The New Parliament Sits this Week…By John McDonnell

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Tomorrow will see the opening of Parliament. The first session will only last a week and it’s likely to be a lively one. Bill Shorten is cock-a-hoop having come close to winning the election: 

last week he was telling the Coalition to stop whinging and start governing or get out of the way and let Labor do it.

Unfortunately for Labor, when the Governor General opens Parliament tomorrow the programme the 25 bills he announces will be the government’s programme and there will be no mention of any of the opposition’s proposals. The government is determined to get the focus back on industrial relations and the economy. The programme to be announced by the

G-G will include the introduction of bills for the establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations bill. The Prime Minister is confident that these pieces of legislation will pass through Parliament without the need for a joint sitting. He’s established a special unit within his office to advise crossbenchers and new Senators on the content and implications of critical legislation.

The head of state will also announce an omnibus bill for savings which were adopted by

Labor during the election campaign. The bill contains $6.5 billion worth of savings, two of which are contentious: the proposal to eliminate the energy supplement for future welfare recipients and the $1 billion cut to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The indication from Labor is that it will support this legislation provided the measures are the same as those announced during the election campaign. However Labor also wants the government to adopt its own savings measures, including negative gearing and cutting capital gains tax concessions. It will probably move amendments to the government legislation in the Senate in order to test the waters.

The legislative programme will also contain the bills to protect volunteers from the predations of union enterprise bargaining agreements. Independent member Cathy McGowan is a strong supporter of this legislation so it’s likely to pass the House of Representatives but

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the law so the government will need to get the support of the Nick Xenophon Team to get the legislation through the Senate.

One of the more contentious issues will be the changes to superannuation. The contested changes involve the retrospective nature of the limit on non-concessional accumulation funds.

The government originally proposed that there should be a $500,000 limit on these funds backdated to 2007. Labor has said that it will accept this cap provided it’s not retrospective.

The government originally said that the measure was not retrospective but it’s subsequently been demonstrated that some superannuants who relied on the old rules have withdrawn lump sums from their accounts and would now be precluded from replacing them up to the $500K limit. The government has now proposed to increase the limit to $750K but Labor is opposed to this and wants the retrospective elements removed instead. If the government decides to sit pat on the policy it took to the election then at least one back bencher has threatened to cross the floor.