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GRACosway Political Week in Review
15 July 2016
 
The Coalition has crossed the election finish line with a total of 76 or 77 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives – including narrow victories over recent days in the marginal Queensland seats of Flynn, Capricornia and, potentially, Herbert – resulting in the Liberal and National parties forming a majority government for a second term. Fewer than 50 votes separate the two parties in Herbert, with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirming it will conduct an automatic recount if the seat is won by less than 100 votes. The ALP has secured 68 seats in total, prevailing in the West Australian electorate of Cowan and the seat of Hindmarsh in South Australia, where former member Steve Georganas edged out Liberal incumbent Matt Williams late this week.
 
Upon his return to Canberra, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull received an incoming government briefing from Prime Minister and Cabinet Departmental Secretary Martin Parkinson and commenced re-negotiation of the Coalition agreement between the Liberal and National parties. Mr Turnbull also participated in a meeting of the Cabinet’s National Security Committee and announced Government MPs will meet in Canberra on Monday, after which he will unveil a revamped Ministry that is expected to include greater representation for the Nationals.
 
The Prime Minister has reiterated the Coalition remains dedicated to delivering its economic plan and previously-announced budget measures in addition to implementing its election campaign commitments, which include amendments to the Fair Work Act to prevent union influence on volunteer organisations. Mr Turnbull confirmed the Government’s two industrial relations bills – which triggered the double dissolution election – must first be considered by the House of Representatives before being put to the Senate for a vote and then to a joint sitting of both houses if blocked by the Senate. Mr Turnbull also paid tribute to outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron and said Australia will maintain its strong ties to Britain under the leadership of new Prime Minister Theresa May who he expects will do “an outstanding job” in the difficult post-Brexit process. Mr Turnbull also issued a statement today in relation to the Bastille Day attack in France overnight, condemning it as a “murderous act of terror” and extending the nation’s condolences to the French people.    
 
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spent the week focused on the Coalition agreement between the Liberal and National parties, which he dubbed a “secret deal”, and said the Australian people had a right to know “what deals are being done to constitute the Government of Australia”. Mr Shorten visited Adelaide on Wednesday to congratulate Steve Georganas on his victory in Hindmarsh, saying Labor was looking forward to having the “hero of Hindmarsh” back in Parliament.
 
The Nationals held a party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, where Northern Territory Senator Nigel Scullion was re-elected unopposed as the Party’s Senate Leader and Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry led a push to scrap the Federal Government’s ‘backpacker tax’. Ms Landry said the proposed tax – which would remove the tax-free threshold for backpackers and see them taxed at a rate of 32.5 per cent – was a “massive issue” in her Rockhampton-based electorate, despite the Federal Government announcing in May it would delay the measure for six months. 
 
Anti-gambling advocates Senator Nick Xenophon and Independent Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie announced they will use their negotiating power in the new Federal Parliament to “put gambling reform back on the national agenda” and “finally achieve meaningful action”. In a joint media release issued on Thursday, the duo announced they will seek to re-establish the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, implement $1 maximum bets on poker machines and ban sports betting advertising during G-rated television programs.

Highlights of the Week
  • Tasmanian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz said the election result was the “barest of victories” for the Coalition and argued the Government’s proposed superannuation changes were not “properly ventilated” in the party room before being announced.
  • Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has been accused of copying large parts of its policy platform from online sources such as Wikipedia and anti-Islamic publications.
  • Former ‘Father of the House’ Philip Ruddock has handed the informal title to his successor Kevin Andrews, who will boast the longest uninterrupted record of service in the new House of Representatives, having been elected as the Member for Menzies in 1991.
  • Labor’s Anne Aly claimed victory in the West Australian seat of Cowan, becoming the first Muslim woman elected to the Australian Parliament and defeating Liberal incumbent Luke Simpkins with 50.7 per cent of the two-party preferred vote at last count.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has likened the NSW Government’s decision to ban greyhound racing to the former Federal Labor Government’s 2011 move to suspend live cattle exports, saying he is “a little bit cautious about banning anything” and suggesting a “way around” the ban could be investigated.
  • Outgoing Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus has written a letter of complaint to the AEC in relation to allegations that polling booths ran out of ballot papers on Election Day, resulting in voters being marked off the roll without casting their vote.


Policy Wrap Up
 
The City of Sydney has released a draft plan to transform the CBD skyline by introducing ‘tower cluster’ zones for buildings up to 300 metres tall, unlocking up to 2.9 million square metres of extra floor space while also preserving access to the sun in public spaces. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the draft Central Sydney Planning Strategy will “meet the needs of tomorrow’s Central Sydney” while also protecting the city’s public spaces and heritage. The plan aims to strike a balance between residential housing and commercial development by mandating that developers who build above 55 metres must allocate 50 per cent of floor space to non-residential use. See City of Sydney media release: Skyline vision to boost economy and employment
 
The NSW State Government has revealed an estimated $30 million in transitional assistance for the greyhound industry after Premier Mike Baird announced last week that greyhound racing will be banned in the State from 1 July 2017. The Government has appointed Natural Resources Commissioner Dr John Keniry AM to oversee the wind-up of the sport and allocate industry assistance funding, which will be provided from the taxes received from greyhound wagering between now and next July. Premier Baird also confirmed that profits from interstate greyhound racing gained through the NSW TAB will be used to care for ex-racing greyhounds after the ban takes effect. The NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association has advised it is still exploring legal options to stop the ban. Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace however, has confirmed the Government has no plans to ban greyhound racing within the state and intends to work with the industry to ensure the “highest standards” of animal welfare are observed. See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service). 
 
Still in NSW, Skills Minister John Barilaro has announced major reforms to the State’s TAFE system, including the amalgamation of 10 TAFE institutes into one entity and new digital education headquarters in regional NSW. Minister Barilaro said the reforms will deliver significant efficiencies by streamlining back-office administration and management functions, saving more than $100 million which will be reinvested into frontline services and new technology-based facilities. See further information about the Government’s plan here.  

No parliaments are scheduled to sit next week.


RESOURCES AND ENERGY

State Developments

In Queensland, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad has announced that the State Government will take over the assessment of proposals to build wind farms from 22 July 2016, under a new wind farm planning code which also features “strict guidelines to address community concerns about health and safety issues”. Minister Trad said many councils lack “the specific technical expertise” to assess wind farm proposals and the new process will be streamlined through the State Assessment and Referral Agency. See media release: New planning code to support growing wind farm industry.
 
The South Australian Government has intervened in the State’s energy market, requesting that the owner of the mothballed Pelican Point Power Station run the plant for a short time to provide extra base-load power in a bid to combat price volatility in the market. The Government’s intervention comes against the backdrop of severe weather conditions, high gas prices and a scheduled outage of the Heywood Interconnector to Victoria, with SA businesses complaining about the extreme cost of electricity this month. The State gets a significant proportion of its power from wind and solar sources. See media release: State Government intervenes in energy market to protect South Australian businesses.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that the $5.5 billion Western Distributor project will incorporate a three kilometre twin tunnel below the suburb of Yarraville to prevent the need for compulsory acquisition of homes. The Government released the design for the project on Sunday, saying it reflects community feedback and seeks to minimise impact on public spaces. See coverage by the AFR here (subscription service) and the Victorian Government’s media release here.
 
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has issued a warning to the ACT Opposition that its plan to dump Canberra’s proposed $1.8 billion light rail project will be expensive and may cost the territory its AAA Credit Rating. The ACT Labor Government said that scrapping the project will require up to $280 million in compensation, while the Liberal Opposition says it will cost just $30 million to cancel the project. See coverage by the AFR: Canberra light rail backdown would cost AAA and leave taxpayers with debt (subscription service).
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments

 
Professor Chris Baggoley has retired as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), effective today. The CEO of Austin Health in Victoria, Professor Brandan Murphy, has been appointed the new CMO and will commence work on 4 October. Professor Murphy is a Director of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. See media release: Retirement of Chief Medical Officer.

State Developments

The Victorian Government has released a new health and medical research plan, the first in over a decade. Healthier Lives, Stronger Economy: Victoria’s Health and Medical Research Strategy 2016-2020 identifies six areas of focus, including developing the State’s workforce for the future, integrating research, developing advanced convergence science, and attracting more clinical trials. In the first year, the Strategy will centre on the coordination of clinical trials, with $3 million in funding through the Medical Research Acceleration Fund. See medial release: New vision for world-class medical research in Victoria.
 
The Queensland Government has announced it will commit $27 million over four years to tackle chronic disease. The funding will be invested in the Health for Life! diabetes and chronic disease prevention program, which will offer free health risk assessments and a six month lifestyle modification program to eligible participants. See media release: Palaszczuk Government cements commitment to help 10,000 Queenslanders tackle chronic disease.
 

About GRACosway
GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel, and has been assisting organisations understand and navigate elections at federal and state levels for over 20 years. The firm provides 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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