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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
27 November 2015
 
As Parliament rose for the week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull headed to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), after which he will travel to Paris for the UN Climate Conference. Ahead of attending the Paris conference, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced Labor’s new climate change policy, which calls for a 45 per cent reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030 and a carbon neutral Australia by 2050.  
 
Labor will be hoping that its climate change policy helps it recapture some political momentum from the Prime Minister, with the latest Newspoll showing support for the Government at 53 per cent. The Prime Minister now leads Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister by the extraordinary margin of 64 to 15 per cent, leading some to suggest Mr Turnbull’s honeymoon is developing into a happy marriage with the electorate.  
 
On Wednesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Federal Government’s response to the Competition Policy Review (Harper Review), announcing the Government’s full or partial support for 44 of the reports 56 recommendations. The Government will continue to examine the remaining 12 recommendations, including the heavily debated effects test. See the Treasurer’s media release here and GRACosway’s summary from earlier in the week here. 
 
Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister confirmed Drew Clarke, former Communications Department Secretary, will remain his Chief of Staff, while former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson will replace Michael Thawley as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. In a further bureaucratic reshuffle, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, has announced he too is stepping down, with a replacement yet to be confirmed.
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird announced Australian-led consortium ‘NSW Electricity Networks’ has won the tender for the 99 year lease of TransGrid, for an agreed price of $10.258 billion. The proceeds of the transaction, to be completed by mid-2016, will fund the Government’s Rebuilding NSW plan. See the Premier’s media release here.
 
Meanwhile, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is calling for a radical change to taxation that would see states given the right to levy income tax in exchange for the federal government retaining one third of GST revenues and withdrawing funding for schools and hospitals. Premier Weatherill will argue his plan at the Council of Australian Governments meeting on December 11.
 
The Palaszczuk Government in Queensland announced it will host a major innovation summit in April 2016. The Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit will be hosted in Brisbane to establish new local, national and international connections which the Queensland Government has recognised as a matter of importance in times of rapid development. See the Premier’s media release here.
 
The Federal, Queensland, SA, WA, Tasmanian and NT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
Treasurer Morrison delivered an address to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) Conference, in Brisbane on Friday, outlining the key themes of the Government’s approach to superannuation reform. The Treasurer said it was about improving real outcomes for all Australians by ensuring greater choice, stronger governance, better information; and more targeted incentives. Read the Treasurer’s speech in full here.
 
The Treasurer has announced two appointments to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). Helen Rowell has been appointed Deputy Chair having joined APRA in 2013, while Geoff Summerhayes becomes a full-time member. See media release: Appointments to APRA
 
The terms of reference for the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into regulation of the Australian agricultural sector have been released. The inquiry will focus on areas of regulation that affect farm businesses, and pursue regulatory objectives in more financially efficient ways. See media release: Productivity Commission to examine regulation of Australian agriculture
 
Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer announced the passage of the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Measures No. 5) Bill 2015.  Key improvements include the Zone Tax Offset changes, a $5,000 cap on employee entertainment benefits for certain not-for-profit organisations and a new third party reporting regime to assist with preparation of returns and activity statements. See media release: Parliament passes key tax improvements
 
Minister O'Dwyer also welcomed the passage of the Corporations Amendment (Financial Advice Measures) Bill through the Senate. The bill extends the time for renewal opt-in notices and fee disclosure statements from 30 to 60 days. See media release:  FOFA Bill passes the Senate
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced the Federal Government has made an agreement with the Carbon Market Institute to provide information on the Carbon Neutral Program through industry roadshows and information sessions. The program certifies organisations, products, services and events as carbon neutral. See media release: Boosting incentives for voluntary action to reduce emissions
 
State Developments
 
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and Minister for the Environment Albert Jacob announced the introduction of a new and updated Bill to Parliament to replace the old Wildlife Conservation Act 1950. The Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015 allows for the listing of threatened and critical habitat and an increase in maximum penalties for killing or smuggling critically endangered species. See media release: New biodiversity laws introduced to Parliament.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 passed the Senate after the Government secured the support of the Greens and the Senate crossbench by agreeing to establish a new register of foreign ownership of water entitlements. The bill lowers the review thresholds for foreign acquisitions of land from $252 million to $15 million and to $55 million for agri-businesses.
 
The Federal Government awarded the largest single tender of the $119.6 million Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Project to VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd. The track works to be carried out on the Melba and Western lines are due for completion in mid-2017. See media release: Tender awarded for freight rail revitalisation on the Melba and Western line
 
The Federal Government also announced the completion of the first stage of tendering for the Bruce Highway upgrade between Traveston and Woondum. Four contractors - Fulton Hogan, Lend Lease, John Holland and Leighton Contractors – were selected to progress to the next stage of the project, due to begin in early 2016. See media release: Tenderers shortlisted for Cooroy to Curra Section C
 
State Developments
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced a new tender process for Central Barangaroo to incorporate the addition of an underground station as part of the Sydney Metro project, following recommendations by an expert working group. As part of the new tender, the proposed floor space limit of 120,000 square metres has been raised to 150,000 square metres. See media release: New tender for central Barangaroo
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley released the Federal Government’s response to the Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services, simultaneously announcing a number of significant mental health reforms. Features of the Government’s announcement include coordinated packages of care for people with different mental health needs, a suicide prevention strategy run through Primary Health Networks and a new Digital Mental Health Gateway. 2016 will mark the beginning of a three-year roll out period for the reforms, which are set to be delivered with existing funding. Access the Government’s full response here and see the Government’s media release: A new blueprint for mental health services
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the membership of the Expert Panel for the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Annual Dinner. The Review will be chaired by Professor Stephen King, a Professor of Economics and former Dean at Monash University. See the full membership of the expert panel here and the terms of reference for the Review here 
 
The Federal Government’s “no jab, no pay” legislation has passed the Senate and will take effect from 1 January 2016. Under the new laws, parents will need to ensure their child’s immunisations are current in order to continue receiving family payments such as the Child Care Benefit and Family Tax Benefit Part A. See media release: No Jab, No Pay Will Start January 1, 2016
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced the opening of tenders for the Government’s Super Pharmacies Initiative, with five 24/7 pharmacies set to be operating by June 2016. A further 15 day-night pharmacies will be delivered by 2018 under the Government’s plan, which is estimated to cost $28.7 million.  See media release: Government expands role of pharmacies in health care
 
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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