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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
23 September 2016
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spent the week in the United States, where he attended the United Nations General Assembly Leaders’ Week in New York and participated in summits on refugees and migration. In a speech to the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister advocated for strong border protection policies and global cooperation to tackle issues such as climate change and terrorism. Mr Turnbull also announced a range of new immigration measures, including $130 million in extra funding to support refugees and a permanent increase in Australia’s humanitarian refugee program, and spent time promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, urging members of Congress to ratify the agreement as a “statement of America’s commitment” to the Asia-Pacific region.
 
Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has confirmed that Cabinet will be asked to consider a proposal to amend Australia’s guidelines on foreign investment, following Treasurer Scott Morrison’s recent decision to block the proposed 99-year lease of NSW electricity transmission operator Ausgrid to Chinese and Hong Kong bidders. Under the proposal, Cabinet will consider creating a list of “critical infrastructure” that will attract a higher level of scrutiny for foreign investors in a bid to provide clarity and support investment. Speaking at an investment conference in Hong Kong this week, Minister Ciobo said Australia has benefited from its openness to foreign investment and reiterated that the Government is working to maintain an “attractive environment” for foreign investors. Read Minister Ciobo’s remarks in full here and coverage by the Australian Financial Review here (subscription service).
 
Social Services Minister Christian Porter revealed details of the Government’s welfare reform agenda in a speech to the National Press Club earlier this week, which was followed by the release of welfare system analysis taken from data collected over the past 15 years. Minister Porter announced a $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund under which service providers would be invited to apply for funding to test a policy designed to reduce welfare system reliance by young carers, young parents and students. Applications for funding will open by the end of 2016. See Minister Porter’s media release here and speech here.
 
In Western Australia, Premier Colin Barnett has retained leadership of the Liberal Party after a motion to hold a leadership spill was defeated 31 votes to 15 at a party room meeting on Tuesday. Mr Barnett said the vote was “therapeutic” and “overdue” and called on his colleagues to “lick their wounds and get on with it”. The spill motion came after Transport Minister Dean Nalder and Local Government Minister Tony Simpson resigned from Cabinet at the weekend, and allegations of “bullying and intimidation” coming from the Premier’s office were raised by former minister Helen Morton. A Cabinet reshuffle to fill the vacancies left by Mr Nalder and Mr Simpson has seen Liberal Upper House MP Mark Lewis appointed Agriculture Minister; Paul Miles will serve as Local Government Minister and current Minister Bill Marmion has added the Transport portfolio to his responsibilities.

South Australian Labor Senator Don Farrell has replaced outgoing Senator Stephen Conroy as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, which comes with an automatic Shadow Cabinet position.

South Australian Parliament sits next week.
 


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
A Productivity Commission (PC) issues paper released on Tuesday canvasses alternative models to MySuper, the default superannuation fund system for workers who have not nominated a super fund. The paper explores options for a formal tender or auction process which would see funds bid to be the default super fund for employees in an effort to increase competition in the sector and drive down costs. The issues paper forms part of the PC’s broader inquiry into the superannuation system commissioned by Treasurer Scott Morrison in February this year. The Government has already indicated it plans to introduce a competitive process for allocating default funds to members following a recommendation by the Murray Financial System Inquiry. See the PC issues paper here and coverage by the The Age here (subscription service).
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Think tank The Australia Institute has released a report which states that a moratorium on the approval of new coal mines and mine expansions would “barely affect” Australia’s economic growth. The Minerals Council of Australia has responded by calling the report “anti-coal rhetoric” and arguing it does not take into account coal sector employment. See The Australia Institute’s report here and the Minerals Council’s response here.
 
Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan has announced that nominations are now open for local community members to join the Barndioota Consultative Committee in South Australia. This is the second step in the Federal Government’s process to identify sites suitable for storing and managing Australia’s radioactive waste. See media release: Community committee next step in radioactive waste management consultation.

State Developments
 
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has visited the world’s first deep geological disposal facility for used nuclear fuel in Finland to learn more about “safety, regulation and community consent” issues from the Finnish experience. The visit comes ahead of the South Australian Government’s formal response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission report, which is expected to be released in November. See media release: Premier visits Finland to inspect high level nuclear waste facility.
 
Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio announced that RayGen Resources is the first recipient of a $1 million grant under the Victorian Government’s $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund grants program. The funding will go toward manufacturing improvements in RayGen Resources’ production line for solar technology. See media release: Supporting clean energy and jobs.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced almost $90 million in funding for road upgrades in northern Western Australia. Mr Joyce said the package includes upgrades to three sections of the Great Northern Highway at Wyndham, Coongan Gorge and the section known as ‘Maggie’s Jump Up’. Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the funding was part of a nearly $360 million package for new road projects in northern Australia. See media release: Funding to support vital Western Australian roads under the Northern Australia Roads Programme.
 
Minister Chester announced that international flights commenced from the new Canberra International Airport Terminal this week. The terminal features state-of-the-art passport control facilities, duty free retail outlets and a new lounge. See media release: Canberra Airport's international terminal takes off
 
State Developments

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the Lonsdale Consortium comprising the Future Fund, QIC, GIP and OMERS is the successful bidder for the $9.7 billion 50-year lease of the Port of Melbourne. The Premier said that 10 per cent of the lease proceeds will be invested in infrastructure projects across rural and regional Victoria, while a portion of funding will go to removing level crossings. The Victorian Government is also seeking extra funding from the Federal Government under the Asset Recycling Agreement, which Treasurer Scott Morrison says ended on June 30 this year, making Victoria ineligible for the $1.45 billion in Commonwealth funds which would have been provided under the Agreement prior to 30 June. See Premier Andrews’ media release here.
 
NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance has announced the opening of pedestrian tunnel Wynyard Walk, which will help commuters travelling from Wynyard Train Station to Barangaroo by easing congestion on the footpaths on the western side of the CBD. Wynyard Walk is nine metres wide and nearly 180 metres long; it takes approximately six minutes to travel from one end to the other. See media release: Wynyard Walk opened to pedestrians.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments

Minister for Health Sussan Ley has opened applications for the next Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR). Existing and new aged care providers can now apply for allocations from more than 10,000 national residential aged care places. For the first time, 475 short-term restorative care places will also be available in addition to $64 million in capital grants under the Rural, Regional and Other Special Needs Building Fund. See media release: Opening of the 2016-17 Aged Care Approvals Round and the Essentials Guide.
 
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt has announced David Tune AO PSM will lead the 2016-17 Aged Care Legislated Review. Mr Tune has previously held senior positions in the Australian Public Service, including as Secretary of the Department of Finance. He is currently the independent Chair of the Aged Care Sector Committee, which provides Government with advice on aged care policy and implementation. The final report will be completed by 1 August 2017. See media release:  David Tune to lead major review of Aged Care reforms.
 
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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