The Week in Politics
This week was a tale of budgets. It was clear that there were rivers of gold for some governments but not for others.
Hints from the Commonwealth government included the idea of income tax cuts as well as an extension of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the earlier announcement of the cancellation of the 0.5% increase in the Medicare levy.
The Victorian budget announced $16 billion worth of new expenditure for infrastructure but none of this was allocated to a railway line from Tullamarine airport for which the Commonwealth had promised $5 billion.
The Victorian government declared a surplus of $1.6 billion which will provide it with a cushion if economic circumstances change.
Growth in Victoria is driven by population growth which is faster than any other jurisdiction in Australia. This has led to a massive increase in stamp duty receipts.
In contrast to Victoria, the Northern Territory has brought down a very large deficit, adding to a debt which is equivalent to 70% of gross state product (GSP).
The Northern Territory has lost a proportion of its GST receipts but, on a per capita basis, these are still 13 times larger than the money received by Western Australia.
Unfortunately none of the profligate expenditure increase in the Northern Territory seems to be headed in the direction of remote communities which remain chronically underserviced.
The Territory seems to be over-endowed with public servants who service programmes designed to support themselves.
Another political issue that is festering for the Commonwealth government is that of live sheep exports to the Middle East.
Despite the government promising action on the issue, another vessel managed to put to sea from Fremantle with sheep held in appalling conditions.
The Labor Party succumbed to the pressure from Animals Australia and social media, announcing a policy to ban live exports.
This prompted the Prime Minister to announce that his government would not introduce a ban.
The Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud maintained a deafening silence.
From the Gallery • Treasury is forking out nearly half a million bucks on market research to determine how the punters will react to next Tuesday evening’s budget. Tender documents show that two contracts have been let: one to Sydney-based company Pollinate, valued at $201,850 and the other to Melbourne-based Whereto Research Based Consulting at a mere $245,000. The seriously interesting question is whether Treasury will have time for a bit of major tweaking if the result is that most people reckon it’s a shocker.
• On Tuesday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed confirmation from the President of the United States Donald J. Trump that Australia will be exempt from its steel and aluminium tariffs. The Prime Minister, Minister Ciobo, Cabinet colleagues and Ambassador Joe Hockey have advocated for Australia’s interests at all levels of the Trump Administration.
• To mark the opening of Parliament House 30 years ago a the Parliament will host and event “Fundamental to democratic life – Australian Parliament House 30 years on” in the building. The events highlight will be a panel discussion lead by Barrie Cassidy including Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC Chancellor of the Australian National University and former Attorney-General and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Hawke government at the time, the former construction director David Chandler and the longest current serving member of the Federal Press Gallery Michelle Grattan AO. There will also be a ensemble from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. The discussion starts at 10.30am in the Great Hall.
• The Prime Minister and his wife Lucy Turnbull AO hosted His Excellency Mr Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic in a State Dinner in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday Evening. Guests were served 2 courses of salmon and Lamb with some of Australia’s best wines.
• Secretary of the ACTU Sally McManus launched the “Change the Rules’ campaign in Far North Queensland on Wednesday.
• Deputy Leader of the Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie opened the Thales Australia Lithgow Small Arms Innovation Hub with Member for Calare Andrew Gee on Thursday.