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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
5 August 2016
 
The final Senate results announced this week confirm the Federal Government will contend with a Senate crossbench of 20 – up from 18 in the last Parliament – including four Senators from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (two in QLD, one in NSW and one in WA) and three Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) representatives in South Australia. They will be joined by Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, Derryn Hinch in Victoria, NSW Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Family First’s Bob Day in South Australia. Nine Greens senators also comprise the 45th Parliament, who despite losing one seat in South Australia, will retain the balance of power in the Upper House. Labor nabbed one extra Senate seat to finish with 26, leaving the Coalition with a total of 30 Senate seats. Given a minimum of 39 votes is required to pass legislation in the Senate, the Government will require support from at least nine of these crossbenchers to pass any legislation opposed by the Opposition. See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).
 
In the House of Representatives, Liberal National Party (LNP) MP for Herbert Ewen Jones has conceded defeat after a recount by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirmed Labor candidate Cathy O’Toole won the Townsville-based seat by just 37 votes. While congratulating his opponent, Mr Jones also backed a legal challenge of the result, highlighting the tight margin and “number of anomalies in the count” and confirming the LNP will decide whether or not to mount a challenge in the Court of Disputed Returns. The result in Herbert leaves the Coalition with a small majority of 76 seats in the Lower House.
 
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced its decision to lower interest rates by 25 basis points to an historic low of 1.5 per cent this week, with RBA Governor Glenn Stevens citing lower than average global economic growth, particularly in China, for the RBA’s decision. The announcement however, prompted calls from Prime Minister Turnbull for the banks to pass the full rate cut on to customers or explain their decision “fully and comprehensively” not to. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said the decision showed the RBA is “deeply concerned about the lack of investment” in Australia and that “the transition in the economy is not going well”. On Thursday, the Prime Minister and Treasurer announced an annual report on the banking and financial system will be requested from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics once re-established in a bid to ensure Australian banks are “regularly, and permanently, accountable to the Committee”. Banks will be called to appear before the Committee to “transparently account for their decision making” and “explain how they are responding to funding issues to support Australian consumers and businesses”. See the Prime Minister’s media release here and Mr Stevens’ media release here.
 
Just days after his appointment, Royal Commissioner Brian Martin AO QC announced his decision to stand down from leading the inquiry into the Northern Territory’s child protection and youth detention systems amid community concerns about a potential conflict of interest concerning Mr Martin’s daughter. Prime Minister Turnbull said he accepted Mr Martin’s decision and announced that the former Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, the Hon. Margaret White AO, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda will instead jointly conduct the Royal Commission. See the Prime Minister’s media release here.
 
New Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt announced he has instructed the CSIRO to “put the focus back on climate science” as a “critical” component of its work in a move that will create 15 new climate science jobs and facilitate investment of $37 million over 10 years. Minister Hunt said the decision reflects the Government’s view that “climate science matters” and both he and the Prime Minister have “clear and strong views” about its importance. See coverage by the SMH here.  
 
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has called for next week’s Census to be delayed amid confusion over the shift to an online form and concerns around privacy and data security. The Minister responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Michael McCormack, said the body has an “unblemished record” on privacy matters, while Prime Minister Turnbull said the security of personal information collected in the Census is “absolute” and “protected by law and by practice”. For the first time, the ABS will retain all the names and addresses collected in this year’s Census for a period of four years “to enable a richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia”. See Minister McCormack’s remarks here.
 
In NSW, Opposition Leader Luke Foley has revealed further details of Labor’s plan to prevent the Baird Government from shutting down the State’s greyhound racing industry, including a proposal for a new industry regulator and separate commercial and regulatory arms for the sport in addition to mandatory lifetime bans and prison terms for those found guilty of live baiting. Mr Foley called on National Party MPs to join Labor in voting against legislation to abolish greyhound racing, urging instead to “regulate the industry, not criminalise it”. See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).   

Long-serving Labor MP Noreen Hay announced her resignation from the NSW Parliament this week after a 13 year stint representing the south coast electorate of Wollongong. Ms Hay used her valedictory speech to call on the Labor Party to provide more support to female politicians and said that her resignation was not associated with electoral fraud charges recently faced by one of her staff members.
 
Still in NSW, Health Minister Jillian Skinner faced fresh calls to resign early this week after releasing the reports of investigations into two separate incidents in NSW hospitals concerning the death of a baby – and another who suffered brain damage – as a result of nitrous oxide poisoning and the under-dosing of chemotherapy to more than 100 cancer patients over a 10-year period, which subsequently revealed similar practices in an additional two state hospitals. While Minister Skinner has announced a number of measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring, in a press conference on Tuesday she was pressed on the question of handing in her resignation. Ms Skinner remained firm however, stating her role is to assure the public that those who make mistakes will be held accountable and ensure these issues are “not extended into a systemic problem”.
 
The NSW and ACT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Productivity Commission released its draft report into Superannuation Competitiveness and Efficiency, which proposes criteria to assess whether Australia’s superannuation system is efficient and competitive in delivering high quality outcomes for members. The criteria includes two approaches to assessing the superannuation system: a structural assessment and an outcomes assessment. Submissions to the draft report are due Friday 9 September 2016, with the final report expected to be handed to the Australian Government in November 2016. Read the Productivity Commission’s draft report: How to assess the Competitiveness and Efficiency of the Superannuation System.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

State Developments
 
The Northern Territory Government and energy infrastructure company Jemena are encouraging local small to medium sized businesses to participate in the Northern Gas Pipeline project through the establishment of the SME Business Investment Fund. NT Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Business Peter Styles said the Fund will create a wide range of opportunities for NT businesses to secure contracts on the pipeline project. See media release: Jemena and NT Government working together for Territory businesses.
 
The South Australian Government has commenced its state-wide community consultation effort on South Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle. This follows the release of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s Final Report in May, which recommended the establishment of facilities for the storage and disposal of nuclear waste in South Australia. The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Consultation and Response Agency (CARA) will visit towns across South Australia and hold workshops to provide citizens with the opportunity to learn more about nuclear fuel. The feedback gathered during these consultations will inform the Premier’s formal response to the Royal Commission in November. See details: All South Australians asked about our State’s role in nuclear fuel cycle.
 
The Victorian Government is preparing a submission to the Australian Competition Tribunal supporting the decision by the Australian Energy Regulator to require Victoria’s energy companies to change their cost structures by mandating cuts to energy prices. The Australian Competition Tribunal is challenging the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision. See media release: Fighting For Lower Electricity Prices
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
Western Australia Minister for Transport Dean Nalder has released The Perth Transport Plan for 3.5 million People and Beyond for public comment. The Plan will guide the provision of transport infrastructure in Perth and proposes a number of key rail projects, such as an additional 120 kilometres of rail lines, which includes a new rail line to service the growth suburbs of Morley and East Wanneroo. See media release: Plan will keep growing city connected and moving.
 
Victorian Minister for Transport Jacinta Allen announced that the re-construction of McKinnon Station has been completed. This project involved removing level crossings located to the south of the former train station, which was then reconstructed over a period of 37 days and involved more than 1000 workers. See media release: New McKinnon Station open after 37 day construction blitz.
 
NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance has reminded Sydney commuters that as of 1 August 2016, paper tickets are no longer sold or accepted in Sydney, with all public transport trips now undertaken using the Opal e-ticketing system. The Minister announced an additional 350,000 Opal cards have been issued ahead of the changeover. See media release: It's Opal time - paper tickets no longer sold or accepted from today.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley announced Tim Kelsey has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Digital Health Agency, which is responsible for all national digital health services and systems. Mr Kelsey will commence his new role in mid-August and is internationally regarded as a leader in digital health. He has previously served as the National Director for Patients and Information at the National Health Service in England and more recently, worked with Telstra Health in Australia. See media release: Appointment of CEO for the Australian Digital Health Agency.
 
Minister Ley and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt officially launched the $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), which aims to support and accelerate the development and commercialisation of Australian biomedical innovations. The Government is contributing $250 million to the BTF, with the remainder to be matched by private sector co-investment. Applications are now open to private life sciences fund managers until 14 September 2016. See media release: New biomedical fund to capitalise on our research and entrepreneurial strengths.

State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to cancer research by becoming a participating partner in the Leading Health Systems Network’s Safer Care Accelerator Project and the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. Minister for Health Jill Hennessy recently travelled to London to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project, which allows for healthcare leaders and organisations to exchange insights, experiences and data around patient safety, as well as identify key opportunities for improvement. See media release: Victoria partners in world leading care and cancer agreements.
 
The SA Government will restructure SA Pathology, following the release of two independent reports that identified a number of shortcomings within the agency. The reviews took place after patients were provided with inaccurate results from a prostate cancer testing kit, and were conducted by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and an independent review by Professor Peter Flett. It has been recommended a restructure take place to better align SA Pathology with other similar agencies around the country. See media release: SA Pathology to undergo restructure.
 

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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