Strug­gling Aus­tralian leader wins much-needed vic­to­ries

Counter-ter­ror­ism bill ex­tends po­lice sur­veil­lance pow­ers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, whose lead­er­ship has been ques­tioned af­ter po­lit­i­cal set­backs yes­ter­day won a much-needed vic­tory in par­lia­ment, with the pas­sage of two con­tro­ver­sial bills. Aus­tralia’s Se­nate, which the govern­ment does not con­trol, passed a la­bor bill that it had pre­vi­ously blocked, trig­ger­ing an elec­tion in July. The laws passed in a morn­ing ses­sion, bring greater over­sight of trade unions and em­ployer bod­ies. The par­lia­ment also passed a counter-ter­ror­ism bill in the evening. It ex­tended po­lice sur­veil­lance pow­ers and cut to 14, from 16, the age at which ter­ror­ism sus­pects can be de­tained and face other re­stric­tions.

Turn­bull has seen his poll num­bers hit their low­est since tak­ing power in Septem­ber 2015, and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors have ques­tioned his fu­ture as prime min­is­ter, as con­fi­dence erodes in Aus­tralia’s fourth leader in the last six years. “The govern­ment called a dou­bledis­so­lu­tion elec­tion on this is­sue,” said Hay­don Man­ning, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Flin­ders Univer­sity in Ade­laide, re­fer­ring to the la­bor bill. “To end the year with­out de­liv­ery on its set-piece re­form would have been dis­as­trous for the govern­ment.” Turn­bull nar­rowly won the July 2 elec­tion af­ter in­vok­ing rarely-used pow­ers to dis­solve both houses of par­lia­ment fol­low­ing the re­peated block­ing of the govern­ment’s la­bor bill by the up­per-house Se­nate.

But Turn­bull has strug­gled to im­ple­ment his agenda as his rul­ing con­ser­va­tive coali­tion is in the mi­nor­ity in the Se­nate, re­quir­ing him to win fa­vor with many of the 11 independent se­na­tors to pass leg­is­la­tion. Turn­bull led ne­go­ti­a­tions on the la­bor bill with independent se­na­tors while in Peru this week at­tend­ing the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion meet­ing, law­mak­ers said. The govern­ment con­tin­ues to trail the op­po­si­tion La­bor Party, a Newspoll yes­ter­day showed.

Eco­nomic man­age­ment, a tra­di­tional strong point for the con­ser­va­tive govern­ment, is now be­ing called into ques­tion. Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nomic on Mon­day fore­cast the bud­get deficit to grow by A$24 bil­lion ($17.69 bil­lion) over the next four years - threat­en­ing Aus­tralia’s AAA credit rat­ing. Turn­bull now plans to turn his at­ten­tion to an­other corner­stone piece of leg­is­la­tion aimed at cre­at­ing a build­ing in­dus­try watch­dog. The bill was also twice re­jected by the Se­nate in the lead-up to the July elec­tion. That vote, in the fi­nal two weeks of the Se­nate’s 2016 term, is ex­pected to be tight, key independent Se­na­tor David Ley­on­hjelm said.

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