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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
13 November 2015
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull jetted out of Australia on Thursday with a packed international agenda, leaving behind the Duke and Duchess of Cornwell. Mr Turnbull first met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo before continuing onto Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. He will attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Antalya, Turkey, at the weekend and attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in Manila on Wednesday. 
 
While the GST continues to dominate the news headlines at home, the latest Newspoll reveals support for the Government has reached its highest level since the 2013 election, with a two-party preferred vote of 53 per cent. In further good news for the Government, Australia’s jobless rate fell to 5.9 per cent in October, down from 6.2, with the economy adding 58,600 jobs in the past month.
 
Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg released a consultation paper on the proposed design and operation of the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) on Monday, ahead of a meeting of international investors at the Northern Australia Investment Forum in Darwin this week. The forum was attended by representatives from some of the world’s largest agri-businesses, including JBS Wesley Batista and Wilmar International.
 
Minister Frydenberg also released on Friday six sites that may be appropriate for a future National Radioactive Waste Management Facility. Each site was assessed for technical, economic, social and environment impacts by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, along with an Independent Advisory Panel and Geoscience Australia. See the Minister’s media release here.
 
The Government this week voted down its own Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015, after the Opposition and cross bench MPs secured  amendments in the Senate . Under the amendments tax information of private family companies with turnover in excess of $100 million would have to be disclosed. The Bill will now be returned to the Senate.
 
Federal Labor Member for Wills Kelvin Thompson announced he will retire at the next election, unleashing a wave of speculation about who will replace him. To date venture capitalist Joshua Funder has confirmed his intention to seek preselection for the Victorian seat, once held by Bob Hawke. Thompson has held the seat since 1996 and served on the Labor front bench until losing his portfolio under Kevin Rudd.
 
The Baird Government in NSW has secured the passage of legislation that clarifies the powers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to initiate prosecutions, after accepting the Opposition’s amendments in the Upper House. Under the amended legislation, ICAC will be able to launch a prosecution only after it has received written agreement from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
 
Also in NSW, the Baird Government secured the passage of legislation that will extend Boxing Day trading for retailers across the State. The laws were passed with the support of the Christian Democrats with minor amendments, after both Labor and the Greens opposed the bill.
 
Meanwhile, Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle has confirmed he will seek a third term in council elections due late next year. If successful, Mr Doyle would be the first lord mayor to win three consecutive terms. 


FINANCE
 
The Federal Government announced the signing of a new tax treaty with Germany, replacing the previous Double Taxation Agreement signed in 1972.  Senator Mathias Cormann signed the new treaty on behalf of the Government with German Finance Minister Dr Wolfgang Schäuble. The treaty covers withholding tax rates, double taxation arrangements and a commitment to combating multinational tax avoidance. See media release: New tax treaty signed with Germany and the Australia-Germany Tax Treaty
 
Following the recent APEC workshop held in Sydney, Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer announced that recommendations were put forward regarding small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) business connectivity, trade and innovation in the Asia-Pacific region.  The opportunities ‘are aimed at improving supply chain integration, reducing regulatory compliance, and enhancing transport and logistics’.  A final report tabling the suggested recommendations will be released in early 2016. See media release: New opportunities on the horizon for SMEs
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
The Clean Energy Regulator awarded contracts for 45.5 million tonnes of emission reduction in the second Emissions Reduction Fund Auction. The contracts were awarded to 77 organisations for a total of 131 projects, at an average cost of $12.25 per tonne. See media release: Second Emissions Reduction Fund auction secures 45 million tonnes of emissions reduction at $12.25 per tonne
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced a $50 million incentives program for the  purchase of low emission vehicles, open to corporate and government fleet buyers and not-for-profit organisations. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will fund the program through Eclipx Group,one of the country’s biggest independent leasing companies. See media release: Australian Government backs low emissions vehicles
 
State Developments
 
Amendments to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Amendment Bill 2015 passed through the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, which provide an additional 5,000 small businesses access to the Energy and Water Ombudsman’s free dispute resolution services. See media release: New support for high energy-using small businesses
 
Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham introduced the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which restores the principles of ecologically sustainable development to the Act’s purpose. See media release: Water laws protect creeks, rivers and farmers’ rights
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
Federal Developments

The Federal Government has committed $202.9 million to extend the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme from 1 January 2016, allowing all companies sending goods to the mainland to make claims regardless of the goods’ final destination. See media release: Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme extended
 
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the Water Services Association of Australia have this week presented a joint report to the Federal Government calling for urban water reform to avoid future price shocks and better management of water resources in extreme weather events. See media release: Report calls for renewed reform to urban water
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government released the shortlist of bidders to build Melbourne’s new high capacity trains. Bombardier, Eureka Rail, and Evolution Rail will be expected to submit a proposal in the second quarter of 2016, with the tender process completed by the end of 2016. See media release: Shortlist For New High Capacity Trains For Melbourne Revealed
 
In Queensland, tenders have opened for the $17 million upgrade of the Caboolture River Bridge, to be funded in a 50-50 split by the State and Federal Governments. See media release: Tenders now open for Caboolture River Bridge upgrade
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments

The Federal Government has launched an online consumer survey seeking views about private health insurance as part of the review the industry. The Minister also released data  showing more Australians are seeking cheaper private health insurance. See media release: Half-a-million Australians downgrade private health cover
 
Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced $630 million for Australian medical research in areas including cancer, mental health, obesity and dementia. The funding is expected to support 836 projects and 2200 researchers across the medical and health research field. See media release: $630 million for over 800 innovative research projects.
 
Speaking at the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes Annual Dinner on Wednesday, Minister Ley also released the final report of the Review of Independent Medical Research Institutes in Australia. Read the Minister’s speech here
 
Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash announced she would chair a new group, the Healthy Food Partnership, made up of health, food industry and government representatives, to address obesity and promote healthy eating. See media release: Healthy Food Partnership to tackle obesity and encourage healthy eating
 

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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