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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
15 May 2015
Treasurer Joe Hockey handed down the Coalition Government’s second budget on Tuesday night, revealing a 2015-16 budget deficit of $35.1 billion and new spending initiatives aimed in particular at families and small businesses.  See GRACosway’s comprehensive coverage from the night here.
In stark contrast to last year’s document where Treasurer Hockey set out major changes in higher education, health and welfare, this year’s budget was considerably more ‘dull’ in most portfolio areas.  With a 1.5 per cent tax cut for small business, and a new measure to allow small businesses to instantly write off purchases up to $20,000, Treasurer Hockey tried to talk up economic conditions and encouraged people ‘to get out there and have a go’.
Following the budget, the Government spent the rest of the week on the airwaves to spruik its jobs and small business initiative and its families package, which includes new money and changes to childcare from 2017.  Senior Ministers were also forced to defend the Government’s policy to remove any ‘double dipping’ to prevent women accessing both government and employer provided paid parental leave schemes.  Following the budget, Prime Minister Tony Abbott also ruled out making adverse changes to super, even beyond the next election.
Elsewhere in the budget, the Government has confirmed it will look at selling the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission company registry, however ruled out selling Defence Housing Australia.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply speech on Thursday night where he said the Opposition would cooperate with the Government on its small business package, but not help in delivering new money for childcare because the funding is tied to changes from last year’s budget to tighten family support payments.  Shorten promised that a Labor Government would create a $500 million Smart Investment Fund and encourage students to study science technology, engineering and maths.
With the budget now out of the way, the Northern Australia White Paper is expected next month, and the Tax White Paper process will continue with submissions closing in June.  The Government will also release its Defence White Paper in the middle of the year.
WA Treasurer Mike Nahan handed down his second budget this week, and the seventh of the Barnett Government.  The Budget reveals the impact of the economic downturn on the State's finances, with confirmation that the State is to record its first budget deficit in 15 years.  GRA Everingham has produced budget briefs giving an overview of the budget (download here), and separate briefs looking at key services (here), the transport portfolio (here), and environment and related portfolios (here).
Queensland and WA parliaments sit next week.


Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced Mike Callaghan AM will Chair the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce.  The Taskforce will examine ways to reduce insurance premiums in Northern Australia.  Mr Frydenberg also announced the six member Reference Panel, who will offer ongoing advice and feedback to the Taskforce. See release: Details of the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce
Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) Chairman Andy Cornish has welcomed the appointment of David Russell, Chief Executive of RAA Insurance Limited, and Helen Troup, Managing Director of Commonwealth Insurance Limited, to the ICA Board.  See media release: ICA bolsters Board with two new appointments


Federal Developments

Following last Friday’s in-principle agreement between the Coalition and Labor on the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to be set at 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh), there is still no deal.  The Coalition and Labor are still negotiating the inclusion of native woodwaste as a renewable energy under the scheme and the retention of two-yearly reviews of the scheme.  The Clean Energy Council has withdrawn its support for any deal that would retain two-yearly reviews.  See The Australian Rethink puts RET deal in doubt (subscription service)

State Developments
The Victorian Government has called on the Federal Government to change Commonwealth legislation to allow the state to re-instate its own Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET).  See media release: Victoria puts RET back on the agenda to secure jobs
The Queensland Government is seeking expressions of interest for exploring potential petroleum and gas resources covering 11,000 square kilometres in Queensland’s far south-western corner.  This is the first of a four-year land release plan for the Cooper and Eromanga Basins.  See media release: Qld exploration release underpins $1.9 billion gas industry


Federal Developments
The Federal Government this week released Infrastructure Australia’s audit of northern Australia’s infrastructure.  See media release: Audit assesses northern Australia's infrastructure and the Report
Also in northern Australia, the Federal Government has begun a new $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund, targeting roads key to transporting cattle.  See media release: New $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund


Federal Developments

Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles has announced leadership changes across the Department.  First Assistant Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division (PBD) Felicity McNeill will become First Assistant Secretary, Office of Health Protection in early August with Kylie Jonasson to become FAS of the PBD.  Julianne Quaine will also become Assistant Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Access Branch.  See PharmaDispatch: Bowles announces major changes (subscription service)
Minister for Health Sussan Ley has announced $485 million to redevelop the national electronic medical records system, including trialling an opt-out system.  See media release: Patients to Get new myHealth Record
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