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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
18 November 2016
 
Immigration remained at the forefront of the national debate this week, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing a one-off refugee resettlement agreement with the United States for refugees currently detained in regional processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru. The Prime Minister first raised the possibility of resettlement with US President Barack Obama during his visit to Washington in January 2016. Although the deal will not apply to future refugee arrivals, concerns have emerged as to whether US President-elect Donald Trump will honour the agreement following his inauguration on 20 January 2017.
 
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton announced changes to the subclass 457 temporary skilled worker visa programme, which from tomorrow will see the number of days these visa holders can stay in Australia after their employment ceases reduced from 90 to 60 days. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also announced Labor’s proposal to minimise the use of 457 visas early this week in response to "a worrying rise in the number of temporary work visas that should easily be filled by local workers" but went on to criticise the Coalition’s changes, citing the need to prioritise local employment over a visa system that "sees cheap labour being imported from overseas undercutting Australian jobs”. Meanwhile, outspoken Liberal backbencher George Christensen has called for further reforms to the visa programme to restrict 457 visa holders from gaining employment in the central and north Queensland regions of his electorate of Dawson.
 
An agreement has been reached between the Federal and Victorian Governments for a $3 billion Victorian Infrastructure Package, which will deliver some 40 road and rail infrastructure projects, including $690 million in rural and regional development, across the State. The Federal Government’s contribution of $1.5 billion had originally been set aside for the Victorian East West Link project, which was subsequently scrapped by the State Government. See media coverage here.
 
In NSW, Troy Grant has resigned as Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier following Saturday’s by-election in Orange following a 34 per cent swing against the Party; the Nationals have held the seat for almost 70 years. Monaro MP John Barilaro has been elected unopposed as the new Leader of the NSW Nationals, with Niall Blair replacing Education Minister Adrian Piccoli as Deputy Leader following Mr Piccoli’s subsequent resignation. Commentators have attributed the swing against the Nationals to voter response to the now-repealed ban on greyhound racing and amalgamation of local councils, with Premier Mike Baird facing pressure over an immediate reshuffle of his Cabinet.
 
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has called for a state-wide referendum on the proposed construction of Australia’s first high-level nuclear waste dump. With a purpose to receive “broad social consent”, the referendum will draw the issue into the spotlight at the next state election to be held in March 2018. Liberal Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has now withdrawn bipartisan support for a nuclear waste dump however, suggesting a lack in public appetite for the plan based on evidence provided by the Citizen’s Jury examining the proposal.
 
In other news, Prime Minister Turnbull announced Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs’ tenure will not be extended when her term expires in mid-2017. Professor Triggs was appointed President in 2012, and has faced criticism from members of the Coalition over her conduct in the role on issues such as offshore immigration detention. Her replacement is yet to be announced.
 
The Federal, Victorian, SA, WA and NT parliaments sit next week.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, UK Minister of State for Climate Change Nick Hurd and Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg have reached an agreement for international input into the review of Australia’s energy security. The review was agreed to by the COAG Energy Council following the regional blackout in South Australia in September and is being led by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel. See media release: UK and US Agree to Provide Input into Australian Energy Security Review.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has announced the Federal Government will invest $181 million in the Sunshine Coast Airport upgrade, which will turn the Airport into an international hub for both air passenger and freight aviation and generate up to $4.1 billion in economic activity. See media release: Sunshine Coast Airport to become major international hub.

State Developments

NSW Minister for Public Transport Andrew Constance has announced the Government will construct an underground metro train line from Sydney CBD to Parramatta CBD. Minister Constance said an additional line was needed to accompany the existing Western Line, which is already nearing capacity, and the Sydney Metro West project will link Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, the Bays Precinct and the Sydney CBD. Using a market-led approach for development, project costs will be determined following an industry engagement process. Trains are expected to begin operating on the new line in the latter half of the 2020s. See media release: Sydney Metro West: a new railway, more trains for Western Sydney.
 
South Australian Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Stephen Mulligan has invited applications for Future Mobility Lab Fund projects, with $10 million to be provided by the State Government over three years to support local testing, research and development of connected and autonomous vehicles. The Government hopes the initiative will help support the growth of a driverless car industry in South Australia. See media release: Applications open for $10m to boost connected, autonomous car technology in SA.
 

HEALTH

State Developments

Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy joined Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley at the opening of the $65 million Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre. The new facility features 30 inpatient beds, 30 chemotherapy beds, three radiotherapy bunkers, multiple consulting suites, a wellness centre and 140 new car parking spaces. Regional information, education and research networks will also be established to broaden the reach of the new centre. See media release: World Class Cancer Care to Put Albury-Wodonga Patients First.
 
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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