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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
8 June 2018
 
Highlights
  • Prime Minister Turnbull travels to NSW and QLD on drought “listening tour”.
  • The March Quarter National Accounts reveal accelerated economic growth.
  • Additional movement on the Senate crossbench.
  • Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd has resigned amid controversy over his relationship with the Institute of Public Affairs.
  • Attorney-General calls for foreign interference laws to be passed ahead of July 28 by-elections.
  • Barnaby Joyce has confirmed he will seek preselection ahead of the next election.
  • Australia’s agricultural sector has called for improved bilateral relations after exports stall at the Chinese border.
From the campaign trail
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spent the week on a drought “listening tour”, travelling to NSW and Queensland to meet with local communities in drought-affected areas. Together with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, Mr Turnbull spoke of “a very variable climate” and the associated challenges, while flagging a possible announcement regarding farm household assistance. Also in by-election campaign mode, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten travelled to Tasmania to lend support to Braddon candidate Justine Keay, ahead of the 28 July poll.
 
Treasurer spruiks economic growth
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison has this week released the March Quarter National Accounts, revealing good news for the Government. The Accounts show economic growth of 1.0 per cent in the March Quarter, taking annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 3.1 per cent – the highest in around two years. The figures also make Australia’s economy the best performer globally. The broad-based economic growth was driven by increases in resources exports, infrastructure investment, and household consumption, while high household debt, a falling savings rate and poor results in the agricultural sector balanced some of the growth. The Treasurer has lauded the results as evidence that the “Government’s plan for a stronger economy is working”.
 
Senate unrest
 
The composition of the Senate has changed again, with former Independent Senator Fraser Anning this week becoming the second federal parliamentary member of Bob Katter’s Australian Party. The pair have already clashed over differing policy positions, with Senator Anning promising to lobby colleagues to support the Government’s company tax cut package despite Mr Katter’s strong opposition.
 
Meanwhile, the public conflict between One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson and her party colleague Senator Brian Burston has deepened this week. Despite demands from his Leader to resign from the party and the Senate last week, Senator Burston has refused to leave One Nation until Senator Hanson cancels his membership. Senator Burston has also confirmed his intentions to vote for the Government’s entire company tax cuts package.
 
AG push for new anti-espionage laws
 
Following the release of a bipartisan parliamentary committee report supporting proposed foreign interference laws, Attorney-General Christian Porter has recommended that Parliament pass two key pieces of security legislation ahead of the five upcoming federal by-elections. Mr Porter has insisted the changes are implemented before Parliament rises at the end of June, which marks the last chance to prevent activity intended to “interfere with democratic processes” before 28 July.
 
Preselection jostling begins
 
Following a controversial paid commercial interview with his partner Vikki Campion last weekend, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has told local Nationals branch members that he intends to stand for preselection for the Nationals at the next federal election. Senior Nationals MPs have declined to endorse Mr Joyce. Former Labor Senator Katy Gallagher has also confirmed her intention to nominate for Labor preselection in the ACT, while factional tensions are heating up in SA Liberal ranks, with moderate members attempting to secure a safe position on the ticket for Senator Lucy Gichuhi. Former Prime Minister John Howard has also weighed in, backing Senator Gichuhi’s bid and commending her “intelligence and commitment” to political and social issues.
 
Exports stall at Chinese border
 
Australian agricultural exporters have pleaded for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to mend bilateral tensions, which they believe are affecting the movement of their products at the Chinese border. With rising tensions between Australia and China over militarisation of the South China Sea, Australian wine and meat industry representatives fear that recent trade delays might become a permanent obstacle.  
 
ACT Budget handed down
 
ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr handed down the ACT Budget on Tuesday, revealing a $36 million surplus for the 2018-19 financial year. The ACT Government will raise overall rates and taxes by 10 per cent, while abolishing stamp duty and the first home owner grant. The Government has also allocated funding for the next stage of the ACT Light Rail Project and delayed $344 million of capital works.
 
Looking ahead
 
The Queensland, WA, Tasmanian and NT parliaments will sit next week; the Queensland and Tasmanian Governments will hand down their Budgets.
 


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has announced the appointment of Mr Philip Gaetjens, the current Chief of Staff to Treasurer Morrison, as Australia's next Ambassador and permanent representative to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. Mr Gaetjens has previously held senior roles at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and in the Commonwealth and State public sectors, including the NSW and Commonwealth Treasuries, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
 
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has announced the official cash rate of 1.5 per cent will remain unchanged for a record 20th consecutive meeting. RBA Governor Phillip Lowe said the decision was underpinned by a “strengthened” global economy; political instability in the Eurozone; higher oil prices; strong employment growth; and slowing housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne.   
 
The latest ABS monthly retail figures show retail turnover rose across the country by 0.4 per cent in April 2018. Retail trade figures increased in all states and territories except for SA, with the highest rises recorded in the NT and Tasmania.
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has welcomed environmental approvals for the development of the Rogetta iron ore mine in north-western Tasmania by owner Forward Mining Limited. The mine is expected to generate $90-100 million of export revenue annually.
 
Hydro Tasmania has identified 14 high potential sites for the development of pumped hydro energy storage, with a total potential capacity of up to 4,800 MW. The sites, which will be subject to surveying and feasibility studies before development, have been identified as a result of a $300,000 grant through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
 
The Energy Users’ Association of Australia (EUAA) has welcomed an investigation carried out by Australian Industrial Energy (AIE), which found that Port Kembla could host a new LNG import terminal. EUAA noted that gas prices are still unfeasibly high and has encouraged stakeholders to identify additional sources of gas.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
New Infrastructure Australia Chair Julianne Alroe has released the Making Reform Happen report, which encourages the Federal Government to consider tying incentive payments to the states and territories in return for the delivery of key infrastructure projects. The report suggests that the introduction of such a scheme could boost Australia’s GDP by $66 billion over the next 30 years.
 
State Developments
 
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a further $133 million for the Transport Access Program. Upgrades such as new lifts, ramps and footbridges will be made to at least 11 more train stations across the State to further improve accessibility and safety.
 
NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey has announced a new connected vehicle technology trial to investigate ways to address road congestion. The technology allows participating vehicles to communicate with traffic lights across 40km of trial freight routes, giving heavier vehicles more ‘green time’ to ensure intersections aren’t blocked and reducing congestion.
 
Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey has revealed $22.5 million for the construction phase of the Petrie roundabout upgrade north of Brisbane. Construction is due to begin on the project by 2020, following completion of the design phase in 2019.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the development of a singular, national process for the establishment of clinical trials. Informed by a review of the clinical trial registry system, the Federal Government will provide $7 million to support states and territories to redesign their systems to streamline processes.
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced the establishment of a community health expert taskforce, to lead collaboration between community health services, peak bodies, key organisations and communities, and develop plans to grow the sector. The Taskforce will be chaired by former Plenty Valley Community Health chief executive Phillip Bain and include representatives from across the sector.
 
Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced a further $20 million funding to extend the Rebuilding Health Services – Elective Surgery Program for an extra year. The funding will aim to continue reductions in waiting times for elective surgery, with a 15 per cent increase in the number of patients seen within the clinically recommended time frame over the first four years of the program.
 

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GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel. We assist clients to effectively manage the complexities of communication between government, media, business and shareholders. Our areas of expertise include public policy and regulation; corporate positioning; stakeholder engagement; transaction strategy; issues and reputation management; and media and presentation training. If you would like more information about the content of this publication, or wish to discuss your organisation's requirements for strategic advice, please contact us on +612 8353 0400 or via email: mail@gracosway.com.au. Learn more about GRACosway at www.gracosway.com.au.
 
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