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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
11 November 2016
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump on his “historic election victory” and confirmed that Australia will seek to maintain its close bilateral ties with the United States under Mr Trump’s leadership. Mr Turnbull told reporters he spoke to the President-elect on Thursday, with the pair discussing the importance of the US-Australia strategic alliance along with regional security issues and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten – who publicly backed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – said Australia’s relationship with the US is “far bigger than any individual” yet our country respects the decision of the American people. 
 
Closer to home, Labor increased its lead over the Coalition in the latest Newspoll this week, 53-47 on a two-party preferred basis. In Canberra, the Senate rejected legislation to establish a same-sex marriage plebiscite, and uncertainty remains around whether the Government will secure the Upper House support required to cut superannuation tax concessions and amend the ‘backpacker tax’ before Parliament rises in December. Immigration also remained on the national agenda, with Labor voting against the Government’s legislation to institute a lifetime ban on obtaining an Australian visa for asylum seekers who arrive by boat.
 
Back in the Senate, the Government’s motions to refer former Family First Senator Bob Day and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Senator Rod Culleton to the High Court were supported, which follows concerns about the constitutional validity of their respective July election. Senator Pauline Hanson supported the motion relating to her Party colleague, saying the issue “goes to the very heart of our democracy” and advocating that politicians should remain accountable to the Australian people. Labor accused the Government of mishandling concerns over Bob Day’s electorate office being in a building he once owned however, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten arguing Prime Minister Turnbull was aware of the potential issue but had “kept secret” the Government’s concerns.
 
Attorney-General George Brandis has withdrawn controversial restrictions on the Solicitor-General’s capacity to provide legal advice to ministers, pre-empting Labor’s moves to disallow the direction with the support of Senate crossbenchers. The direction was at the centre of a dispute between Senator Brandis and Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, who recently resigned over the matter. A report tabled by the Labor and crossbench-dominated Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee earlier this week found that the Attorney-General ‘misled’ Parliament by indicating he had consulted with the Solicitor-General prior to making the direction.
 
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights will hold inquiries into matters relating to freedom of speech in Australia, following a request by Attorney-General George Brandis. The Committee will explore whether the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 – including section 18C – imposes “unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech”, while also examining the adequacy of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s complaints-handling procedures. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Turnbull said there was “considerable merit” in holding a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, while noting that any change to the Act will require “strong public support and consensus”.
 
The Coalition announced that Australia has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, with Prime Minister Turnbull saying the Government looks forward to “actively and fully implementing” its obligations under the “watershed” Agreement. Australia becomes one of 100 nations to ratify the Paris Agreement, which confirms the target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
 
The NSW, SA, WA, NT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week. The 2017 federal parliamentary sitting calendar was formally released this week and is available online here.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer announced the Government will proceed with reforms to provide increased protections for retail investors of over-the-counter derivatives. The new client money protection reforms will remove current exemptions that allow Australian financial service licence holders (Firms) to utilise retail client money for a range of purposes, including working capital. Upon passage of the reforms, client funds will be held in trust and returned to clients in the event of Firm insolvency. See media release: Government moves to protect client monies.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

State Developments
 
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Steven Miles has announced new requirements for all mines presently under development in Queensland, including an obligation to apply for associated water licenses. Minister Miles said that the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 reverses the previous Government’s relatively unregulated approach to mines’ use of groundwater. The Palaszczuk Government secured the support of the Katter Australia Party (KAP) and Independent MPs to pass the legislation. See media statement: Parliament passes new laws fulfilling Palaszczuk Government commitment to protect groundwater.
 
Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham has announced the introduction of legislation to ban the sole use of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers on major resource projects. The legislation will require major resource projects to consider employing locals and make it an offence to post an advertisement in a way that precludes local residents from applying. See media release: Queensland Government moves to deliver choice for resource communities’ workers.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has announced the Federal Government will shortly commence work on a number of upgrades to the Bruce Highway in central Queensland. The works represent a $46.7 million investment and form part of the $6.7 billion to be spent on the highway between 2013 and 2023. See media release: More Bruce Highway safety upgrades in Central Queensland.
 
Minister Chester also announced that works have commenced on the Forrestfield Airport Link. The new $1.96 billion railway will connect the eastern suburbs of Perth and the CBD. Premier Colin Barnett said that the 8.4 kilometre rail line will include three new train stations and provide a 20 minute commute to the CBD. See media release: Sod Turning Ceremony: Linking the airport to the city.
 
State Developments
 
NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay has announced $1 billion worth of upgrade projects relating to the Pacific Highway have been put out to tender; the works are for a 90 kilometre section of the highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina on the State’s north coast. Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Darren Chester said the project is jointly funded by the Federal and NSW Governments. See media release: $1 billion of Pacific Highway works between Woolgoolga and Ballina put to tender.
 
Tasmanian Minister for Infrastructure Rene Hidding announced that Uber and other ride-sharing services are legal in Tasmania as of this week. The State’s Transport Commissioner has confirmed that ride-sharing services will not be required to secure a taxi or hire vehicle license to operate. Uber is yet to commence operations in Tasmania. See media release: Uber now legal in Tasmania.
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley announced $20.5 million in additional funding over four years for the McGrath Breast Cancer Nurses scheme. The commitment will fund up to 57 nursing positions in 55 locations across Australia, with the majority located in regional and rural areas. This follows the $18.5 million funding arrangement for the McGrath Foundation under a 2013-14 Budget measure. See media release: $20.5 million to continue funding for McGrath Breast Care Nurses.
 
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt has opened applications for the Dementia and Aged Care Services (DACS) Research and Innovation Funding Round, with $34 million in grants on offer for innovative projects directed at supporting the ageing population. Successful applicants will receive funding for projects through to 30 June 2019; applications close on 20 December 2016. See media release: $34 million for Dementia and Aged Care Services research.
 
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice announced the establishment of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council, which will consider reforms in disability employment and carer support as well as the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Ms Prentice and Ms Keran Howe, the Executive Director of Women with Disabilities Victoria, will co-chair the Council. See media release: National Disability and Carers Advisory Council announced.

State Developments
 
Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced the key findings of the initial stage of a genomic sequencing capability project under the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance this week. The $25 million project will enable approximately 2,000 patients to gain access to genomic sequencing tests over the next four years to encourage a faster diagnosis of complex genetic conditions. See media release: Faster diagnosis for kids with rare diseases.
 
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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