From the campaign trail
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spent the week on a drought “listening tour”, travelling
to NSW and Queensland to meet with local communities in drought-affected areas. Together with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, Mr Turnbull spoke of “a very variable climate” and the associated challenges, while flagging a possible announcement regarding farm household assistance. Also in by-election campaign mode, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten travelled to Tasmania to lend support to Braddon candidate Justine Keay, ahead of the 28 July poll.
Treasurer spruiks economic growth
Treasurer Scott Morrison has this week released
the March Quarter National Accounts, revealing good news for the Government. The Accounts show economic growth of 1.0 per cent in the March Quarter, taking annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 3.1 per cent – the highest in around two years. The figures also make Australia’s economy the best performer globally. The broad-based economic growth was driven by increases in resources exports, infrastructure investment, and household consumption, while high household debt, a falling savings rate and poor results in the agricultural sector balanced some of the growth. The Treasurer has lauded the results as evidence that the “Government’s plan for a stronger economy is working”.
The composition of the Senate has changed again, with former Independent Senator Fraser Anning this week becoming the second federal parliamentary member of Bob Katter’s Australian Party. The pair have already clashed
over differing policy positions, with Senator Anning promising to lobby colleagues to support the Government’s company tax cut package despite Mr Katter’s strong opposition.
Meanwhile, the public conflict between One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson and her party colleague Senator Brian Burston has deepened this week. Despite demands from his Leader to resign from the party and the Senate last week, Senator Burston has refused
to leave One Nation until Senator Hanson cancels his membership. Senator Burston has also confirmed his intentions to vote for the Government’s entire company tax cuts package.
AG push for new anti-espionage laws
Following the release of a bipartisan parliamentary committee report supporting proposed foreign interference laws, Attorney-General Christian Porter has recommended
that Parliament pass two key pieces of security legislation ahead of the five upcoming federal by-elections. Mr Porter has insisted the changes are implemented before Parliament rises at the end of June, which marks the last chance to prevent activity intended to “interfere with democratic processes” before 28 July.
Preselection jostling begins
Following a controversial paid commercial interview with his partner Vikki Campion last weekend, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has told local Nationals branch members that he intends
to stand for preselection for the Nationals at the next federal election. Senior Nationals MPs have declined to endorse Mr Joyce. Former Labor Senator Katy Gallagher has also confirmed her intention to nominate for Labor preselection in the ACT, while factional tensions are heating up in SA Liberal ranks, with moderate members attempting to secure
a safe position on the ticket for Senator Lucy Gichuhi. Former Prime Minister John Howard has also weighed in, backing Senator Gichuhi’s bid and commending her “intelligence and commitment” to political and social issues.
Exports stall at Chinese border
Australian agricultural exporters have pleaded
for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to mend bilateral tensions, which they believe are affecting the movement of their products at the Chinese border. With rising tensions between Australia and China over militarisation of the South China Sea, Australian wine and meat industry representatives fear that recent trade delays might become a permanent obstacle.
ACT Budget handed down
ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr handed down the ACT Budget
on Tuesday, revealing a $36 million surplus for the 2018-19 financial year. The ACT Government will raise overall rates and taxes by 10 per cent, while abolishing stamp duty and the first home owner grant. The Government has also allocated funding for the next stage of the ACT Light Rail Project and delayed $344 million of capital works.
The Queensland, WA, Tasmanian and NT parliaments will sit next week; the Queensland and Tasmanian Governments will hand down their Budgets.