was previously the Managing Director of IBM Australia.
 
The Federal Government has announced plans for a second Deputy Chairperson at the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to provide the organisation with “greater flexibility” and improve accountability in the financial sector. The reform follows similar changes to the structure of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) leadership team.
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan has welcomed the reappointment of Patricia Kerin to the Advisory Board of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) until 2021. Ms Kerin is currently serving as the Director of the Institution of Chemical Engineers Safety Centre.
 
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has published the Quarterly Energy Dynamics report for the first quarter of 2018, providing an overview of the gas and electricity dynamics, outcomes and trends for the National Electricity Market (NEM). The AEMO has also released a full post-2017-18 summer review, which provides an overview of the performance of the NEM during the last summer period.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud has announced two new appointments to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). Ms Joanna Hewitt AO and Professor Stuart Bunn were selected by the Government in consultation with Basin states; both will serve as part-time members of the MDBA.
 
State Developments
 
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has welcomed the passage of legislation that will establish the Sydney Metro statutory authority. The new NSW Government-controlled authority will have full responsibility for the planning, construction, delivery and operation of the Sydney Metro project, and is expected to be operational from 1 July.
 
Victorian Minister for Local Government Marlene Kairouz has announced an additional $50 million of government funding for the Growing Suburbs Fund. The fund provides local councils with financing for community infrastructure such as town hubs, parks, community centres and sporting facilities.
 
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced State Government funding of $38 million for the Disaster Resilience Fund. The fund is designed to better equip the State to mitigate future disasters by providing support to local governments, state agencies and non-government organisations in preparing for potential natural disaster events.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments

Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Hobbs has confirmed that the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer are sourcing additional influenza vaccine doses to meet unprecedented demand. An estimated 25 to 30 per cent increase in uptake of the vaccine compared to last year has resulted in national shortages, despite the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) having released a record 9.6 million doses this year.
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced $12.1 million in funding to reduce delays for the current 18,300 patients on the State’s dental treatment waiting lists. The Government is also providing funding for fluoride varnish for children in disadvantaged communities; training in alternative sedations for dental clinics; and oral care education.
 
Legislation has passed the NSW Parliament to amend the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act, creating a new classification for medicines used in cosmetic procedures. The new rules aim to increase safety for patients by strengthening the regulation around storage, access and use of cosmetic medicines, and increasing penalties for unlicensed operators and regulatory breaches.
 
Mr Andrew Brown has been appointed as Queensland’s new Health Ombudsman for a three-year term. Mr Brown has been acting in the role since November 2017, and his appointment follows seven years as the State’s Deputy Ombudsman. He will be responsible for managing health service complaints across Queensland.
 

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