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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
17 April 2015
After a week of lobbying via media, state and territory leaders finally met the Prime Minister today in Canberra for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.  With Prime Minister Abbott wanting to talk about domestic violence, national security, and the drug ice, it was WA Premier Colin Barnett who sought to make it all about the carve up of the GST, arguing for major reforms to the way the tax revenue is distributed.  The PM said he was sympathetic to WA’s claims but would not change arrangements.  The leaders did agree to a national Domestic Violence Order scheme, and to reconvene in July to talk about health and education funding.  See the Communiqué here.
The Government’s pre-budget positioning continued this week with the Prime Minister reiterating a commitment for a small business tax cut to an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry lunch.  Abbott also confirmed he would not make changes to negative gearing, and repeated his promise not to raise taxes on superannuation or make adverse or unexpected changes to super this term.
Meanwhile Mr Abbott confirmed that 300 ADF personnel will head to Iraq as part of the international Building Partner Capacity training mission to prepare Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIL.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews released the RAND Corporation report into Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry this week, which found that Australia could sustain a naval shipbuilding industrial base with a continuous ship building strategy.  See the media release here.
Attorney-General George Brandis announced that Federal Court judge Michelle Gordon will join the High Court in June, replacing Justice Kenneth Hayne.
In the latest Newspoll, Labor leads the Coalition 51:49 in the two-party-preferred vote.
Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation Bernie Ripoll announced that he will retire from federal politics at the next election, continuing Labor’s generational change in Queensland.
In NSW, Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party has secured the final spot in the state’s upper house.  With all results now declared, the 42 person NSW Legislative Council will comprise 20 representatives from the Coalition, 12 from Labor, 5 from The Greens, 2 each from the Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers, and 1 from the Animal Justice Party.  For the full results see here.
WA and Tasmanian Parliaments sit next week.


Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that he will hold a roundtable discussion with industry and consumer groups to discuss proposed changes to financial advice standards.  See the Australian Financial Review (AFR): Josh Frydenberg to hold roundtable on advice education standards (subscription service) and the Assistant Treasurer’s Speech to the Financial Services Council BT Breakfast
During his speech to the Financial Services Council this week, Frydenberg also announced that the government will implement recommendations from the 2009 ‘Johnson’ report to encourage foreign investment and increase the export of Australian asset management services.  See the 2009 report here.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has appointed Carolyn Kay and Jane Wilson as members of the Future Fund Board of Guardians.  See the media release: Appointments to the Future Fund Board


Federal Developments

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane released the Government’s Domestic Gas Strategy, building on the Energy White Paper released earlier this month.  Intended as a blueprint for growth in the industry, the strategy focuses on competition, maximising energy resource productivity and increasing investment in the sector.  See media release: Research and science at core of Domestic Gas Strategy and the Domestic Gas Strategy here.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will conduct a 12 month inquiry into the competitiveness of wholesale gas prices and the structure of upstream segments in Eastern and Southern Australia.  See the announcement: ACCC inquiry into Eastern and Southern Australian wholesale gas prices


State Developments

The Victorian Government reached an agreement with the East West Link consortium, under which the $10.7 billion East West Link project will not proceed.  Existing costs will be paid by the Government to the consortium but no compensation.  See the media release: Labor Government Secures $339m Agreement on East West
Also in Victoria, the Government has announced the preferred alignment and depth of two rail tunnels that will run through the Melbourne CBD as part of the Melbourne Metro Rail project.  The plan includes a tunnel running underneath Swanston Street.  See media release: Swanston St The Smartest Option For Melbourne Metro


Federal Developments

Health Minister Sussan Ley released the Mental Health Commission’s National Review of Mental Health which finds major issues with the mental health system and includes 25 recommendations across suicide prevention, early intervention, primary care, and national leadership.  The Government will establish an Expert Reference Group to develop its response, however Minister Ley has ruled out shifting $1 billion in funding from state acute care to community organisations.  See media release:  Abbott Government plans national approach on Mental Health and the report
Minister Ley has called for public feedback as she undertakes consultations to inform the development of a National Diabetes Strategy.  The consultation will close May 17.  See media release: Nation’s largest diabetes conversation
Minister Ley also announced the successful applicants to run Australia’s new Primary Health Networks (PHN) from July.  The PHNs will replace the Medicare Local system.  See the media release: New Primary Health Networks to deliver better local care.
Both the Department of Health and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) have provided submissions to the Senate Inquiry on the availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia.  The PBAC’s submission recommended that to improve transparency, sponsor submissions should be made public.  See the submission here.  The Department’s submission is available here.
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