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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
14 July 2017
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has returned to Australia, following the G20 and subsequent trips to France and the United Kingdom, where he met with European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron. At home, Labor continues to lead in the polls, with this week’s Newspoll revealing Labor’s two-party preferred (2PP) vote remains on 53 per cent, compared to the Coalition’s 47. Both major parties’ primary votes have fallen by one point in the last three weeks, with the Coalition at 35 per cent and Labor on 36. One Nation and the Australian Greens have recorded a primary vote of 11 and 10 per cent, respectively.
 
Following a week dominated by debate about energy policy, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council is meeting in Brisbane today to discuss the implementation of recommendations made in the Finkel Review. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Government hoped to make “substantial progress” at today’s meeting, while confirming that it has not made any firm decisions regarding the Clean Energy Target (CET), a key proposal by Dr Finkel. Mr Frydenberg has urged State and Territory governments to be patient, following threats by Labor-led states to establish individual CETs and effectively bypass the Federal Government.
 
The Turnbull Government is also expected to use the COAG meeting to press the Victorian and NT governments to lift their moratoriums on onshore gas exploration, in line with recommendations made in the Finkel Review. Mr Frydenberg has argued that unlocking these gas resources is “critical” to reducing energy costs and securing jobs. The COAG meeting comes in the wake of claims made by Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who this week argued that “people will die” if they cannot afford to heat their homes. Labor’s Energy spokesperson Mark Butler has attributed increasing energy prices to “policy paralysis”, accusing Mr Kelly of scaremongering. See the media coverage here.
 
The NSW Government has refunded nearly $262 million to mining company Shenhua, in order to scale back the company’s mining exploration licence on the Liverpool Plains and protect agricultural land. Shenhua paid $300 million to the State’s then-Labor Government in 2008 for its licence, which was later renewed. Opposition Leader Luke Foley criticised the refund as “unjustifiable corporate welfare”, arguing that the mining giant has not yet applied for a mining lease and has therefore violated a contract clause requiring the company to engage in substantial exploration activity. See the media coverage here.
 
NSW Customer Service Commissioner Michael Pratt AM has been appointed the new Secretary of the State Treasury and Secretary of NSW Industrial Relations, as of 1 August. Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Mr Pratt’s new roles this week, saying he has the “perfect mix of private sector and public service expertise”  and will “bring the best of both worlds in leading the Treasury at this exciting and important time for our State”. See the media release here.
 
Premier Berejiklian has additionally announced $35 million in State Government funding to establish the Sydney Startup Hub, creating an entrepreneurial space for business idea development, with an aim of creating employment opportunities across metropolitan and regional NSW. The Hub will be the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and will create approximately 6,500 new jobs. See the media release here.
 
WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has announced he will resign from the Federal Parliament after it was revealed today that he presently holds dual citizenship with New Zealand, in violation of constitutional rules concerning election eligibility. It is expected the Greens will retain the seat following a special recount. Senator Ludlam has apologised and taken responsibility for the error, with party leader Senator Richard Di Natale commenting “It has been an honour to sit in the Senate with Scott, and to have him as a deputy leader”. See the media coverage here.
 
No Parliaments are sitting next week, however, Budget Estimates will take place in Queensland.
 


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Treasury has released a consultation paper this week outlining key features of the new Banking Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) and the proposed approach for implementation. Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer said the BEAR will discourage poor behaviour and ensure that banks are held to account where they fail to meet expected standards. Interested stakeholders are invited to make a submission by 3 August 2017. See the media release: Banking Executive Accountability Regime.
 
The June NAB Monthly Business Survey has revealed business conditions have hit a multi-year high, returning back to around pre-GFC levels. The improvement was attributed to stronger trading conditions and profitability, while business confidence also recorded a modest lift. Queensland recorded the highest confidence rate of mainland states at +13 points, ahead of NSW and WA on +10 points and Victoria on +7 points. See the survey: NAB Monthly Business Survey.
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY
 
Federal Developments
 
The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has published the terms of reference for “a review of the regulatory and market frameworks needed to support a reliable supply of electricity” despite changes to the market and technology. The AEMC will provide a provisional report to the COAG Energy Council by the end of this year, with a final report due mid-2018. Read the media release: Supporting a reliable supply of electricity as the power system transforms: new AEMC review of reliability frameworks.
 
State Developments
 
The Andrews Labor Government has released Victoria’s Renewable Energy Action Plan alongside former US Vice-President Al Gore. The $146 million plan includes funding for grid-scale energy storage battery facilities; renewable energy certificate purchasing; and smart electricity software systems. Read the media release: Al Gore launches Victoria’s Renewable Energy Action Plan.
 
A joint venture has been established between Kidman Resources and Sociedad Química Minera de Chile (SQM) to develop the Mt Holland lithium project near Southern Cross in WA. State Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston said “SQM is a world leader in lithium and chemical production, and we look forward to the expertise and skills they will bring to our State”. Read the media release: McGowan Government welcomes lithium joint venture.
 
Construction of the NT Jemena Northern Gas Pipeline has begun. The $800 million pipeline will link the Northern Territory to the Eastern Gas Pipeline Grid at Mt Isa in Queensland. Read the media release: Construction Begins on Northern Gas Pipeline.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the construction of a bypass road at Smithfield in North Queensland. The Premier said the $152 million project will see the construction of 3.8 kilometres of road and create 115 full-time jobs during the construction phase. See media release: Roads and jobs bonanza - Cairns wins with Smithfield solution.
 
SA Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan has called for expressions of interest in the first stage of the Gawler Train Line conversion. Minister Mullighan said the $152.5 million project will create 135 jobs per year during the construction phase, and confirmed that works on the electrification of a key rail line running from Salisbury to Adelaide will commence by December 2017. See media release: Next phase of tender process for Stage 1 of Gawler rail electrification.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie has announced $13 million in Federal Government grants for general practices in regional Australia to upgrade and expand their facilities, through construction or renovation, fit out, upgraded computing technology or new medical equipment. The improvements are expected to facilitate more medical training in rural and regional Australia. See the media release: Coalition Government grants to boost training in general practice.
 
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will become the single body responsible for handling complaints about the advertising of medicines and medical devices under new arrangements to streamline and progress the system, as recommended by the Expert Panel Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation. The consolidation of complaints to the TGA will commence on 1 July 2018. See the media release: TGA to improve the handling of advertising complaints.
 
Health Minister Greg Hunt and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge have jointly announced an independent review of the accessibility of Medicare card numbers by health providers following an investigation by the Australian Federal Police into an alleged system breach. The Review, led by Professor Peter Shergold and joined by the presidents of the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, will examine the balance between convenience and security. See the media release: Independent review of health providers’ accessibility to Medicare card numbers.
 
State Developments
 
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has announced that the new Maitland Hospital will be built and run by a not-for-profit provider rather than a private sector provider. Under the arrangement, the $450 million government investment will be combined with the not-for-profit’s contribution to deliver free public health care for patients, an expanded range of services, including intensive care and chemotherapy, and around 1,250 construction jobs over four years. See the media release: New Maitland Hospital to deliver free public health care and jobs.
 

About GRACosway
GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel. We provide a full suite of integrated services to a range of domestic and international clients across all industry sectors, including public policy, communications, regulatory, issues management and media relations advice. From offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth (GRA Everingham), GRACosway’s clients benefit from the combined experience, expertise and strategic perspective of our team of professionals in addressing complex and commercially sensitive projects. For more information, visit www.gracosway.com.au.
 
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