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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
12 February 2016
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to announce a major Cabinet reshuffle in the coming days, following the retirements of Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Minister for Trade Andrew Robb, announced this week, and the resignation of Human Services Minister Stuart Robert, following breaches of the ministerial code of conduct during a private visit to China in 2015. Mr Turnbull is also expected to fill the vacancies left by the departures of Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough late last year.
 
At the Nationals party room meeting on Thursday, Barnaby Joyce was elected unopposed to replace Mr Truss as party leader and will soon be sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister. Senator Fiona Nash is said to have defeated a field of six other candidates to claim the deputy leadership, guaranteeing her a position in Cabinet under the Coalition Agreement.  
 
The Prime Minister also declared the prospect of GST reform all but over, stating that it had failed to clear the first hurdle. Treasurer Scott Morrison reiterated that the Government remains committed to tax reform, and that doing nothing isn’t a viable option. The Government is now understood to favour a much more gradual cutting of company and person income tax rates.
 
Minister for Health Sussan Ley confirmed the Department of Health is looking at ways to digitise the payment systems of Medicare, Aged Care and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which together process $42 billion worth of payments each year. The Minister has established a taskforce to investigate options for a faster and simpler transaction system for Medicare and other payments, including the possibility of outsourcing the system to the private sector. See media release: Medicare Payment Technology Innovation and coverage in the West Australian
 
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne announced that dumping duties will be applied to Italian canned tomatoes entering Australia, in line with a recommendation by the Anti-Dumping Commission. The decision imposes a dumping margin of 8.4 per cent to Feger and 4.5 per cent to La Doria tomato products, which the Minister said will allow Australia’s only canned tomato producer, SPC Ardmona, to compete on an equal footing. See Minister’s media release here.
 
The Government has reportedly reached agreement with the Greens and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon on Senate voting reform ahead of the next election. Under the proposal reported in The Guardian on Friday, voters would be required to vote one to six above the line, or number every box below. Read more in The Guardian’s coverage here.
 
The Victorian Government confirmed it intends to send legislation allowing for the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne to a parliamentary disputes committee, which will then have 30 days to make a recommendation. If the legislation then fails to pass the upper house, where Labor is short seven votes, the State may face the possibility of an early election with Premier Andrews empowered to call for a double dissolution. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
The NSW, Queensland, WA and ACT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison introduced the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Bill to Parliament, which will see GST applied to products and other services sold overseas. The measure is expected to raise approximately $350 million over the forward estimates. See media release: Turnbull Government to remove competitive tax advantage for overseas companies
 
Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer introduced the Corporations Amendment (Life Insurance Remuneration Arrangements) Bill 2016, which is said to implement industry-agreed life insurance improvements. Key amendments include a three-year phase down of upfront commission to 60 per cent and a two year ‘clawback’ period on commission. If passed, the Act will take effect from 1 July 2016. See media release: Government moves to improve life insurance advice
 
Minister O’Dwyer also announced the passage of the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015 through the lower house, which will provide the legislative framework for crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF). The new model allows unlisted public companies with less than $5 million in assets and less than $5 million in annual turnover to fundraise up to $5 million each year. See media release: Crowd-sourced funding passes the House
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, along with Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg, announced the release of a Discussion Paper on Vehicle Emissions Standards in Australia. The Paper outlines the benefits of reducing emissions and outlines potential options to reduce both noxious and carbon dioxide emissions, with submissions closing on 8 April, and an interdepartmental working group to report to the Ministerial Forum in June 2016. See media release here and view the Discussion Paper here.
 
Minister Hunt also released the final update in the Government's response to the Report of the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program. In September 2014 the Government committed to take action in six areas, with the Minister announcing work is now complete or moving towards completion. See Minister’s media release here.
 
State Developments
 
West Australian Minister for Finance; Mines and Petroleum Bill Marmion turned on the tap for the 293km APA Eastern Goldfields Gas Pipeline, saying the commencement of the $140 million project will energise the region. The pipeline replaces the use of diesel for cleaner natural gas in power production at the Sunrise Dam and Tropicana mine sites. See media release here: Gas to energise new Eastern Goldfields projects
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Major Projects, Territories and Local Government Paul Fletcher has announced changes to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 following the Federal Government’s review. The changes include allowing for the personal importation of motor vehicles, including specialist vehicles, and the removal of the $12,000 special duty on imported used vehicles. See media release here: More choice for car buyers and less red tape for the car industry under planned Government reforms to motor vehicle laws
 
Infrastructure Australia has released a new Assessment Framework, which provides a cost-benefit analysis methodology to assist Infrastructure Australia in assessing submissions and proposals. See the new Assessment Framework here: New Assessment Framework Guidance.
 
State Developments
 
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance announced a two day summit will take place on 18-19 April this year, as part of the State’s Future of Transport program. The 12 month program brings together IT experts to explore new infrastructure, transport and technology ideas to help the State cope with future demand. See media release: Big ideas for transport's future
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley introduced legislation this week to provide access to medicinal cannabis for pain management and chronic health conditions. The proposed laws will allow cannabis to be cultivated for medicinal or scientific purposes, under the regulation of a single authority to be established in the Department of Health and available to patients under prescription. See media release: Landmark medicinal cannabis legislation introduced today
 
Details of the Federal Government’s $1 billion commitment to new Hepatitis C medicines have been released, confirming  GPs will be able to prescribe the medicines for the first time, in consultation with a specialist doctor. The medicines will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from March 1 and will be available to all adult patients with chronic hepatitis C infection. See more information from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme here.
 
State Developments
 
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has endorsed a 12-point security plan for the State’s public hospitals, following consultation with health stakeholders at a roundtable in Sydney. The plan includes training for emergency department staff in managing violent behaviour and security audits of 20 emergency departments across NSW and follows the recent shooting by a patient of a hospital security guard and police officer at a Sydney hospital. See media release: Roundtable delivers hospital security action plan
 
In Victoria, the Andrews Government introduced legislation to create a new health complaints system designed to clamp down on unregistered health practitioners. The proposed changes will see the existing Health Services Commissioner replaced by a Health Complaints Commissioner, who will have new investigative powers and the ability to publicly name health providers who have acted unethically. See media release: New laws to crack down on dodgy health providers
 
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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