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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
18 December 2015
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull landed in Tokyo Friday morning ahead of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to advance bilateral relations and discuss Australia’s innovation agenda. Whilst there, Mr Turnbull will also deliver a lunchtime address to business leaders and visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where he will meet the world's most advanced humanoid robot, ASIMO.
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) on Tuesday, which offered a sober assessment of the nation’s finances. The statement revises down both growth and revenue forecasts and sees a further $28 billion added to budget deficits across the four year forward estimates. The statement confirms the Government has abandoned its commitment to return the budget to a surplus of 1% of GDP by 2023-24, now promising to do so “as soon as possible”. See the Treasurer’s media release here, MYEFO here and GRACosway’s brief from earlier in the week here.
 
Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane’s bid to join the Nationals Party Room has been blocked by the State Executive of the Queensland division of the Liberal National Party, despite winning the support of his local branch. Mr Macfarlane announced he will consider his future over the Christmas break, with many anticipating he will not contest the next election having angered many within the Liberal Party. Meanwhile, Victorian Senator Michael Ronaldson, who lost his frontbench position in the Turnbull reshuffle, has announced he will resign from the Senate effective as soon as his replacement is determined.
 
The Board of the ABC has confirmed Michelle Guthrie as the next ABC Managing Director, replacing Mark Scott who is due to retire in July 2016. Ms Guthrie has held senior roles at FOXTEL, BSkyB in the United Kingdom and News Corp subsidiary Star, and becomes the broadcaster’s first female managing director.
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the Government will proceed with forced council amalgamations, with each council to have at least 150,000 ratepayers. Under the existing Local Government Act, public hearings by the Boundaries Commission are required which may take up to six months and could result in the delay of council elections, due in September next year. The Government will amend the Local Government Act in the new year to give the Minister for Local Government the power to appoint financial controllers to non-performing councils deemed at high financial risk.
 
Also in NSW, on Thursday Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance released the Government’s response to the Point to Point Transport review, which focused on taxi, hire car and ridesharing services. NSW becomes the second jurisdiction to legalise Uber, effective  Friday 18 December. The the government has immediated repealed more than 50 taxi and hire car regulations and will introduce a new industry Commissioner and a $250 million industry adjustment package for taxi and hire car licence plate owners. See the Minister’s media release here and the website here.
 
This is the last issue of GRACosway’s Weekly Wrap-up for 2015. We will return in late January, in what will be a busy year for Australian politics. Federal Parliament returns on 2 February ahead of an election later in the year, while both the Northern Territory (27 August) and the ACT (15 October) face territory elections. We wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.


FINANCE
 
The Australian Taxation Office has released Australia’s Corporate Tax Transparency Data, which shows the tax paid by 1500 public and foreign owned corporate entities reporting total income of $100 million or more in the 2013–14 Financial Year. See media release here and the Transparency Data here
 
NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian released the Half-Yearly Budget Review, showing the State’s finances have been buoyed by the sale of TransGrid and stronger than expected stamp duty revenues. The surplus for 2015-16 has been revised up by $875.7 million and is now forecast to be of $3.4 billion, with surpluses averaging $2.6 billion over the next four years. The Treasurer also announced the State debt was ‘effectively zero’ for the first time in more than two decades. See media release: Half-Yearly Review: Strong Surpluses, Low Debt and Record Infrastructure Spending

The Queensland Government also released its Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Review (MYFER) on Tuesday, announcing a surplus of $1.2 billion for 2015-16 and surpluses of over $1 billion through to 2018-19. The statement also confirmed the Government’s decision not to merge generation businesses CS Energy and Stanwell due to competition policy concerns. See media release: Economic plan on track through Mid Year Review
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY
 
The Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt announced the details of Energex and Ergon merger into a single company. The merge will deliver efficiency savings in the Queensland electricity network and save $680 million over the 2019-20 period. The new company will be established by mid-2016. See media release: Electricity Company Mergers Save $680 Million and Drive Regional Jobs

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio announced Victoria’s first wave-power unit has been installed off the coast of Port Fairy. The renewable energy structure moves with the motion of the waves, converting the movement  to grid-quality electricity. The unit is expected to begin producing electricity in the first quarter of next year with a trial anticipated to last 12 months. See media release: Wave Power Trial Splashes Down in Port Fairy
 
In South Australia, Minister for Water and the River Murray Ian Hunter announced SA Water has signed Bardavocal to carry out the Kangaroo Creek Dam upgrade. The upgrade will include works to widen the spillway and raise and strengthen the dam wall. Completion is expected in 2018. See media release: Jobs to Flow from Kangaroo Creek Dam Upgrade
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
The NSW Government announced the selection of Waterloo over the University of Sydney for the hotly contested  31st Sydney Metro station site, . An Environmental Impact Statement for the project is due to be released in mid-2016. See media release: Sydney Metro to rejuvenate Waterloo
 
In South Australia, the Federal and State governments have shortlisted two bidders for the $985 million Northern Connector project’s design and construction contract; Lend Lease and a Leighton Contractors-York Civil joint venture. A decision is expected early in the new year with major works anticipated to begin in May 2016. See media release: Northern Connector contract shortlisted to two tenderers
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government announced changes to the aged care sector as part of the mid-year budget update, including bolstering the compliance framework for aged care providers and introducing penalties for providers who repeatedly make false subsidy claims for their residents. This measure  will achieve savings of $472 million by reducing subsidy amounts on certain complex claims in the aged care sector. See media release: Stronger compliance to protect integrity of aged care sector 
 
The Government also announced further health portfolio savings of more than $600 million per year by removing bulk billing incentives for pathology services and reducing bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging. The National Health Performance Agency will also be abolished under rationalisation measures within the health portfolio. Meanwhile, $621 million in new PBS listings were confirmed in the mid-year budget update. See coverage by the ABC here.
 
Patients suffering from the ultra rare disease  acute Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (aHUS) will now have improved access to the medicine Soliris, with the Federal Government accepting advice from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) to extend access to the treatment from 12 to 24 months. See the Health Minister’s statement here and the PBAC’s statement here

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) this week released a revised position statement on tobacco smoking, which now includes a stance on e-cigarettes. The AMA is calling on the Federal Government to facilitate a national approach to guidelines for advertising and selling e-cigarettes. See the AMA’s media release here.
 
State Developments
 
In NSW, the Government has unveiled its plans for the new $400 million Lower Hunter Hospital at Metford near Newcastle. The final business case for the new hospital is set to be finalised today, proposing additional patient beds, extra delivery suites, a new intensive care unit, improved chemotherapy services and upgrades to medical imaging facilities. See the Newcastle Herald coverage here.
 
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this week appointed Kym Peake as the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Ms Peake has been Acting Secretary of the Department since September and was previously a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. See media release: New Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services appointed
 
Still in Victoria, the State Government has provided $200,000 for a new clinic designed to provide specialist care to those at risk of glaucoma. The Australian College of Optometry will establish the clinic in partnership with the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and up to 100 people will be seen at the clinic each month. See media release: New clinic to fight rising prevalence of glaucoma
 

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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