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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
04 December 2015
 
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull returned from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this week as parliamentary sittings concluded for the year. The Opposition continued its prosecution of Special Minister of State Mal Brough, calling on him to stand aside, while former Abbott Government minister Queensland Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane announced his surprise defection to the National Party in what is seen as a tactic to return to the frontbench. Despite a rocky final sitting week for the Government, it leaves  Canberra for the year in a far better position than it started.   
 
At the Paris Conference, the Prime Minister confirmed Australia would ratify the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, whilst also reallocating $1billion from Australia’s aid budget over five years to help developing countries fight climate change. However, Australia came under fire for failing to sign the pledge to cut fossil fuel subsidies, expressing concern at the International Monetary Fund’s definition of what constitutes a subsidy.
 
In a win for the Government, Treasurer Scott Morrison secured the passage of the Tax Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2015, having reached agreement with the Greens in the Senate on two key amendments. The laws will apply from 1 January 2016, and will now include private companies with revenues in excess of $200 million and require multinationals to file General Purpose Financial Statements with the Tax Commissioner. See Treasurer’s media release here.
 
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton and Attorney General George Brandis announced the Government had also secured the passage of its controversial Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015, with the support of the Opposition. The new laws will see Australians with dual citizenship involved in terrorist activities abroad or convicted of terrorism offences in Australia stripped of their citizenship.
 
The Prime Minister confirmed on Friday that former Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson will lead the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, while also confirming Secretary of the Department of Education and Training Lisa Paul will be stepping down in February. A decision on her replacement is yet to be made.
 
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten concluded his ‘year of big ideas’ by unveiling a number of innovation policies, including a $16 million Plan to Accelerate Regional Innovation, to fund targeted partnerships between universities and technology based accelerators, and industry tax concessions through an Australian Angel Investment Scheme. See Mr Shorten’s media release on Regional Accelerators here and Tax Incentives here.
 
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed she will ask the Federal Government to overrule new laws which attempt to re-regulate the State's $2 billion sugar industry, after the State Government was unable to defeat the bill in the Parliament. Katter's Australian Party leader Robbie Katter said the new laws were intended to give growers a say in the marketing of sugar to international customers.
 
Also in Queensland, Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller announced on Friday she had tendered her resignation from Cabinet to Premier Palaszczuk after being stripped of her ministry, following an ethics report which found her guilty of behaviour unbecoming of a minister of the Crown.
 
The Victorian and SA parliament sit next week. 


FINANCE

Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the Turnbull Government had introduced the Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the Common Reporting Standard) Bill 2015 into Parliament on Thursday, which seeks to eliminate tax evasion. The legislation, to apply from 1 July 2017, will implement OECD Common Reporting Standards and facilitate the sharing of personal tax information between countries to ensure offshore income is being declared for Australian tax purposes. See media release: Legislation to tackle offshore tax evasion
 
Further, the Treasurer announced the introduction of the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015, which bans excessive card payment surcharges to protect consumers and businesses. See media release: Legislation introduced to end excessive card surcharging
 
Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer announced the introduction of the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2015 into the Parliament.  "The Bill is the first tranche of reforms to modernise Australia's insolvency and corporate reorganisation framework” and will provide “financially distressed businesses with the best opportunity to restructure, or be wound up efficiently where they cannot be saved.”  See media release: Legislation to strengthen liquidator regulation
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt released the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, which provides guiding principles on how to achieve Australia's emissions reduction targets of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. See media release: Australia releases National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced Australia will join the French-led Four per 1000: soils for food security and climate initiative, which aims to improve soil health in an effort to reduce global emissions. See media release: Australia backs soils for food security and climate initiative
 
State Developments
 
The Liquid Fuel Supply (Ethanol and Other Biofuels Mandate) Amendment Act 2015 passed Queensland Parliament this week. The Bill provides an initial three per cent ethanol mandate for petrol and half a per cent for bio-based diesel and will apply 1 January 2017. See media release: Biofuels mandate powers sustainable future
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss this week delivered the Annual Ministerial Infrastructure Statement, outlining the Coalition’s achievements and future projects in infrastructure. See transcript: Annual Ministerial Infrastructure Statement
 
Australia has been re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation, the UN agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping. See media release: Australia re-elected to IMO Council
 
State Developments
 
James Flintoft has been appointed Chief Executive of Regional Development Victoria (RDV), along with a new senior regional team. See media release: New Leadership Signals A New Chapter For Regional Development Victoria
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government did not proceed with  Medicare Safety Net changes following the failure to secure Senate crossbench support for the legislation. Minister for Health Sussan Ley said the Government would pause discussions on the measure to allow current reviews of Medicare and primary care to be considered in concert with safety net changes, which had been anticipated to deliver $266.7 million in savings over five years.   See the Minister for Health’s media release here and the Australian Medical Association’s reaction to the announcement here
 
Minister Ley announced that Australia will introduce a national regulatory scheme for cannabis. The framework will be overseen by the Federal Government and is intended to ensure that the procedures of obtaining marijuana for medical or scientific purposes are consistent across the country. See media release: Medicinal cannabis to be cultivated through single national scheme
 
State Developments
 
NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner launched the NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020 on World AIDS Day, saying that the three measures - testing, new diagnoses and treatment – are helping NSW lead the way in the fight against HIV. Mrs Skinner also announced the Kirby Institute lead trial, EPIC-NSW, of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at high risk of infection, would be expanded to 3,700. The trial is sponsored by the Kirby Institute and Gilead Sciences ANZ has provided a significant proportion of the treatment. See media release: NSW Leading the Way in the Fight Against HIV
 
The Palaszczuk Government introduced amendments to the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 which will increase the required nurse-to-patient ratio in Queensland’s hospitals, with a view to improve nurse safety and patient care. Should the legislation be passed, an extra 250 additional nurses will need to be recruited to meet the ratios at a cost of $25.9 million. See media release: Nurse to patient ratio legislation introduced
 
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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