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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
30 September 2016
 
While the latest Newspoll released this week shows Labor has gained its biggest lead over the Coalition since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister, polling 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis, energy policy assumed the focus of the national debate this week after South Australia experienced a state-wide power blackout following extreme weather. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce questioned whether South Australia’s “over-reliance on renewable energy” is having an effect on the State’s energy security and argued that a major storm should not cause a state-wide blackout. Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reasoned that while the blackout was caused by the weather, state Labor governments have set "aggressive" and "unrealistic" renewable energy targets, and that "energy security should always be the key priority". Mr Turnbull said he would like to see a uniform national renewable energy target and has asked Minister for Energy and the Environment Josh Frydenberg to hold a meeting with his state counterparts to discuss the move.
 
Prime Minister Turnbull travelled to Tasmania during the week where he visited Launceston’s University of Tasmania campus to reaffirm a $150 million federal election commitment for the University's northern campuses expansion project. Mr Turnbull signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Launceston City Deal, which provides an extra $7.5 million for the Launceston City Heart project designed to encourage people to spend more time in the city centre.
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison announced that Cabinet has approved changes to the Government’s proposed ‘backpacker tax’ for working holiday makers, which it first announced in the 2015-16 Federal Budget. Mr Morrison said the backpacker tax rate will be 19 per cent on earnings up to $37,000 from 1 January 2017 instead of the proposed 32.5 per cent. The Government committed to reviewing the proposed measure during the recent election campaign after Coalition MPs raised concerns it would deter backpackers from travelling to Australia. The Treasurer also announced the application charge for working holiday maker visas will be reduced by $50 to $390. See media release: Better working holiday maker tax arrangements.
 
A review of the Federal Government’s $3 billion Research and Development Tax Incentive released this week found the program “falls short” of meeting its objectives and that only 10 to 20 per cent of the research and development covered by the program would not have been undertaken without government funding. Prime Minister Turnbull established the review in December 2015; it was conducted by Innovation Australia Chair Bill Ferris, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel and Treasury Secretary John Fraser. Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt has invited feedback on the findings and recommendations of the review, confirming the Federal Government remains “committed to pursuing innovation and the economic opportunities and jobs it will generate”. See media release here and the review here.
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison used a speech to the Lowy Institute this afternoon to back immigration, trade and foreign investment as a pathway to economic growth. Mr Morrison said recent calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and similar sentiments around foreign investment and free trade agreements reflect “genuine anxiety” in the community, but noted there is “great danger” in endorsing such policies. The Treasurer said the Federal Government will continue to pursue immigration, trade and foreign investment policies “focused on the national interest” in a bid to “boost wages, increase profits and raise our living standards”. See the Treasurer’s remarks here.
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird has experienced a significant drop in public support according to a Newspoll conducted this week, which shows the Premier’s net satisfaction rating has fallen from positive 39 points in December 2015 to rest at negative seven points; the biggest fall in the net satisfaction rating of any mainland state Premier in the history of Newspoll. The decline in support has been attributed to the NSW Government’s ban on greyhound racing, with the poll indicating a majority of voters believe Premier Baird should have given the industry a chance to reform itself before instituting the ban.
 
Supplementary Budget Estimates will be held in NSW next week; no other parliaments are scheduled to sit.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The House of Representatives Economics Committee, chaired by David Coleman MP, will hold public hearings with the four major banks on 4-6 October 2016 in Australian Parliament House. See Terms of Reference here.
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer have released further Exposure Draft legislation for superannuation reforms announced in the 2016-17 Budget. The second tranche of Exposure Drafts include amendments such as lowering the cap on concessional superannuation contributions to $25,000 per year, allowing individuals with less than $500,000 to carry forward unused concessional cap space for up to five years, and abolishing the anti-detriment provision which refunds a member’s tax payments on contributions into an estate. See media release: Superannuation reform: Second tranche of exposure draft.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

State Developments
 
Former Federal Minister Ian Macfarlane has been appointed Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council; an association representing Queensland’s mineral, energy and resources industry. Mr Macfarlane served as the Minister for Small Business; and Industry, Tourism and Resources in the Howard Government and, more recently, Minister for Industry and Science under the leadership of Tony Abbott. See media release: Ian Macfarlane to take over helm at Queensland Resources Council.
 
Federal Government statutory authority the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has announced it will establish a permanent office in Melbourne in 2017. Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the CEFC’s decision strengthens Victoria’s “reputation as a clean energy leader” and confirmed the Andrews Government is “striving for a strong, reliable and sustainable energy sector”. See media release: Victoria Home to a Renewable Energy Future.
 
Waranga Green Energy will receive a $1 million grant through the Victorian Government’s $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund to create a bio-digester that can process agricultural waste to generate energy. See media release: Turning Waste into Renewable Energy and Creating Jobs.
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced $12.7 million in funding to build a 3,000 square metre cruise ship terminal in Newcastle Harbour. Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the terminal will be similar in size to the White Bay Terminal in Sydney and facilitate growth in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley tourism industry. See media release: New cruise terminal to boost Hunter tourism.
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Federal Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced that widespread price reductions and improved transparency measures for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) have come into effect as part of the PBS Access and Sustainability Package which passed through the Parliament in 2015. Minister Ley said that some consumers will save as much as $400 each year on medicines as a result of the reforms, equating to a total of $900 million over the next four years. See media release: Go online to check on cheaper medicines.

State Developments
 
A recent Galaxy poll indicates a majority of South Australians disagree with the Weatherill Government’s proposed Transforming Health plan to overhaul the health system, with 64 per cent of respondents expressing either strong or partial opposition to the reforms. The controversial elements of the plan include closing the Repatriation General Hospital and downgrading emergency departments at the Queen Elizabeth, Modbury and Noarlunga hospitals. See coverage by the Sunday Mail: Exclusive Galaxy poll reveals opposition to South Australian Labor government’s Transforming Health plan.
 
Tasmanian Minister for Health Michael Ferguson has announced a new oncology ward has opened at the Royal Hobart Hospital. The ward is part of the $689 million upgrade of the hospital and will provide state-of-the art equipment, greater options for inpatient treatments and more rooms, including single rooms for patient privacy. See media release: New RHH oncology ward opens.
 
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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