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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
13 February 2015
 
After surviving Monday’s party room spill motion 61 votes to 39, Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to do better, pledging that ‘good government starts today’.  He said that last year’s budget was ‘bold and ambitious’ and that from now on he would not ‘buy fights with the Senate’ that the government can’t win.  Abbott also made changes aimed at appeasing his colleagues including that future mid-to-low level ministerial staff appointments would no longer be vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office and that cabinet submissions would no longer be pre-screened.
 
There is confusion in defence circles this week after South Australian Liberal Senator Sean Edwards said that PM Abbott assured him before Monday’s party room vote that the future submarine project would be decided by competitive open tender, ensuring Adelaide-based Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) would have the opportunity to participate.  Defence Minister Kevin Andrews later clarified that it would be a ‘competitive evaluation process’, a term that has not been defined by the government.  Similarly the status of the government’s GP co-payment policy is ambiguous after frontbenchers contradicted one another in media interviews this week over whether it had been scrapped or is still government policy.
 
The Prime Minister released the annual Closing the Gap report into Indigenous disadvantage this week, revealing that there had been some improvements but on the whole the failures in the report were ‘profoundly disappointing’.
 
In a moment of unity during a politically volatile week, the Parliament passed a motion moved by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and seconded by her Shadow, Tanya Plibersek, calling for a stay of execution in the cases of convicted Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, due to be shot in Indonesia in the coming weeks.  Read about the parliamentarians’ speeches here.
 
The first Newspoll for 2015 released on Monday has the Labor Opposition leading the Coalition 57:43 in the 2PP vote.
 
Former Labor Minister Alan Griffin has announced that he will not contest his Melbourne seat of Bruce at the next federal election.
 
In Queensland, the Electoral Commission has declared results in 88 out of 89 districts.  Labor has 44 seats and with support of Independent MP Peter Wellington is poised to claim victory.  It is anticipated that the Governor will invite Annastacia Palaszczuk to Government House early next week to form government.  Meanwhile, Lawrence Springborg has been elected the new leader of the LNP.
 
With three weeks until the NSW Government enters caretaker mode ahead of the March 28 election, a Fairfax Ipsos poll published this week shows the Liberal-National Coalition Government leads the Labor Opposition 56:44 in the 2PP vote.
 
WA, ACT and NT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE

The Prime Minister announced that from 1 March, a foreign investment ownership register will be established and that all foreign investments in agricultural land over $15 million will be screened, down from the previous threshold of $252 million.  See the media release here: Government tightens rules on foreign purchases of agricultural land
 
The Federal Government has asked the Council of Financial Regulators to review the two-year moratorium on competition in equities clearing and report back by mid-2015.  See the Australian Financial Review (AFR): Council of Financial Regulators to review moratorium on clearing competition (subscription service)
 
New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2015 was 6.4%.  See the media release here: Australia's unemployment rate increased to 6.4 per cent in January 2015
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Health Minister Sussan Ley have welcomed the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) information paper on wind farms and human health, which found no consistent evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects human health but concluded that further high quality research is warranted.  See the media release: Australian Government continues to work with communities to resolve wind farm concerns and the report here

State Developments
 
SA Premier Jay Weatherill has established a Royal Commission to consider the opportunities, risks and potential economic benefits associated with nuclear energy.  The terms of reference are yet to be finalised.  See the media release:  Royal Commission to look at SA’s nuclear industry potential
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

State Developments

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian officially opened the South West Rail Link, an 11.4 kilometre stretch from Leppington to Glenfield.  See the media release: South West Rail Link opens to customers
 
Also in NSW, the Premier has announced that $1 billion will be invested in 1,600 new or refurbished classrooms across the state, and two new schools will be built in Parramatta.  See media release: Baird backs Parramatta with 2 new schools
 
In SA, the tender has been awarded to upgrade two road routes during construction of the North-South Corridor, Torrens to Torrens project.  The projects involve an $8.8 million duplication of James Congdon Drive and an $11 million upgrade of the South Road/Richmond Road intersection.  See media release: More local jobs with North South Corridor early works contract
 
In QLD, regular international flights will be supported at Townsville Airport from March 1 2015.  Queensland Airports Ltd has commenced talks to secure the first international air services into Townsville.  See media release: Regular international flights in and out of Townsville
 
The Victorian Government has been taken to court by the consortium contracted to build the East West Link, demanding it sign off on a construction plan to build the $6.8 billion toll road.  See The Age: Link consortium plays hard ball on payments
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced that medical researcher Professor Anne Kelso AO has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).  Professor Kelso succeeds Professor Warwick Anderson AM and will commence the role in April.  See media release: Leading medical researcher to head the NHMRC
 
Assistant Minister for Health Senator Fiona Nash has released the Organ and Tissue Authority 2014 Performance Report which shows that more than 60% of Australian families give consent for organ and tissue donation to proceed.  See media release: 2014 Organ and Tissue Donation Outcomes
 
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released a discussion paper to inform its review into the Orphan Drugs Program for rare disease drugs.  See the discussion paper: TGA Orphan Drug Program Discussion Paper

State Developments

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has committed $170 million in additional funding to complete the Wagga Base Hospital redevelopment.  See The Daily Advertiser: Health Minister promises $170 million to finish Wagga Base Hospital
 
The Victorian Government has launched a new BreastScreen Victoria advertising campaign to encourage screening and to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.  See media release: Campaign to remind women to screen for breast cancer
 
About GRACosway
GRACosway is Australia's leading public affairs and corporate and financial communications counsel. Our integrated suite of services provides public policy, communications, regulatory, issues management, and media relations advice to a range of domestic and international clients across all industry sectors. From offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, and Perth (through GRA Everingham), GRACosway's clients benefit from the combined experience, expertise, and strategic perspective of our team in addressing complex and commercially sensitive projects. For more information head to gracosway.com.au
 
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