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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
28 August 2015
 
With Members of Parliament returning to their electorates this week, shifting the spotlight away from Canberra, Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent the week in Queensland’s Torres Strait, part of his commitment to spend time each year in an indigenous community. Other senior parliamentarians including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese crossed the country to Perth where campaigning is in full-swing in the Perth seat of Canning ahead of the September by-election.
 
The latest Newspoll was released on Tuesday, prompting Prime Minister Abbott to quickly dismiss the results which revealed support for the Coalition is at its lowest level since March. According to the poll, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is preferred Prime Minister and Labor is ahead of the Government 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
 
Treasurer Joe Hockey has thrown his support behind a new push for an Australian republic, joining Labor’s Katy Gallagher as co-chair of a bipartisan parliamentary group to build support for constitutional change. The move was announced during a speech at the National Press Club by the new Chair of the Australian Republican Movement, Peter FitzSimons. Mr Hockey’s support for a republic attracted mixed reviews from colleagues, some of whom indicated the Government had other priorities. See Sydney Morning Herald coverage here (subscription only).
 
On Monday it emerged that the cost of building the National Broadband Network will be $15 billion more than expected, with NBN chief executive Bill Morrow indicating $26.5 billion worth of debt raising would be required to bridge the gap between the cost of the project and the Government’s spending cap of $29.5 billion.
 
The National Reform Summit was held in Sydney on Wednesday, bringing together business, unions, welfare and community groups to discuss economic reform. Delegates focused on options for tax reform while avoiding the contentious policy areas of industrial relations and climate change. The draft statement from the summit is available here. Read the Australian Financial Review’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Senator Nick Xenophon is expected to propel South Australia into the limelight at the next federal election with his plan to field candidates in all of the state’s 11 electorates. The popular independent has formed his own party – the Nick Xenophon Team – and is vowing to target the Coalition in lower house seats if they break a commitment to build submarines in South Australia. Read more from the ABC here.
 
Disgruntled shareholders of a company embroiled in an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry have dropped legal action against former Australian Water Holdings chairman, Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos. Read the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon has deferred the decision about his future as head of the trade union Royal Commission until Monday, after the ACTU called for a postponement. 
 
The Victorian Parliament sits next week.
 


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
State and territory treasurers met with federal counterpart Joe Hockey at the Council on Federal Financial Relations Tax Reform Workshop in Canberra late last week. The treasurers agreed upon a six-step outline to commence taxation reform, as well as promoting greater integrity in the tax system. The Council agreed to abolish the GST-free threshold for overseas online purchases, with no agreement reached on the removal of GST on sanitary products. The Council reconvenes in October for further discussions on tax reform options.  See media release: Statement: Council on Federal Financial Relations Tax Reform Workshop
 
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) Rebate Discussion Paper. The cost of the WET Rebate has climbed significantly since its introduction in 2004. The Discussion Paper seeks specific feedback on the operation and scope of the WET Rebate, with submissions closing on 11 September 2015. See media release: Wine Equalisation Tax Rebate Discussion Paper released and Consultative Group appointed
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY
 
Federal Developments
 
Following BlueScope Steel’s announcement of its intention to cut 500 jobs from its Port Kembla steelworks, Federal Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane has called on key stakeholders to discuss a long-term economic strategy for the Illawarra region. Macfarlane also left the door open for a possible government assistance package. See media release: Australian Government working with Illawarra community on steel future
 
State Developments
 
NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts announced $10 million in additional funding for the Coal Innovation NSW Fund. The funding will support the development of low emission coal technologies. See media release: $10 million for research into low emission coal technologies

Victoria’s Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio announced the State’s energy efficiency targets for the next five years. The Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Scheme (VEET) aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 million tonnes between 2016 and 2020. See media release: Targets To Achieve Victoria’s Energy Efficient Future
 
Queensland’s Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark Bailey announced that state owned Ergon Energy will source 150 megawatts of renewable energy from solar, wind and hydro generation in regional Queensland. See media release: Renewable energy boost for the Sunshine State
 
During his address to the South East Asia Australia Offshore and Onshore Conference, Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles announced the release of the guiding principles which will govern the territory’s industry. Development of the 230 trillion cubic feet of untapped gas resources has the potential to add $22.4 billion to the Northern Territory economy over 2020-2040. See media release: Guiding principles set out how oil and gas industry should operate in the Territory
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has this week put forward new regulations naming Badgery’s Creek the official site of the new Western Sydney airport. The airport is expected to be fully operational by the mid-2020s. See media release: Badgerys Creek officially declared an airport site
 
State Developments
 
In Victoria, the Frankston Precinct Taskforce has released its recommendation for the State Government’s $63 million revitalisation project. For the full list of recommendations, see media release: Frankston Precinct Taskforce Recommendations Released
 
The West Australian Barnett Government has released an Expression of Interest for ways to increase water availability from Wellington Dam, the state’s second largest reservoir. See media release: Wellington Dam EOI released
 
The South Australian Weatherill Government has committed to continuing funding to overland passenger train services between Adelaide and Melbourne, to ensure the service continues. See media release: State Government commits to Overland passenger rail service
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Health Sussan Ley delivered the keynote address to the Catholic Health Australia 2015 National Conference on Monday, in which she highlighted the need to improve the balance between public and private hospitals and health services. Ms Ley also called on the industry leaders to promote solutions to the challenges currently facing the nation’s healthcare system. Read the minister’s speech here: Keynote Address to the Catholic Health Australia 2015 National Conference
 
The Federal Government has announced $650 million in funding over three years for the Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE), to bring Australians with disabilities into the workforce. See media release:  Investing $650 million for Australian Disability Enterprise jobs
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government will ban smoking in outdoor dining areas from 2017. This follows the latest Cancer Council Victoria research which shows 73 per cent of Victorians supported a ban. See media release: New Smoking Bans for Outdoor Dining Areas From 2017
 
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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