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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
19 August 2016
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed a shift in the GST carve-up arrangements by floating the idea of introducing a percentage floor under which a state’s share of GST cannot fall. Speaking at the WA Liberal Party state conference last weekend, the Prime Minister said West Australians “have every right to feel aggrieved” about the current GST distribution under which the State’s share of revenue has fallen to around 30 per cent of what it contributes. Labor State Governments have pushed back against the proposal however, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in particular labelling it “absolutely discriminatory”.
 
The Prime Minister used a keynote speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) to call for support from the Opposition to pass an omnibus bill containing $6 billion in savings which Labor relied upon in calculating its election costings during the recent federal election campaign. Mr Turnbull said the Government will “reach across the aisle” to repair the Budget, saying that any deterioration in the Government’s budget repair efforts will place “downward pressure” on Australia’s recently affirmed, prized triple-A credit rating. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor will be “consistent” in deciding which savings measures to support but called on the Government to be consultative and “come to the party” on issues Labor considers important. Read the Prime Minister’s speech here.
 
Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed the Government is considering establishing a banking tribunal to hear grievances against banks, following a push by Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch and NSW Nationals Senator John Williams. Speaking on radio this morning, the Prime Minister ruled out a Royal Commission into the banking sector but said the Government is “very open to looking at action” that will improve the way banks deal with customers. See coverage by the AFR here (subscription service).
 
Labor plans to test the Government’s slim parliamentary majority in the House of Representatives by refusing to provide MPs for the Speaker’s panel and declining to enter into a formal ‘pairing’ agreement with the Coalition, which will make it difficult for Government MPs to miss votes due to illness or overseas travel. Pairing arrangements allow MPs from both major parties to ‘pair off’ and be absent for votes without affecting the outcome. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor will allow Government MPs a pair on “national interest” grounds and for “compelling personal reasons”. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce responded to the Opposition’s position, saying it goes against the Party’s belief in “looking after the worker”.
 
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt announced the second and third waves of the Federal Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda, including plans to broaden its focus beyond start-ups to include support for established businesses worth between $20 million and $200 million. Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Innovation Summit on Thursday, Minister Hunt also flagged the idea of a National Innovation Fund to encourage private sector investment in innovation and science infrastructure, and outlined the Government’s plans to cut red tape and simplify regulation in a bid to “improve the business environment”. See Minister Hunt’s full speech here
 
Liberal Party Senators Dean Smith and Cory Bernardi have announced they will co-sponsor a bill to amend the Racial Discrimination Act in a bid to remove the words “insult” and “offend” from section 18C of the legislation when Parliament resumes. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston also indicated her support for the changes, saying the section includes “highly subjective terms open to all manner of interpretation”. Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann confirmed there will not be a free vote on the legislation, binding Liberal and National Party frontbenchers to the Government’s position to keep the Racial Discrimination Act as it stands.
 
The NSW Government will establish a $30 million fund to entice companies to shift their headquarters to NSW as part of a $125 million jobs package unveiled by Premier Mike Baird in a CEDA speech earlier today. The suite of measures are designed to help achieve the NSW Government’s target of creating one million jobs over 20 years and also features a $50 million loan guarantee program for fast-growing small to medium businesses. See media release: NSW targets one million new jobs for the future.
 
The NSW, WA and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week; the Northern Territory Election will take place next Saturday 27 August.   


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed Moody’s Investors Service’s announcement this week affirming Australia’s triple-A credit rating. In making the announcement, Moody’s cited a number of factors that supported its decision, including an expectation that Australia can endure an uncertain global environment, strong institutional frameworks and stronger fiscal metrics despite increases in government debt. See media release: Moody’s affirms Australia’s AAA credit rating.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council is meeting in Canberra today to discuss the pricing and supply issues affecting Australia’s energy markets. The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has called on Australia’s energy ministers to use the meeting as an opportunity to remove the regulatory roadblocks obstructing security of gas supply in eastern Australia. A study conducted by PwC for Transgrid also suggests that a new $500 million interconnector between NSW and South Australia could solve energy supply issues and make electricity more affordable for South Australians. See coverage by the AFR here (subscription service).

State Developments

Business SA, South Australia’s peak business organisation, has called on the State Government to establish an independent inquiry into the electricity sector, citing concerns over the price and reliability of energy and impact on South Australian businesses. See media release: Business SA leads call for power review.
 
The West Australian Government will now allow solar energy providers to apply directly to the Public Utilities Office for exemption from the requirement to hold a retail licence in order to sell electricity to consumers. See media release: Cutting red tape for WA’s growing solar industry.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has released a five-year blueprint for the heavy vehicle industry focusing on the priority areas of safety, compliance and assurance, and productivity. The strategy – released on Thursday at the National Road Transport Association conference in Cairns – will be delivered through an action plan, which includes proposals to develop a national heavy vehicle awareness road safety campaign and a safety risk management framework. See media release: NHVR’s blueprint for heavy vehicle reform.
 
State Developments

Sydney Airport chief executive Kerrie Maher has announced that one in five travellers now choose to take the train to Sydney Airport. Ms Maher said the current disruption on George Street and reduction in traffic in Sydney’s CBD is having a flow-on effect, resulting in an increase in heavy rail transport. The airport has, however, seen an increase in parking revenue to $75.4 million. See AFR story: Sydney Airport passengers shift to train, ride-sharing (subscription service).
 
NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance has announced the State Government has signed a contract for new inter-city rail rolling stock worth $2.3 billion. These trains are anticipated to begin operation as soon as 2019 and will be available for commuters travelling to Sydney from Newcastle, the Central Coast, South Coast and Blue Mountains. See media release: Comfort comes first with new intercity trains.
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Health Sussan Ley has confirmed the Government will list $70 million of new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in September, including a range of new treatments for Type 2 diabetes and a cervical cancer treatment. Among the subsidised treatments will be diabetes medication Exenatide (Bydureon®), which reduces the number of weekly injections for people with diabetes from twice a day to once a week. See media release: Diabetes breakthrough part of $70m PBS medicines listings.
 
Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge has announced a tender process in which the Government is seeking a national provider to conduct Disability Medical Assessments for people claiming the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The Government-contracted doctors will meet with claimants and review evidence in order to provide independent advice to the Department of Human Services, which remains responsible for approving the DSP. See media release: Tender bolsters Disability Support Pension eligibility.
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has appointed Professor James Angus AO as Chairperson of the new Independent Medical Advisory Committee, which will be charged with providing expert advice on patient eligibility and approving medical cannabis products now the horticultural trial has entered its second phase. The Government is also preparing cultivation for the first recipients of Victoria’s medical cannabis horticulture trail; children with severe epilepsy. See media release: Medicinal cannabis one step closer for Victorian patients.
 
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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