Last Month in Politics: Super debate and WA shadow shuffle

Anthony Albanese, Government Relations, Parliament, Political Leaders, Politics

Bree Liddell 2 Mar 2023
5 mins

Parliament returned at both a State and Federal level in February, while the first National Cabinet meeting in the WA regions was held. A central topic of conversation has continued to be rising interest rates, as the RBA announced its ninth increase in as many months and debate circulated around its independence from the government.

Overseas, Scotland’s longest serving First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation after eight years in leadership, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has sparked succession plan rumours following his daughter’s attendance at public events.

All State and Territory leaders have officially backed the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, with them all signing a statement of commitment. Australia became just the second country to have the United Nations cancel detention centre inspections after Queensland and New South Wales denied the organisation full access to institutions and the Federal Government have joined more than 30 countries in a joint statement disagreeing with the plan to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games.

In WA, the McGowan Government introduced mandatory mental health checks for those with gun licences, announced an independent review into streaming Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, announced $10 million in grants to fund e-waste infrastructure and committed to an inquiry into forced adoptions in WA. WA’s first state-wide Health and Medical Research Strategy was launched, the State Government announced the Law Reform Commission is conducting a review of WA’s sexual offence laws and the transition dates for Stage 2 of WA’s Plan for Plastics was announced, revealing a transition period of 28 months for businesses.

The great super debate

It was described by Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers as a modest change, but it made major headlines following its February 28 release.

The Albanese government’s announcement that superannuation earnings above $3 million would be subject to a new concessional tax rate of 30% dominated public discourse at the end of February. Peter Dutton and the Liberal Opposition decried the move as the first step towards major superannuation reform, while the Albanese government maintained it was just a small tweak to make the super system fairer.

Mr Dutton claimed the tax increase represented a major broken promise for the Labor Government, while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese retorted that argument by emphasising that the tax increase would not be implemented until after the next federal election.

WA government shadow portfolios

Following the change in leadership across the Liberal Party and WA Nationals, there has been an extensive reshuffle of shadow portfolios across both parties. New Liberal Leader, Libby Mettam, has made large changes with MP Nick Goiran being stripped of appointments following his involvement in the ‘Clan’ and the removal of a Shadow Attorney -General role, which was replaced with a Shadow Justice Minister.

New shadow portfolio appointments:

  • Tjorn Sibma MLC – Shadow Minister for Justice
  • Steve Thomas MLC – Shadow Minister for Energy; Industrial Relations
  • Neil Thomson MLC – Shadow Minister for Environment
  • Ms Libby Mettam MLA – Shadow Minister for Child Protection
  • Dr David Honey MLA – Shadow Minister for Small Business
  • Mr Shane Love MLA- Shadow Minister for Regional Development; Federal-State Relations; Jobs & Trade; Public Sector Management
  • Mia Davies MLA – Shadow Minister for Mines and Petroleum; Aboriginal Affairs
  • Ms Merome Beard MLA – Shadow Minister for Local Government
  • Martin Aldridge MLC – Shadow Minister for Regional Cities

Local Government reforms

This month the Local Government Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced into Parliament, outlining the most significant reforms to local government in more than 20 years.

The Bill will focus on a range of electoral reforms, with the goal to implement changes for the October 2023 Ordinary Elections.

Some of the potential changes in the first tranche of reforms include:

  • Introducing optional preferential voting
  • Requiring public election for a Mayor/President for all larger councils
  • Align the council sizes with population of each local government area
  • Remove use of wards for small local governments
  • Mandate communication agreements between councils and local government administration
  • Mandate the publishing of information through online registers

Work is continuing on the second tranche of legislation surrounding the establishment of the new Local Government Inspector and the introduction of mentors for early intervention. 

Environmental safeguards

The Albanese Government has proposed changes to the country’s safeguard mechanism – a program introduced by the Abbott Government which requires more than 200 of the country’s large emitters to pay for any emissions above a set ‘baseline’.

The baseline, which was previously set at what is deemed a ‘normal’ level of emissions for each business, is facing potential changes with the Government wanting to reduce it.

The Albanese Government wishes to toughen regulatory requirements to force reductions in industrial emissions on a trajectory aligning with national climate targets for 2030 and 2050.

The Coalition have opposed the proposal in its entirety, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton claiming it is a tax that will push prices up.

While the Greens are yet to announce their position, Leader Adam Bandt says they have serious concerns around varying aspects of the scheme including the use of offsets and emissions targets.

The Greens also continue to advance their efforts to secure a ban on new coal and gas through amendments to the mechanism, rather than limiting the number of carbon credits businesses can use in order to meet new obligations.

The Albanese Government will need the support of The Greens to pass any amendments.

WA quarterly financial results

The McGowan Government released its December 2022 Quarterly Financial Results in February, demonstrating net debt decreased by $807 million to $28.4 billion, the lowest it’s been since 2014-15.

The state’s net debt is now $15.3 billion lower than originally projected when the McGowan Government was voted in.

The $4.8 billion in infrastructure investment was around 21 per cent higher than the same period in 2021-22, due to spending on METRONET projects, community housing and health.

General government expenditure was also higher than the same period last year. A large portion of the $1.8 billion increase was due to higher salary payments following the State Government’s Wages Policy, health system spending as well as the $400 Householder Electricity Credit.

“In our first five years in office, lower debt levels have saved Western Australians more than $3.6 billion in wasteful interest payments, shielding the State from the impact of rising global interest rates,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

First Mental Health Unit patient room unveiled

Joondalup Health Campus has unveiled the first of 102 contemporary person-centred and recovery-focused patient room.

The new unit is a significant expansion of services offered in the northern suburbs, with capacity more than doubling and for the first time will cater the youth and older adults.

The design of the new building, which had contributions from consumers, carers, and clinicians, is a light filled environment with multiple recreation areas and shared lounge and dining spaces. The building will also have landscaped courtyards and a purpose-built recovery hub for patients to connect with family and friends.

Joondalup MLA Emily Hamilton said: “What I am so proud of is the support that our new unit will provide for young people – something I have been advocating for here in Joondalup.”

The Mental Health Unit is part of the wider $256.7 million expansion of the Joondalup Health Campus and will open later this year.


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Bree is Cannings Purple’s Government Relations Consultant, working with a diverse set of clients across the energy, resources, education and health sectors.

Qualified with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts (Politics and International Relations) and Bachelor’s Degree in Science (Sport Science)(Nutrition), Bree is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Public Policy.

Bree is skilled in strategic communications with the capability to review and analyse policies and procedures to deeper understand the government’s position, particularly identifying areas of opportunity for clients to engage government and create a working relationship.

With a broad range of working knowledge of the political system and internship experience in a state members office, Bree is perfectly placed to assist clients in navigating government process, policies and approvals.

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