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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
29 July 2016
 
The final undecided Lower House seat of Herbert was claimed by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole on Tuesday evening after she gained a lead of 35 votes in the recount conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. Liberal National Party incumbent Ewen Jones is yet to concede, saying the full preference allocation will continue over the weekend and may still see him returned. In a 2GB radio interview on Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the race in Herbert remained tight and signalled the Coalition may consider challenging the result on the basis of “allegations that people were not able to vote in the election”. Meanwhile, Senate results in Tasmania have been finalised, with former Coalition Minister Richard Colbeck losing his seat and Labor’s Lisa Singh defying the odds to be returned from the sixth position on Labor’s ticket with below-the-line votes. 
 
Labor announced its new Shadow Ministry at the weekend, which emphasises the Party’s focus on the Education portfolio through the appointment of Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek as Shadow Education Minister, who will be supported by Andrew Giles and Terri Butler as Shadow Assistant Ministers for Schools and Universities respectively, and Kate Ellis as Vocational Education and Early Childhood Education spokesperson. At his press conference on Saturday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten referred to the appointments as Labor’s “education dream team" and said that education is “one of the sharpest contrasts” between Labor and the Coalition. Other notable appointments include Senator Penny Wong as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Queensland MP Jim Chalmers as Shadow Minister for Finance, and former ACT Chief Minister Senator Katy Gallagher as Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. See the new Labor Shadow Ministry here.
 
Prime Minister Turnbull announced a Royal Commission into the Northern Territory’s child protection and youth detention systems this week after the ABC aired graphic footage of detainees being mistreated at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin. The Prime Minister said he was “shocked and appalled” by the vision and indicated that previous inquiries into the facility had “failed to identify the nature and extent” of the behaviour. The Federal Cabinet considered the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission on Thursday in its first meeting since the Federal Election; former Northern Territory Chief Justice the Hon Brian Martin AO QC has been appointed as Royal Commissioner. See the Prime Minister’s statement here.
 
The Prime Minister confirmed this afternoon that the Federal Government will not grant former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s request to be nominated as a candidate for the role of United Nations Secretary-General after Cabinet failed to reach consensus on the matter yesterday. Mr Turnbull said the decision was “no disparagement of Mr Rudd” but that he considered the former Labor PM is “not well-suited for this particular role”. Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said the decision showed Mr Turnbull had “shrunk in the office of Prime Minister” and argued the Government “should have put partisanship aside” and backed Mr Rudd’s bid.
 
Social Services Minister Christian Porter has flagged the key savings measures he intends to pursue in negotiations with the Senate crossbench when Parliament returns on 30 August, including ending the payment of carbon tax compensation for new recipients of government benefits and diverting $1.4 billion in savings to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Minister Porter also wants to pass cuts to family tax benefits in order to fund the Government’s childcare package. A shake-up in the Government’s approach to welfare payments was also foreshadowed this week, with Minister Porter saying he intends to reduce the number of people receiving benefits by using data to identify and invest in those at risk of welfare dependency. See coverage by the AFR here.
 
In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the State Government will deliver a $1 million investment in drone technology through a partnership with Boeing and its unmanned aircraft systems subsidiary Insitu Pacific. Premier Palaszczuk said the funding will create 100 new jobs in the aerospace industry and develop technology that can be used across a range of industries, including agriculture, mining, energy and telecommunications. See media release: Advance Queensland funding to advance remotely piloted aircraft tech in Queensland.
 
The ACT Parliament sits next week, with Budget Estimates scheduled to take place in NSW and SA.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced the release of a discussion paper titled: Banks’ International Exposures Reporting Requirements. The Paper examines a number of changes recommended by APRA which will involve the creation of new forms for banks to provide locational data and information concerning immediate and ultimate risk exposure. Read the discussion paper here.
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government will provide a $49.2 million loan through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to support South Australian steelmaker Arrium, with the funding to be used for new machinery that will improve iron ore processing methods and boost cash flow. The Prime Minister made the announcement late last Friday, saying the move delivers on an election promise made by the Coalition. See the Prime Minister’s statement here
 
Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has announced the next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council meeting will be held on 19 August. The agenda includes discussions on the transformation of energy markets, gas prices and supply – including the ACCC’s report into the competitiveness of wholesale gas prices – and ensuring the long-term interests of consumers are taken into account when considering energy investments. See media release: COAG Energy Council meeting.
 
Minister Frydenberg has also thanked the Australian Energy Market Commission for the release of its East Coast Wholesale Gas Market and Pipeline Frameworks Review final report. The Report was requested by the COAG Energy Council last year to review the design, function and role of gas markets and transportation arrangements on Australia's east coast, with recommendations on gas market reform to be discussed at the upcoming COAG Energy Council meeting. See media release: Release of the AEMC East Coast Gas Market report and the report.

State Developments
 
The NSW Government has launched the NSW Renewable Energy Resource Map at the 2016 Clean Energy Summit, which will provide renewable energy project developers access to free of charge geospatial data and information on the State’s renewable energy resources. The Government also unveiled the GreenPower Connect initiative, which will allow large purchasers of renewable energy to directly link up with new projects and have their purchases recognised as GreenPower accredited renewable energy. See media release: NSW Government promotes renewable energy and the Renewable Energy Map.
 
NSW MLC and Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile is demanding NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian include a ban on forced redundancies for the workers he has secured for the impending lease of energy distributor Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy. The job guarantee was secured by Mr Nile last year as a condition of his support for the NSW Government’s privatisation plan. However, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy have said they need the option of reducing their workforce following the ruling of the Australian Energy Regulator, which significantly reduced the amount they can charge NSW electricity customers. See coverage by the SMH here.
 
The SA Government has confirmed it will source 25 per cent of its power from dispatchable renewable energy providers to meet the Government’s electricity load in the Carbon Neutral Adelaide area. The focus will be on energy created from battery storage and electricity generation from biomass. A tender process will take place later this year, with the State Government’s electricity purchasing arrangements set to expire in late 2016. See media release: Government’s electricity supply contract to drive innovation in renewables.
 
The Queensland Resources Council is set to release its State of the Sector report which has found policy uncertainty and poor regulation is the biggest concern for Queensland mining executives for the second quarter in a row, despite lower coal prices. The sector has called for genuine consultation with stakeholders before changes to legislation are put to the Parliament. See coverage by the AFR here.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has announced the latest stage of the Pacific Highway linking Nambucca Heads and Urunga in NSW has opened. The $780 million project was jointly funded by the Federal and state governments. NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay said the section is opening a month earlier than expected and is within budget. See media release: Upgraded section of Pacific Highway between Nambucca Heads and Urunga opens to traffic.
 
State Developments

South Australian Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Stephen Mullighan announced that the State Government will work with Adelaide City Council to construct $12 million in new cycling infrastructure. The package includes new bikeways in the Adelaide CBD and a point-to-point bike share scheme. See media release: Joint funding commitment to transform city cycling infrastructure.
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley has publicised the release of the independent Panel for the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Discussion Paper. The Review, which formed a key part of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement signed between the Government and Pharmacy Guild in 2015, will examine all aspects of the community functions performed by pharmacists, including dispensing of prescription medicines and primary health care services such as blood pressure checks. A national public consultation process will take place during August and September. See media release: Ensuring Australians get most from community pharmacy and the discussion paper.
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley has said the Government’s $1 billion commitment to eradicate Hepatitis C within a generation is paying off, with thousands of Australian’s now accessing treatment as a result of breakthrough medicines being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). To coincide with World Hepatitis Day, the Minister revealed that 20,000 people have begun treatment for Hepititis C since new medicines were placed on the PBS in March 2016. See media release: Thousands of Australians now Hep C Free.

State Developments

The Victorian Government has marked World Hepatitis Day by launching the Victorian Hepatitis B and C Strategies for 2016 to 2020. The strategies outline the Government’s plan to eliminate the burden of viral hepatitis through prevention initiatives, more testing and treatment, and reducing stigma and discrimination. It also sets an ambitious task of reducing the number of new hepatitis cases by 90 per cent. See media release: New plans to eliminate the burden of Hepititis B and C in Victoria.
 
The Queensland Government has given the green light for parents of children with severe drug-resistant epilepsy to express their interest in taking part in medicinal cannabis clinical trials. The Queensland Government and UK-based pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals have entered into an agreement to facilitate a new research program. The trail will involve Epidiolex, a liquid form of pure cannabidiol. Recruitment for eligible children will commence in November. See media release: $6 million investment in medicinal cannabis research in Queensland.
 
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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