TPP, or not to TPP
Despite reports earlier this week that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations were likely to be completed by the end of last week, a spokesperson for Trade Minister Andrew Robb said an agreement wasn’t reached in the Hawaii conference.
The ABC reported that a deal couldn’t be reached on sugar, pharmaceuticals, cars and dairy, but Mr Robb said that the deal was 98 per cent complete.
The trade pact – an agreement between 12 nations – would reduce the import and export costs for goods and services.
But a non-disclosure statement delegates signed saw it mired in controversy because citizens aren’t privy to what’s being negotiated.
The Saturday Paper republished leaked documents – originally published onWikileaks in 2013 – showing state-owned enterprises such as the ABC, SBS, theRenewable Energy Agency and Australia Post risk facing “additional disciplines”.
But a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson revealed “the ABC and SBS would not be covered under [the] controversial section”.
In The Conversation, Economist Tim Harcourt wrote that exporters welcomed the trade pact because “an open economy is bolstered by improvements in productivity, efficiency and fairness in the labour market”.
In the AFR, Australian Super chairwoman Heather Ridout wrote that Australia “will regret” the investor-state dispute clauses that enable foreign companies to sue a government if legislation adversely affected them.
Labor recharges: renewed debate on increased RET
Labor differentiated itself from the Coalition Government when it announced a commitment to increasing the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 50 per cent by 2030 at its National Conference last week.
Its pledge comes almost three months after it showed bilateral support for a reduction in the RET from 41,000 gigawatts per hour to 33,000 – which represent about 23 per cent of Australia’s energy consumption – by 2020.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also said he wanted to see more solar panels and further development in battery technology.
In response to the policy announcement, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said if the Emission Trading Scheme was a tax, then the proposed increase to theRET was too.
Tony Abbott said the “bizarre … massive and unnecessary” RET would cost about $65 billion, and The Australian reported figures from ACIL Allen Consulting – a firm that advises government on economic policy – that found a 50 per cent target would cost $100 billion.
But The Conversation’s Fact Check column found the Government’s price tag was misleading, because it did not consider – among other things – a “reduction in the cost of wind turbines and technical improvements in turbine efficiency”.
The CFMEU – Australia’s largest mining and energy union – said it would back Labor’s proposal if it helped workers in mines and coal-generators at risk of losing their job.
In the AFR, Australia Institute chief economist Richard Denniss welcomed the proposal, and called on both parties to address the “parlous state of ‘energy productivity’ in Australia”.
Climate Spectator editor Tristan Edis wrote that 50 per cent wasn’t enough and fell far short of the proposals set by Canada and the US.
New Matilda environment reporter Thom Mitchell also wrote this might be a key issue where Labor could grab swing voters.
In another blow to the Coalition’s clean energy policy, Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said if the recommendations put forward in the Senate Select Committee into wind turbines – led by independent senators John Madigan, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm – are implemented, the clean energy industry in Australia would be destroyed.
A separate policy Shorten promoted at the conference was boat turn-backs.
Crikey intern Joely Mitchell created an infographic showing the cost of holding an asylum seeker on Nauru ($1927 a day) compared to housing ($38) and educating ($84) them.
ATO prepares for Uber court challenge on GST
Uber is suing the Australian Taxation Office after it ordered drivers to pay GST, increasing fares by 10 per cent.
Drivers that don’t comply with GST registration are subject to a $3600 fine.
An Uber spokesman told The Australian: “We are so disappointed that the ATO has tried to deny [our drivers] the same tax treatment as other individuals, who are only required to register for the GST once they reach a turnover of more than $75,000 a year.”
“In our view, the ATO’s guidance should not have been issued when a federal tax review is under way and as the ATO has agreed that this is ‘an uncertain point of the law’.”
The Sydney Morning Herald published an interactive map that showed laws aiming to regulate and control Uber, while The Courier-Mail cited Economic Policy Group’s (EPG) internal discussion paper, which found that the taxi market in Brisbane was costing consumers $40 million each year.
Choppergate crash landing: Tony Abbott begins clean up
Ridicule for Bronwyn Bishop’s extravagant travels at the expense of taxpayers has forced her to resign from her post as Speaker and Tony Abbott has begun cleaning up the wreckage.
Abbott announced a review into entitlements to eliminate situations where “spending is arguably inside the rules, but plainly outside of community expectations”.
For three weeks Bishop resisted calls for an apology after a $5000 helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong she claimed on her parliamentary travel expenses was exposed.
But pressure for her to resign continued to build when a suite of other questionable travel claims emerged.
A flight attendant said Ms Bishop acted like a “spoilt brat” when she wasn’t allocated her favourite seat in business class, and Crikey was told former chief government whip Phillip Ruddock would fly with Ms Bishop to provide a “calming influence” on her.
While Labor renewed calls for the Australian Federal Police to investigate Bishop over misuse of taxpayer funds, in The Monthly, Sean Kelly explained why it exploded as a story.