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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
24 March 2016
 
After securing Senate voting reforms last Friday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday he has requested the Governor General to prorogue and recall Parliament for Monday April 18 for a period of three weeks. The Prime Minister’s move follows attempts by Labor and the Greens in the last sitting to prevent the Senate from returning before 10 May in the hopes of preventing a double dissolution. The Prime Minister has said that if the Senate does not pass the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 he will call a double dissolution election for 2 July.
 
The Prime Minister also confirmed the Federal Budget will be brought forward one week to 3 May to allow Opposition Leader Bill Shorten his right of reply and to allow the Senate time to pass an appropriations bill, before the Parliament is potentially dissolved on 11 May – the last possible day a double dissolution can be called. Mr Turnbull’s surprise announcement highlighted tensions within the Government, when it was revealed Treasurer Scott Morrison was not consulted on the move. Victoria has announced it will bring forward its state budget to avoid a potential clash.
 
As the nation effectively enters a 14 week campaign, the Prime Minister may have hoped for better news from the latest Newspoll, which shows Mr Turnbull’s personal approval rating down a further five points, representing a combined fall of 21 points since November 2015. However, in good news for the Coalition, it has edged slightly ahead of Labor on two party-preferred terms, and now sits on 51 per cent.
 
The NSW Electoral Commission announced this week it is withholding $4 million in public funding from the NSW Liberal Party until it reveals the identities of donors who contributed to its 2011 election campaign via Liberal fundraising body the Free Enterprise Foundation. As revealed by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2014, the Foundation was used to hide the identities of illegal donors such as property developers. The announcement has led to renewed calls by the Federal Opposition for the resignation of Cabinet Minister Arthur Sinodinos, who was Finance Director and Treasurer of the NSW Division at the time. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Premier Mike Baird has marked the one year anniversary of the re-election of the Government, with an extensive media interview in which he declared his desire to remain in the job as long as he can. The declaration follows suggestions, earlier this month, the Premier was considering a tilt at federal politics. While the Premier acknowledged there is community anger over a number of issues – such as the WestConnex Motorway and forced council amalgamations – he highlighted his Government’s record on infrastructure. Read the SMH interview here (subscription service).  
 
Meanwhile, Upper House Government Whip Peter Phelps resigned from the position this week following a tense debate within the Government on minimum ethanol mandates. Dr Phelps opposed the legislation, for what he argued criminalised service station owners for the decisions of their customers, and became the first Government MP to cross the floor since its election. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Local Government elections in Queensland last Saturday saw the re-election of Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, with the LNP holding 18 of the wards in Brisbane, to the Labor Party’s five. A number of other high profile mayors were elected, including former state Police Minister Jack Dempsey, who was elected Mayor of Bundaberg. Voters in Queensland also faced a referendum on the question of four year fixed parliamentary terms, with the proposal receiving the approval of more than 53 per cent of voters. Read GRACosway’s note from earlier in the week here.
 
On Tuesday 29 March, the Victorian Government will receive the report from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Government is expected to respond strongly, with several announcements to follow. See the Royal Commission site here.
 
No parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
The Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System Review Report was delivered to the Government this week, with the Government announcing it supports all recommendations in principle. The Government will now work with the Remuneration Tribunal on implementating of the report’s recommendations. See media release: An Independent Parliamentary Entitlements System
 
The Government also released this week its statement on Australia’s FinTech future recognising financial technology (FinTech), part of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. The Statement announced the Government will continue to support the Fintech sector through concessional tax treatment for venture capital investment; commissioning the Productivity Commission to increase data availability and addressing ‘double GST’ treatment of digital currencies.  See media release: Supporting Australia’s FinTech future and the Government’s statement FinTech.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced the formation of a new $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund, to be jointly managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). At the same the Prime Minister announced he was reversing the Abbott Government’s decision to axe both agencies. See media release Turnbull Government taking strong new approach to clean and renewable energy innovation in Australia.
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced the Government will invest in a new supercomputer to allow the Bureau of Meteorology greater capacity to issue forecasts and warnings more regularly and with enhanced accuracy. The announcement coincided with World Meteorological Day and the new computer will be operational in mid-2016. See media release here: Investing in a Bureau of Meteorology for Australia’s future
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has decided to postpone its decision to renew Mantle Mining’s application for an exploration licence covering Bacchus Marsh while the Government’s coal policy is still being developed. The policy will incorporate the outcomes of the Government’s independent review of coal programs currently being undertaken.  See media release: Coal exploration licence over Bacchus Marsh
 
South Australian Minister for Water and the River Murray Ian Hunter announced the Government has commissioned an independent study to assess the feasibility of using water from the Adelaide Desalination Plant to increase irrigation allocations when water supplies are low. The findings will contribute to water allocation decisions made for 2016-17. See media release: Investigation into desalinated water for SA Murray irrigators
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester announced the appointment of Mr Vincent Graham as a Director on the Board of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which manages the nation's interstate rail network. Mr Graham has previously served as the CEO of Networks NSW, CEO of NSW RailCorp and Managing Director of the National Rail Corporation. See media release: Appointment of Australian Rail Track Corporation Director
 
State Developments
 
The Queensland Government has announced that CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd) as the preferred contractor to design and build stage two of the 7.3 kilometre extension of the Gold Coast Light Rail, intended to be in operation for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. See media release: Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 2 on track with contracted appointed
 
Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced the State Government has entered an  agreement with Google to allow users of Google Maps to access train, tram and bus timetable data to plan routes on Victoria’s public transport system. See media release: Victorian Public Transport Joins Google Maps
 
The Victorian Government also announced it has allocated $10.85 million in the forward estimates to maintain the Overland rail service between Melbourne and Adelaide. The Federal Government previously announced it will not continue its funding for the service beyond 30 June 2016. See media release: Labor Invests $10 Million In Overland And Calls On Federal Government To Maintain Funding
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has announced more than 17,000 new aged care places in both residential and home care settings worth about $910 million. Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley said more than 6,000 new home care places will support elderly Australians to stay in their own homes longer. See media release: $910 million boost creates over 17,000 new aged care places
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government will provide $25 million to the state’s genomic sequencing capability project to focus on five disease areas, including immune disorders and cancers of the lymphatic system. The funding will allow 800 patients with genetic conditions to access genetic sequencing over the next two years, which Health Minister Jill Hennessy says will expedite the diagnosis of rare diseases and cancers that usually require invasive testing. See media release: Faster diagnosis for rare diseases and cancers  
 
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.
 
GRACosway is a member of the Clemenger Group.
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