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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
29 January 2016
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull batted away calls on Australia Day for another referendum to be held on the Republic, arguing it was not a priority of his Government. While the Prime Minister reiterated his personal desire to see an Australian head of state, Mr Turnbull said any move to do so should only occur after Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten fired the first major policy shot of the election year this week, announcing Labor’s education package, Your Child Our Future. The policy outlines an additional $4.5 billion across school years 2018 and 2019, and total expenditure of $37.3 billion over the decade, with the package to focus on more individual attention for students, better teacher training and more support for students with special learning needs. Mr Shorten also pledged to return Australia to the top 5 countries in reading, maths and science by 2025. See the Opposition Leader’s media release here.
Meanwhile, Minister for Employment Senator Michaelia Cash confirmed the Government will consult with unions and industry on workplace relations reform, with a proposed reform package to be taken to the next election. Minister Cash said the Government will strongly argue the case for reform, and guaranteed to maintain a strong safety net for workers.
A Galaxy Poll has revealed primary support for PUP Leader Clive Palmer has dropped to 2 per cent in his electorate of Fairfax, making it a likely gain for the Government at the election. Mr Palmer narrowly won the seat on preferences in 2013, with a primary vote of 26.5 per cent. The poll followed announcement of Mr Palmer’s company Queensland Nickel sacking 237 workers at its Yabulu refinery near Townsville.
NSW Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard has announced historic privatisation of the State’s public housing, promising a $22 billion building boom will follow. The Minister said ageing housing stock will be rebuilt by private developers with a 30:70 public-private ratio, and there will be greater use of private rental subsidies for families in crisis in an attempt to tackle the waiting list. See the Minister’s media release here, and read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
Acting Secretary of the NSW branch of the National Union of Workers Martin Cartwright has written to NSW Labor Party Acting General Secretary Kaila Murnain to advise the Union will be disaffiliating from the Party, effective immediately. Mr Cartwright said the Union needed to address a number of governance issues arising from the Royal Commission into Union Corruption and would seek to re-affiliate with the Party in due course.
In Victoria, negotiations between the Government and Opposition on the sale of the Port of Melbourne have stalled amid changes to the anti-corruption provisions of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). Opposition Leader Matthew Guy – who claims the changes could subject discussions to a future IBAC investigation – is insisting all negotiations be conducted in writing, which will likely delay the matter further. Read The Age coverage here (subscription service).
Federal Parliament returns next week. 


Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed the Federal Government has signed a new multilateral agreement in Paris on Wednesday, which allows for the exchange of country-by-country tax information for multinational companies between the 31 signatory authorities. Shared information will include the location of a multinational’s income and taxes paid, details of international transactions and their transfer pricing policies. See media release: Coalition bolsters ATO in fight against multinational tax avoidance


Queensland Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply Mark Bailey announced the five member panel for the public inquiry into establishing the State’s 50 per cent renewable energy target. The panel, to be chaired by Colin Mugglestone, will examine how to achieve the target by 2030 – and the goal of one million solar rooftops by 2020. See media release: Strong Business Focus for Palaszczuk Government Renewable Energy Taskforce


Federal Developments
Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg released the exposure draft legislation for the Government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). The exposure draft confirms a seven member board will be appointed to select projects for funding, and that the Minister will retain the right to veto funding if it is deemed not to be in the national interest. See the Minister’s media release here and exposure draft legislation here.
Minister Frydenberg also welcomed the opening of the Major Projects Approval Agency located in Darwin, which will serve as a one-stop-shop offering information and assistance, and regulatory approvals for firms looking to invest in Northern Australia. See media release: One-stop-shop for major project approvals in Australia’s north
Federal Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher and NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay announced a further $65 million for 11 new local road projects in the second round of the $200 million Western Sydney Local Roads Package. Construction on the local infrastructure projects is expected to begin in the second half of 2016. See media release: Better local roads for Western Sydney
State Developments
V/Line CEO Theo Taifalos tendered his resignation this week, following Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ declaration he had lost confidence in the leadership of V/Line after it misinformed the Government about the extent of current disruptions across the network, said to be caused by faster-than-normal wheel wear and faulty boom-gates. Mr Taifalos will be replaced on an interim basis by Public Transport Victoria CEO Gary Liddle. See the Premier’s media release here.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has opened applications to expand the Wilpinjong Coal Mine, located approximately 40km northeast of Mudgee, for community comment. The proposal will be on exhibition until 10 March 2016. Submissions can be made here


Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the Federal Government will appoint two national providers to deliver dementia services from October 2016: one for dementia education programs and the other to coordinate a streamlined Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service. The announcement follows a review of dementia programs in 2015, which identified areas for improvement in service delivery. See media release: New national approach to dementia support     
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) released its 2016 Public Hospital Report Card, which reveals emergency department waiting times have worsened in all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory. The report also found overall public hospital performance has not improved, and little progress has been made in reducing elective surgery waiting times. See media release: AMA Public Hospital Report Card 2016
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