|24 August 2018 –|
|Governor-General||Sir Peter Cosgrove|
|Prime Minister||Scott Morrison|
|Party||Liberal and National (Coalition)|
|Status||Majority (Aug. 2018 – Oct. 2018)|
Minority (Oct. 2018 – present) [a]
|Origin||Morrison wins second 2018 Liberal leadership spill|
The Morrison Government is the federal executive government of Australia led by the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party of Australia since August 24 2018. The government consists of members of the Liberal-National Coalition. Michael McCormack is the leader of the junior party in the Coalition, the National Party, and serves as Deputy Prime Minister. The prime ministership of Scott Morrison commenced on 24 August 2018, when he was sworn in by the Governor-General of Australia.
The Liberal-National Coalition won government in the 2013 Election under Tony Abbott. The Abbott Government was brought to an end by means of an internal challenge by Malcolm Turnbull in February 2015. The Turnbull Government narrowly won the 2016 federal election, but was ended by the resignation of Turnbull in 2018. Morrison won the subsequent Liberal Party party room ballot for the leadership, and became Prime Minister of Australia. Josh Frydenberg replaced Julie Bishop as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Morrison as Treasurer. Turnbull quit Parliament leaving the Coalition in minority government following a by-election. Tensions remained as Turnbull lobbied for the removal of rivals. Morrison reformed Party rules to make it harder to remove elected Prime Ministers.
In Foreign Affairs, the Morrison Government has prioritised a "pivot to the Pacific" and sought to conclude a Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. On the economy, after the lowest deficit in a decade, Morrison promised a return to surplus for the 2019 Federal Budget. Morrison appointed former Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce as Special Envoy on the Drought, and former Liberal Leader Tony Abbott as Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs to advise on improving education outcomes for Aboriginal people.
- 1 Background
- 2 Aftermath of Turnbull defeat
- 3 Ministry
- 4 Economy
- 5 Foreign affairs
- 6 Energy and climate change
- 7 Social security
- 8 Aged care and disability
- 9 Food safety
- 10 Education
- 11 Indigenous affairs
- 12 Media
- 13 Modern Slavery Act
- 14 Commonwealth Integrity Commission
- 15 Environment
- 16 Medical transfer of refugees
- 17 See also
- 18 Notes
- 19 References
The Liberal-National Coalition won office under the leadership of Tony Abbott in the 2013 Australian federal election held on 7 September. Abbott defeated the second Rudd Government, ending six years of Labor Government. Less than two years later on 14 September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull defeated Abbott in a leadership ballot, 54 votes to 44 and the Turnbull Government became the executive government of Australia.
Turnbull cited Newspoll results and "economic leadership" as reasons for mounting his challenge against Abbott. Under the slogan "jobs and growth," Turnbull led the Coalition to the 2016 Election in which their majority in the House of Representatives was reduced to one seat.
Turnbull's ousting of Abbott had divided the Liberal Party rank and file and tensions continued in the parliamentary Party. The Government reached the 30-consecutive-Newspoll-losses benchmark Turnbull had used to unseat Abbott, in April 2018. The government suffered by-election losses in July 2018. Dissent from conservative MPs over issues such as energy prices and immigration levels grew during Turnbull's final months. On 21 August, Turnbull announced a leadership spill ahead of his 39th consecutive Newspoll loss, which he narrowly won against Peter Dutton. Turnbull resigned three days later after losing the confidence of his party room. Morrison won the resultant spill for the Liberal leadership, defeating Dutton and Julie Bishop. He became Australia's 30th Prime Minister.
Aftermath of Turnbull defeat
The Turnbull Government had won the 2016 federal election with a single seat majority in the House of Representatives (76 seats out of 150). Turnbull's quitting of Parliament and the defection of two of the Coalition's MPs to the crossbenches following his removal as leader subsequently reduced the Coalition to a minority on the floor of Parliament. National Party MP Kevin Hogan had threatened to move to the crossbench if Turnbull was ousted as Prime Minister. On 27 August 2018, three days after Morrison succeeded Turnbull as leader, Hogan confirmed that he would sit on the crossbench, while remaining a member of the National Party and providing confidence and supply to the government. The Coalition slipped further into minority with the departure of Turnbull from Parliament and loss of his seat to an independent, and with the defection of Julia Banks to the crossbench.
A week after losing the leadership, Turnbull formally tendered his resignation from federal parliament. He refused to campaign for Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate to replace him in the seat of Wentworth.
The by-election was held on 20 October 2018, and independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was elected, with a swing of almost twenty percent away from the Liberals. It was the first time since the inaugural 1901 election that the seat had not been represented by the Liberals, its predecessors, or party defectors.
One of Phelps' campaign promises was to bring more humane treatment of asylum seekers held on Manus Island and Nauru, which was partly brought to fruition with the passing of the "Medevac bill" early in 2019.
After an eleven year run as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had put herself up for election as Leader following Turnbull's resignation as Prime Minister. She garnered just 11 votes out of the 85-member party room, and quit her position as Foreign Minister to go to the backbench. Bishop tied the ousting of Turnbull to women's issues, telling a Women's Weekly awards event on 6 September that it had prompted discussion on the "bullying, intimidation, harassment and coercion" by federal politicians and "unfair unequal treatment of women". She joined Turnbull in calling for "clarity" around Dutton's eligibility to sit in Parliament, and refused to say how she would vote in the event of a referral. Bishop announced she would quit politics and not re-contest her seat in a statement to parliament in February 2019.
Defection of Julia Banks
Following Turnbull's loss of the Liberal leadership in August, the Liberal member for the seat of Chisholm, Julia Banks - a Turnbull supporter - began signalling dissatisfaction with the Party. On November 27 she announced to Parliament her departure from the Liberal Party to sit on the growing crossbench, reducing the Government's numbers to 73. Banks made the announcement while Morrison was announcing a timetable for Budget surplus in 2019. She told Parliament her former Party had "changed largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people." The Guardian reported that the move undercut Morrison's efforts to stabilise the government and project a plan for the next election.  Banks promised confidence and supply to the government. She told Fairfax Media that she was prepared to refer Turnbull's challenger Peter Dutton to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in Parliament, a move that would further reduce the Government's numbers on the floor of the House.
In November, reports emerged that the "moderate faction" of the NSW Liberal Party had relegated Liberal Senator Jim Molan to an "unwinnable" fourth position on the NSW Senate ticket, and were moving to dump conservative NSW MP Craig Kelly - a three term MP with a 9% margin in his electorate. The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan called the move against Molan an act of "self-mutilation" against "the most capable, the best-known and the most impressive backbench senator in Australia". Journalist Michelle Grattan described Kelly as "all over the place in his comments", comparing media reports of Kelly's comments to branch members as reported by the ABC, and an interview with Sky News. Kelly indicated he might run as an independent if the Party dis-endorsed him, and Kent Johns was offered a $350,000 six-month job to withdraw from the preselection race by the president of Morrison's federal electoral conference.
When Morrison moved to head off the factional dispute over Kelly and others by using state executive powers to automatically endorse sitting members, Turnbull launched a failed intervention to prevent the outcome, hoping Kelly, a Dutton backer, would be ousted. Turnbull had approved a similar move by the Victorian state executive in July. He had also previously personally endorsed Kelly himself, but dismissed comparisons to his own intervention to save Kelly in 2016, citing recent campaigns in NSW to allow grassroots members more say in pre-selection contests as the reason for his intervention against Kelly this time.
When news of Turnbull lobbying against Kelly became public, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said that Turnbull's intervention "meant that it became an issue about the Prime Minister's authority, and that swung the dial in favour of acceding to the request the Prime Minister had made of the Executive". Moderate members of the NSW branch agreed to abstain from a vote, effectively allowing Kelly and other sitting members such as Jason Falinski, John Alexander and Lucy Wicks to be re-selected.
Journalists Michelle Grattan and Patricia Karvelas criticised the intervention for Kelly. Grattan wrote there had been no intervention in favour of moderate female candidate Jane Prentice, who had been an assistant minister. Karvelas wrote that it was extraordinary the party would intervene to "save a bloke" when "women MPs like Jane Prentice and Ann Sudmalis are not afforded the same intervention to stay on in Parliament when faced with preselection challenges." Zimmerman dismissed the comparison in an interview with Karvelas on ABC Radio, saying Sudmalis had quit, while Prentice's preselection had occurred prior to the instability occasioned by the departure of Turnbull. Despite being expected to win preselection, and being asked to remain by Morrison, Sudmalis had quit as a candidate for her marginal electorate following the removal of Turnbull as leader, citing grievances with the NSW division of the Party.
Morrison reforms party leadership
In December, Morrison and Frydenberg won support from the Liberal Party room for a change in Party rules regarding leadership spills, and announced that a sitting prime minister who has won an election could no longer be removed by the Party room unless there was a two-thirds majority calling for the change. Opposition Leaders could still be challenged with a simple majority. Morrison said the move was in response to public disgust at the repeated rolling of Prime Ministers over the preceding decade.
Morrison was sworn in as prime minister on 24 August 2018, by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, in a ceremony at Government House. The newly elected deputy leader of the party Josh Frydenberg was the only other minister sworn in, as Treasurer.
Julie Bishop quit the frontbench, and her replacement as Foreign Affairs Minister was Marise Payne. The rest of the Ministry was sworn in on 28 August 2018, with many Dutton supporters being granted ministerial posts.
On 19 January 2019, Kelly O'Dwyer, Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, announced that she would not be contesting the upcoming election as her two children would be approaching primary school age and she wanted to give her and her husband the best opportunity for a third child. Within one week, Human Services Minister Michael Keenan and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion also announced that they would not recontest their seats at the 2019 election, widely attributed to the low chances of the Morrison Government being re-elected.
Morrison had served as Treasurer in the Turnbull Government, and was succeeded by Josh Frydenberg in the role. In September, Treasurer Frydenberg announced that the government would deliver a smaller budget deficit than forecast for 2017-18, and that the budget was on track to return to balance by 2019-20. The Final Budget Outcome deficit of $10.1 billion was $19.3bn smaller than predicted, and the smallest recorded since the Global Financial Crisis. The result had been assisted by larger tax intakes and less spending on social security than expected. The Treasurer credited the result to the Coalition's economic management with real spending growth down to its lowest level in half a century.  In October 2018, The Economist described Australia as possessing "the world’s most successful economy".
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was handed down in February, with 76 recommendations. There were only five remaining sitting days in Parliament, so there is little time for a legislative response before the election. Labor has indicated that it intends to work with the crossbench to extend the sitting days for Parliament, however, Christopher Pyne, speaking for the government, has pointed out that these laws are complex and should not be rushed through.
Morrison said the government would “continue to consolidate the budget”, but its priorities for spending included additional school and hospital funding, affordable medicines and the national disability insurance scheme. In November, Morrison and Frydenberg announced the 2019 Federal Budget would be brought forward a month to April 2. "We will be handing down a budget and it will be a surplus budget. It will be a budget which is the product of the years of hard work of our government," Morrison said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the budget in a speech to parliament on the night of 2 April. The budget forecast a small surplus of $7.1 billion in the upcoming financial year (2019-20), though it was technically in deficit as the existing financial year came to a close. The leading statements made were a cash rebate targeted toward lower and middle-income earners, with the Coalition promising to double the low and middle income tax offset it offered workers in the previous year's budget, giving voters on incomes between $50,000 and $90,000 a rebate of $1,080, similar to the Labor Party's proposals. The budget was criticised by the opposition for proposing to flatten the tax rates of all income earners between $45,000-$200,000 to 30% in the long-term, though the Treasurer argued that doing so would provide an "incentive [for] people to stay in work, to work longer, to work more." The government also promised $100 billion infrastructure funding over the decade and offered one-off payments for nearly 4 million welfare recipients to cover the cost of energy prices, which Labor supported. Labor's budget reply differed from the government most notably with a $2.3 billion proposal to cover medical imaging, consultation and medicines' costs for cancer patients. Overall, Labor had approximately $200 billion more funding than the Coalition to utilise over the decade; as it proposed more revenue raising, including scaling back negative gearing and abolishing cash refunds for excess franking credits, policies which were vociferously opposed by the government.
With the budget handed down only months before the federal election, proposals not supported by Labor are contingent on the government winning the poll.
Morrison shifted Marise Payne from the Defence Portfolio to the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs, following the resignation of Julie Bishop from the role. He visited Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo on his first overseas visit as prime minister. The Morrison Government and Indonesia announced the substantive conclusion of negotiations on the Indonesia -Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) on 31 August 2018.
During the Wentworth by-election campaign, Scott Morrison announced reviewing whether Australia's embassy in Israel should move to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was regarded[according to whom?] as potentially endangering the Indonesian fair trade agreement. Indonesia responded by putting the free trade agreement on hold, though it was eventually signed in Jakarta in March 2019.
Morrison has signalled that his government could accept New Zealand's offer to accept refugees detained by Australia on Manus and Nauru if they were subject to a lifetime ban from coming to Australia.
Pivot to the Pacific
Ahead of the 2018 APEC Forum in PNG, the Morrison government announced increased defence co-operation with Pacific nations including a plan to jointly develop a naval base on Manus Island with Papua New Guinea and a "pivot to the Pacific" involving the establishment of a $2 billion infrastructure bank for the Pacific to be known as the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility, to issue grants and long-term loans for projects such as telecommunications, energy, transport and water development. Morrison also pledged to open diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands. The "pivot to the Pacific" has been read as a way of undermining Chinese influence in the region.
Energy and climate change
After taking office, Morrison appointed Angus Taylor as Minister for Energy, saying "I am going to be the Prime Minister for getting electricity prices down. Angus Taylor is the minister for getting electricity prices down and that is a core focus of my government..."
Morrison committed to remaining in the Paris Agreement settled under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, but promised a greater focus on reduction of energy prices. He described coal as remaining "a key source of keeping electricity prices down and keeping the lights on, and I intend for it to stay there". The Morrison Government did not commit to replacing the existing renewable energy target with anything when it expires in 2020, stating that it will not be needed to meet emissions reduction targets.
The government has implemented the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's review recommendations into electricity prices by asking energy retailers to introduce a default market offer for households and small businesses, which would be standard across all retailers. This is designed to assist consumers who do not regularly change their power provider.
Australian school students were inspired by Greta Thunberg to strike for three days after 28 November, ignoring the call of their Prime minister Scott Morrison who said in the parliament that "what we want is more learning in schools and less activism".
According to the Government's 2018 emissions projections report, Australia will not achieve its' 2030 emissions reduction target of 26-28% less emissions than in 2005, and is only expected to achieve a 7% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. The Government expects Australia will meet its 2020 target.
As of February, the Morrison Government announced that it was taking its energy bill to the election, as it would likely be amended to prevent government funding of new coal-fired power stations.
Morrison has allocated $2bn over 10 years to the Abbott Government-era Emissions Reduction Fund, renaming it the Climate Solutions Fund. A project that is expected to benefit from the Climate Solutions Fund is the Tasmanian Battery of the Nation hydro-electric project.
Morrison changed the age at which Australians can receive the age pension back to 67, from an age of 70, which had been government policy since the 2014 Australian federal budget. In September 2018, the base Newstart rate was raised by $2.20 per week, but further increases to Newstart have been ruled out by Scott Morrison, who has stated that it is a "very expensive undertaking". The Liberal and Labor parties voted for a bill which would enforce a wait of four years before new migrants could receive social security payments.
Aged care and disability
Morrison brought forward aged care funding by $90 million, mainly focusing on regional areas.
On 16 September 2018, Morrison revealed that a royal commission would be held into aged care facilities, focusing on the quality of care in residential, home and community aged care. On 5 April 2019, Morrison announced another commission, this time to examine violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation within the disability sector. The commission is headed by former Federal Court judge Ronald Sackville and will last for three years. Morrison was emotional at the announcement of the commission, paying tribute to his brother-in-law who has multiple sclerosis. The announcement was met with praise from Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose party had supported the idea in the past, as well as from Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who had spent the previous year agitating for the government to support the policy and had heckled the government on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier in the year when it rejected holding a vote on a commission. In relation to disability funding, the government announced price increases of up to 22 per cent for NDIS service providers, though it was criticised for a $1.6 billion under-spend on the scheme in the budget. Labor argued the under-spend was due to the government's desire for a surplus budget, though the government countered that by arguing no one who needed care would be neglected and that the scheme was responding to actual demand.
In response to the 2018 Australian strawberry contamination, Morrison announced an increase in the maximum jail term for the federal offence relating to contaminating food from 10 to 15 years. However, when a woman was arrested for the crime, she was charged under the Queensland Criminal Code.
The method of funding non-government schools has been changed from using census data to using parental tax information. This system will take effect in 2020.
On September 20, Morrison announced a $4.6 billion funding deal over 10 years starting from 2020 for Catholic and Independent schools as a peace deal with two non-government sectors, after they bitterly opposed the Coalition's 2017 school funding changes. The agreement was seen as controversial to some including Labor and the Australian Education Union, who cited the fact that it did nothing for public schools.
The National School Chaplaincy Programme, following the extension of its funding confirmed during the 2018 federal budget, will be the subject of a new agreement between the states and the commonwealth, requiring complaints against chaplains to be centrally recorded.
Senator Nigel Scullion carried on as the Coalition's Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the Morrison Government, and in a conciliatory move by Morrison, the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was appointed the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs, with a brief to focus on school attendance and performance. After initial scepticism, Abbott accepted the role.
- Remote education
Abbott presented his first report to Parliament as Special Envoy in December. He recommended increasing substantially the salary supplements and the retention bonuses for teachers in very remote areas; waiving HECS debt of longer term teachers in very remote schools; incentives for communities to adopt debit card arrangements; an extension of the Remote School Attendance Strategy, with more local school buy-in and engagement; extension of the Good to Great Schools program that has reintroduced phonics and disciplined learning for further evaluation and emulation; and that the government should match the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation’s private and philanthropic funding on an ongoing basis.
- Australia Day
Morrison criticised Byron Shire Council for moving its citizenship ceremonies from Australia Day, rejecting calls to change the date of Australia Day and proposing a new national day to recognise Indigenous Australians.
- Uluru Statement
The government announced an inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, following the sacking of managing director Michelle Guthrie and reports that Guthrie had resisted a call from ABC Chair Justin Milne to fire journalist Emma Alberici. Milne was replaced by Ita Buttrose.
Modern Slavery Act
In November 2018, the government passed the Modern Slavery Act 2018, which takes effect on 1 January 2019. It requires businesses with revenue above $100 million to report on the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains, and is modelled on the UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015. The bill was introduced under the previous Turnbull Government in June 2018.
Commonwealth Integrity Commission
In December, the Morrison Government proposed a national integrity commission framework. The previous August, Griffith University researchers had laid out a plan for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, and Attorney-General Christian Porter had been working on adapting the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into an anti-corruption watchdog in the Turnbull government. The framework has been criticised for its narrow remit and the decision not to allow public hearings, and not being allowed to take tip-offs, as well as the high burden of proof needed before an investigation can take place.
Algal blooms caused the death of over 10,000 fish in the Darling River just before Christmas 2018. A second fish kill event happened in January, near the Menindee Lakes, which are a critical breeding ground for fish throughout the Murray-Darling. A report by the Productivity Commission was released in January 2019 that found that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority recommended should be broken up. A third fish kill event occurred at the Menindee Lakes in late January. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian attributed the fish kills to the weather.
During the 2018-2019 summer season, there were also bushfires in Tasmania's heritage-listed areas and the 2019 Townsville flood. Melissa Price, the minister for the Environment, has been criticised as being absent from announcements made by Scott Morrison, Michael McCormack and David Littleproud on these events.
As Morrison took office, much of eastern Australia was suffering severe drought. In a politically conciliatory move, he appointed former National Leader Barnaby Joyce as a Special Envoy for drought assistance and recovery.
In October 2018, Morrison announced a drought assistance package, the Drought Future Fund, of $5 billion. The Drought Future Fund is intended to operate similarly to the Medical Futures Fund. However, the Drought Future Fund drew criticism from disability advocates, as $3.9 billion of the package's funding was drawn from money earmarked for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Sydney Desalination Plant was turned on on 27 January, 2019, and has been given eight months to restart, requiring hiring 20 people and disinfecting the pipes. Sydney residents' water bills are expected to rise by $25-$30 as a result.
The Morrison Government has announced an inquiry into land-clearing laws following the Queensland bushfires. The Queensland government had introduced laws against broad-scale land-clearing in May 2018, and David Littleproud has said "If Queensland’s laws are locking up agriculture’s potential and making fires worse, we need to know about it".
Medical transfer of refugees
On 12 February 2019, the Morrison government suffered the first substantive defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives since 1929, after the Labor Party and several cross-benchers supported amendments to the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 (the Home Affairs Bill) proposed by the Senate. The proposed amendments would give greater weight to medical opinion in allowing the medical evacuation of asylum seekers to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island. Further amendments followed negotiations between the Opposition and the House of Reps cross-bench members, before the Senate considered and agreed to the amendments to its original amendments on the following day, 13 February. The amended legislation, which had become known as "the Medevac Bill", passed in the House by 75 votes to 74 and passed in the Senate by 36 votes to 34.
In response to the bill passing into law, Scott Morrison announced the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention centre, intimating that this change in the law would provide the signal that people smugglers to begin operating again. In the days following, Dutton said that because of this change in the law, Australians on waiting lists for hospital treatment and those already in public housing were going to be adversely affected. 
This was seen by Robert Manne as a turning point in Labor Party policy, after having had almost identical asylum seeker policies as the Coalition for the past five years. He also points out the numerous obstacles any potential people smuggler or asylum seeker would have to face, because the deterrent aspects of the policy are still firmly in place, and the new legislation applies only to the approximately 1000 people still on Nauru and Manus (of whom only a relatively small number will be allowed to access the urgent medical attention they need).
- After Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership, National MP Kevin Hogan left the government benches, but guaranteed confidence and supply and remained in the National party room. However, Turnbull's former seat of Wentworth was lost in a by-election to Kerryn Phelps resulting in a minority government. The government previously held 74 out of 149 seats in the House of Representatives.
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