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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
11 March 2016
 
It was another tough week for the Government at the polls, with the latest Newspoll showing dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister has reached an all-time high, and the two-party-preferred vote remains unchanged at 50-50. The Government’s woes were further compounded by the release of journalist Niki Savva’s book examining the demise of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, which dominated much of the week’s headlines. 
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a stern warning to non-Government senators on Friday to pass stalled industrial relations legislation or risk the prospect of a double dissolution. The Prime Minister continued to leave the option of dissolving both houses on the table however, saying a double dissolution would not even be talked about if the Senate was not frustrating the Government’s efforts to clean up the union movement.
 
The Prime Minister also announced on Friday that the Federal Government will take the lead role in constructing the high-speed Western Sydney rail link between the city and Sydney’s second airport at Badgerys Creek, while outlining his vision of ‘30 minute cities’ – where people can reach any point in their metropolis within 30 minutes. The NSW Government also announced it has commissioned a formal study into extending its $10 billion Sydney Metro line out from Bankstown to Liverpool and possibly on to Badgerys Creek. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Conflict over hospital funding escalated this week, with Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy stating the cuts to Commonwealth funding will mean longer waiting times for elective surgery. Meanwhile, Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the Victorian Government had falsely inflated its hospital activity to receive more Commonwealth funding after being alerted to the situation by the Administrator of the National Health Funding Pool. See Minister Ley’s statement here and Minister Hennessy’s statement here.
 
Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs James Paterson has been appointed to the casual Senate vacancy left by the retirement of Michael Ronaldson in a joint sitting of the Victorian houses of parliament this week. Mr Paterson will now head to Canberra and be sworn in as a Liberal Party Senator on Tuesday.
 
Former Independent Member for New England Tony Windsor has confirmed he will contest the seat of New England against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce at the upcoming election, citing dissatisfaction at the Government’s approval of Shenhua Watermark mine near the Liverpool Plains and the loss of a defence jobs in Tamworth for his desire to return to parliament. Meanwhile, Liberal National Member for Brisbane Teresa Gambaro announced she will not be contesting at the next election, generating speculation that former Premier Campbell Newman may put up his hand to contest the marginal seat.
 
The Prime Minister has appointed Dr Michele Bruniges AM as Secretary of the Department of Education and Training. Dr Bruniges is currently the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education and will commence her five year term at the Commonwealth Department in April 2016. See announcement here.
 
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas welcomed the passage of legislation this week which allows for the sale of the Port of Melbourne after the Government reached agreement with the Opposition on the contentious issue of compensation clauses. The Treasurer said he hopes the Port will fetch ‘at least’ $5.3 billion and not be subject to any foreign investment restrictions. See the Treasurer’s media release here.
 
In NSW, Ryan Park has been promoted to Shadow Treasurer in a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle prompted by the decision of current Deputy Labor Leader Linda Burney to run for the federal seat of Barton. Former Shadow Treasurer Michael Daley has been appointed to the portfolios of Planning and Infrastructure as well as Gaming and Racing, while Member for Lakemba Jihad Dib has been elevated to Shadow Cabinet to oversee the Education portfolio. Several other first term MPs also received promotions. Read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
 
Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to rule out calling an early election after the resignation of Cairns MP Rob Pyne from the ALP, leaving the Government with an equal number of seats as the Opposition. Mr Pyne moved to the crossbench after expressing disappointment at the Government’s neglect of his electorate and dismay at the ‘argy bargy’ of politics.
 
The Federal, NSW, Queensland, West Australian, Northern Territory and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer has released a discussion paper on the aim of Australia’s superannuation system, which will examine the best way to enshrine these objectives in law. The paper is now open to public comment, with submissions closing on 6 April 2016. See media release: Consultation on the objective of superannuation or make a submission here.
 
The Business Council of Australia released Realising Our Full Potential: Tax Directions for a Transitioning Economy at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) forum. The paper outlines a three stage approach to transforming the tax system, including lowering personal income taxes, reducing the company income tax rate, replacing inefficient state taxes, simplifying the tax system and introducing appropriate integrity measures. See media release: Business Council of Australia Releases Tax Directions for a Transitioning Economy
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg welcomed the release of the Gas Market Report 2015 by the Chief Economist of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The report notes that despite current challenges, the long-term outlook for Australia’s gas export industry remains positive as it strives to become the world’s largest LNG exporter by 2019-20. See media release: Australia to benefit from growing gas demand in our region and see the report here.
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt has announced the Government will expand the National Carbon Offset Standard to include cities, precincts and buildings. The Government has also established an Expert Committee, which will first meet in April 2016 with the aim of developing Australia’s first officially certified and operating carbon neutral precinct by January 2017.  See media release: Certified carbon neutral precincts a breath of fresh air for our cities.
 
Minister Hunt and Senator for Queensland Ian Macdonald have announced the Government will contribute $8.4 million towards the construction of a 5 MW solar PV plant on the outskirts of Normanton in far North-West Queensland.  The plant will be a joint venture between Scouller Energy and development partner Canadian Solar. See media release: Far North Queensland to benefit from new solar farm
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio has introduced the National Electricity (Victoria) Further Amendment Bill 2015 to bring Victoria into line with national arrangements that set stricter timeframes for electricity distributors when connecting small-scale energy generators to the grid, including households with rooftop solar panels.  See media release: Faster solar connections for Victorians
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Prime Minister Turnbull, along with Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne, announced the new Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) this week. Part of the Government’s Defence White Paper announcement, the CDIC will be headquartered in Adelaide and receive $230 million in Federal Government funding over 10 years, bringing together the private sector, Defence and AusIndustry to help drive innovation in Australia’s defence industries. See media release: The Centre for Defence Industry Capability
 
Prime Minister Turnbull and CEO of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) John Fullerton announced this week that a 1,200km upgrade of the east-west national rail network between Adelaide and Tarcoola will be fast tracked. The upgrade will boost freight capacity and efficiency, with stronger tracks allowing for faster speeds and axle weights to increase from 23 tonne to 25 tonne. See media release: ARTC to Deliver Significant Rail Upgrade
 
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester has announced the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has awarded more than $11 million in contracts in recent weeks for technical and engineering advisory services in relation to the Inland Rail Project. See media release: More than $11 million in Inland Rail contracts awarded
 
Minister Chester also held the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program stakeholders’ forum in Darwin on Wednesday to discuss a $100 million commitment by the Federal Government towards improving key cattle roads. Minister Chester said successful projects eligible for funding under the Program were expected to be announced from mid-2016 onwards. See media release: Consultation continues on $100 million Beef Roads Programme
 
State Developments
 
Federal Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher and NSW Minister for Roads Duncan Gay were on site to witness the commencement of work this week on the M4 East tunnels linking Homebush and Haberfield at Cintra Park in Concord. Part of the WestConnex motorway, the M4 East is expected to be complete by mid-2019, while the entire motorway is scheduled for completion in 2023. See media release: Ground Broken For WestConnex Tunnels
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the Government is considering reforms to improve private health insurance transparency and allow consumers to compare ‘apples with apples’ when shopping around for policies. Minister Ley said the Government is continuing to consult with stakeholders on these and other reforms as part of the Government’s examination of the sector. See Minister Ley’s statement: Greater transparency needed to help consumers debunk junk policies
 
The Grattan Institute released Chronic failure in primary care, a report on the significant flaws in Australia’s primary healthcare system, which suggests poor management of conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes are costing the health system $320 million every year in avoidable hospitalisations. The report recommends a shift away from one-off payments to visit a GP and a move toward more integrated, long-term models of care. See media release: Poor management of chronic disease costs more than $320 million a year
 
State Developments
 
NSW Health and the City of Sydney are investigating the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Sydney CBD after four men found to be infected were hospitalised. Public health units have begun testing cooling towers and air-conditioning units in the Town Hall area for the bacteria. See media release: NSW Health investigates CBD Legionnaires' link
 

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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