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Back To School – The Parliament Returns

After all the pomp and ceremony, the 46th Parliament has got down to business. This was the opening sitting of the new Parliament since the old Parliament last sat in the first week of April, when the Government handed down its pre-election budget.

Tax

As expected, the week was dominated by the Government’s signature election policy, $158 billion in personal income tax cuts.

By the end of the week the Government had a major victory in securing the passage of its income tax cuts package in its entirety.

In doing so it had to secure deals with key crossbench Senators from Centre Alliance and Jacqui Lambie from Tasmania.

Centre Alliance secured from the Government a commitment to bring down gas prices, through yet to be announced policy changes to ensure downward pressure is brought to bear on retail gas prices.

For Jacqui Lambie, the Government have committed to provide as yet undefined aid to help with Tasmania’s homelessness crisis.  As she said earlier in the week she couldn’t support tax cuts for high income earners, while many in her home state “don’t even have a roof over their head”.

The week was also notable for what the Government outlined as its third term policy agenda through the Governor-General’s traditional opening speech to Parliament.

Is Industrial Relations back on the Agenda?

In the speech the Government flagged potential industrial relations reform.

The Government announced that, “…the Minister for Industrial Relations is reviewing the impediments to shared workplace gains for employers and employees.”

While lacking in detail it does flag a renewed interest in industrial relations reform that the Coalition Government previously had been loath to touch, for fear of a Work Choices style campaign that cost them Government in 2007.

For business they will take some heart that at last, the Coalition Government is willing to engage in a debate around IR reform, which for many is a ‘holy grail’ of economic reform.

Given Work Choices was over 12 year ago now, many in business have been waiting for the Government to show signs of interest in workplace reform.

A Touch of Bipartisanship

In the spirit of bipartisanship both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have agreed to work together on the issue of indigenous recognition in the constitution.

The Prime Minister has tasked his Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt to work with Labor’s Shadow Minister Lynda Burney on a joint approach to this challenging issue.

What the final shape of such a joint approach will look is too soon to know, the issue of an indigenous voice to Parliament will no doubt feature prominently in discussions.

Summary

A big week for the Government and a big win for the Government with the passage of its $158 billion in personal income tax cuts.

The Parliament is now in recess until 22 July.

When the Parliament next resumes, no doubt the Government will be looking to resurrect its proposals to crackdown on lawlessness within unions and also implement its policy commitments from the April budget.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jody Fassina is the Managing Director of Insight Strategy and has served as a strategic adviser to MedTech and pharmaceutical stakeholders.

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