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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
08 May 2015
After weeks of positioning and speculation, Treasurer Joe Hockey has signed off on the Abbott Government’s second budget ahead of Tuesday night.  The Government will spend the final few days before the budget is released at 7.30pm on Tuesday focusing on its ‘centrepiece’, a families package, that according to media reports, is set to be unveiled on Sunday with over $800 million for childcare measures for disadvantaged families.  The package will be contingent on savings announced in last year’s budget but currently stalled in the Senate.
Announcing changes to the pension this week that would take effect in 2017, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison revealed a tightening to the assets test for wealthier retirees as well as an increase in payments for those worse off.  Minister Morrison also dumped the government’s policy announced in last year’s budget of tying future pension indexation to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The budget may include changes to how GST applies to intangibles such as online movies, music and software.  Meanwhile, some are bracing for further cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget.
After an epic standoff over reductions in the 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Federal Government and the Opposition reached a tentative agreement on Friday for a new target of 33,000 GWh of renewable energy per annum by 2020. The two sides are still haggling over what forms of energy can be included in the target, with the Opposition opposed to government attempts to include wood waste in the scheme.  
Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed this week that WA will benefit from an extra $499 million in light of declining GST revenue to invest in road infrastructure.  See the announcement here.
Senator Christine Milne resigned on Wednesday as leader of the Australian Greens after she announced that she won’t be contesting the next election.  Victorian Senator Dr Richad Di Natale was elected the new leader, with co-deputy leaders Senator Larissa Waters and Senator Scott Ludlam.
The Victorian Labor Government handed down its first budget on Tuesday, with Treasurer Tim Pallas outlining a $1.2 billion surplus for the coming year and $22 billion in infrastructure investment over four years.  See GRACosway’s substantive briefing note on the budget here.
In NSW, Premier Mike Baird has introduced legislation to validate previous findings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that may have been open to challenge in the High Court.  Premier Baird also announced that Bruce McClintock SC and Murray Gleeson would review the scope of ICACs powers, to report back by July.
Federal, NSW, SA, WA and ACT parliaments sit next week.


Federal Developments
Treasurer Joe Hockey announced changes to foreign investment rules, including transferring real estate functions to the Australian Taxation Office and increasing penalties for foreign investors purchasing existing residential properties.  See media release: Government strengthens the foreign investment framework
Treasurer Hockey also announced $127.6 million over four years for investigations and prosecutions as part of a new Serious Financial Crime Taskforce that will target superannuation and investment fraud and identify crime and tax evasion.  See media release: Serious Financial Crime Taskforce
The Federal Government also announced that from July 2016, new start-ups will be able to immediately deduct professional costs associated with starting a business, rather than over five years.  See media release: Supporting start-ups and entrepreneurship
The Federal Government will provide the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) with $250 million over five years for ICT systems upgrades.  See media release: New investment to modernise the ABS
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has published the submissions it received on the Issues Paper discussing the regulatory framework for card payments.  See the submissions here

Federal Developments
Friday’s announcement that agreement has been reached on a Renewable Energy Target of 33,000GWh will be welcomed by the  coalition of Industry bodies, who this week issued a joint statement calling on the Federal Government to end the deadlock. See media release: Business calls for a RET compromise, the Australian Financial Review (AFR): Business demands government lift offer on RET (subscription service)

State Developments
The QLD Government will initiate a review into Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) mining practices.  A four person panel chaired by Gladstone businessman Leo Zussino will consider ways to address issues with the practice.  See media release: Expert panel examines FIFO mines and the review homepage
WA Energy Minister Mike Nahan has announced three new appointments to the Western Power Board. Colin Beckett, current Chancellor of Curtin University and Chair of Perth Airport, will replace outgoing Chair Alan Mulgrew, while Greg Martin has been appointed Deputy Chair.  They will be joined by Peter Iancov.  See media release: New appointees to Western Power board
Emma Gaunt has been appointed as the new West Australian Appeals Convenor by the State’s Environment Minister Albert Jacob.  See media release: New Appeals Convenor appointed for WA
The Tasmanian Government has released the State’s Energy Strategy, a 20 year vision for the future of Tasmania’s energy sector.  The Strategy hopes to drive greater investment and job creation in renewable energies, while also making electricity more affordable for consumers.  See media release: Tasmanian Energy Strategy and the Strategy document


Federal Developments

The Federal Government has announced that it will invest $499 million in road infrastructure in WA.  The new funds will contribute to nine projects, including NorthLink WA and the Mitchell Freeway upgrade.  See media release: Commonwealth support for infrastructure in Western Australia


Federal Developments
Media reports suggest the Federal Government will find $3 billion in savings over five years in next week’s budget by cutting the price it pays for some medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by 5 per cent.  See The Australian: Budget 2015: Drug firms prepare for war (subscription service) 

State Developments

The NSW Government has introduced legislation to Parliament to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to minors.  See media release: Legislation to Ban E-Cigarette Sales to Minors

About GRACosway
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