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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
20 February 2015
 
Pre-budget speculation lifted a notch this week with media reports suggesting the Government was looking at including the family home in the pension assets test to drive savings.  Social Services Minister Scott Morrison hosed down the suggestion but said a debate was needed with the release of the Intergenerational Report in coming weeks.  Today, Minister Morrison released the long-awaited Productivity Commission report into childcare and early childhood learning which recommended combining existing payments into a single child-based subsidy, stronger means testing, and including nannies as an eligible service.  The report’s recommendations will inform the Government’s families’ policy due to be released in coming months.
 
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will deliver a major speech on national security to the Parliament on Monday where he is expected to outline a new national security package, including a policy of revoking Australian citizenship from dual nationals involved in terrorist activities.  The House of Representatives will also debate the Government’s controversial proposal to require telecommunications companies to keep metadata for two years, a regime that will potentially cost $400 million per annum.
 
Late last Friday, PM Abbott replaced “Father of the House” Phillip Ruddock as Chief Government Whip with Scott Buchholz in a move that sparked a mixed reaction from his colleagues.  Andrew Nikolic will become a Deputy Whip.
 
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews today announced the acquisition strategy for the Future Submarine Program revealing that France, Germany and Japan will be invited to participate in a competitive evaluation process, expected to take 10 months.  The Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) will be able to compete if it partners with a company from one of the three countries.  See the media release here.
 
Meanwhile, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and SA Minister for Defence Industries Martin Hamilton Smith have launched a 10-year strategy for the local defence sector.  See here.
 
Following the declaration of all seats in Queensland last week, Labor under Annastacia Palaszczuk has formed government and 14 new ministers have been sworn in.  See GRACosway’s substantive brief on the new Queensland Government here with the full ministry list and machinery of government changes.

QLD Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg today announced his Shadow Cabinet.  For the full listing see here.
 
In NSW, Labor Leader Luke Foley released the Opposition’s infrastructure plan ahead of the March election, detailing projects to be funded without the leasing of state electricity assets.
 
Also in NSW, barrister Alister Henskens will contest the seat of Ku-ring-gai for the Liberal Party at the March election, following former Premier Barry O’Farrell’s decision to retire.
 
In staffing changes, Transport for NSW Director General Dave Stewart has resigned to head the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet.
 
Federal (including Senate Estimates), VIC, SA, WA and NT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE

Treasurer Joe Hockey and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr have signed the first agreement under the Abbott Government’s Asset Recycling Initiative, which will see the ACT Government invest proceeds from privatisations into the Capital Metro light rail project.  See media release: First Asset Recycling Initiative agreement signed today
 
Treasurer Hockey also announced that from next month, retail investors in Commonwealth Government Securities will be able to exchange their holdings for the equivalent exchange-traded Australian Government Bond.  See media release: Retail investors opportunity to exchange CGS for eAGBs
 
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced that the Government will consult on proposals to lift the professional, ethical and education standards in the financial services industry following the final report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services inquiry into the matter.  Consultation will occur until June.  See media release and Committee report
 
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman (ACCC) Rod Sims has announced that the Commission will focus on cartel conduct in government procurement, truth in advertising, competition and consumer issues in health and industry codes in 2015.  See media release: ACCC announces priorities and strives for tougher penalties
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane has switched on Carnegie’s Perth Wave Energy Project in WA, a project supported by $13.1 million in Federal Government funding.  The renewable energy project will power HMAS Stirling.  See media release: Wave energy milestone demonstrates Australian ingenuity

State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has announced that the Essential Services Commission will conduct a review of energy company hardship practices to ensure that companies are not disconnecting customers without offering them assistance in paying their bills.  See the media release: Energy company hardship practices to be reviewed
 
The Victorian Government is providing $200,000 to the town of Newstead to make it the first Australian town to be completely powered by renewable energy. See the media release: Newstead to become out first fully renewable town
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has announced it is investing $60 million in the Tasmanian Irrigation’s Tranche II scheme. The scheme is designed to deliver 40,000 additional megalitres of water to landholders and communities throughout Tasmania, at 95% reliability.  See media release: Investing in Tasmanian jobs, productivity and water infrastructure
 
The Federal Government has approved WA’s Jandakot Airport 2014 Master Plan which sets out the airport's strategic direction and intended uses for the airport site for the next 20 years.  See media release: Jandakot Airport Master Plan approved

State Developments

NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant and Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay announced 77 projects on council-owned roads would be largely funded as part of the NSW Government’s $42.85 million Fixing Country Roads program.  The majority of councils are due to start work in the coming months.  See media release: Fixing country roads: $42.85 million to help upgrade council-owned freight infrastructure
 
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the establishment of the Level Crossings Removal Authority, tasked with removing 50 level crossing across the state.  $100 million has been invested in the project.  See media release: Work Begins: Removing Our 50 Worst Level Crossings
 
In WA, the $69 million contract for the upgrade of part of the North West Coastal Highway has been awarded with work to begin next month.  See media release: Joint Media Statement - Construction to start on 107km upgrade of North West Coastal Highway
 
The WA Government has released its response to a parliamentary committee inquiry into the management of the state’s freight rail network and will now work with CBH and Brookfield Rail to determine whether a viable business case can be developed for Tier 3 rail lines.  See media release: Government responds to freight rail inquiry
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced that she has approved the drug Myozyme for the treatment of child Pompe disease patients on the Life Saving Drugs Programme (LSDP).  See media release: Life Saving Drug for young Pompe Patients
 
Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash has outlined the Government’s response to the Hepatitis A outbreak sparked by suspected contaminated berries.  Measures include the establishment of a National Incident Room by the Department of Health to oversee the government’s response.  See media release: Action on Hepatitis A

State Developments

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy opened the Stage 3 redevelopment of Frankston Hospital, which includes a new and larger emergency department for one of Victoria’s busiest hospitals.  See media release: New and Improved Frankston Hospital now Open
 
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Australian Medical Association NSW (AMA) and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation NSW (ASMOF), to strengthen engagement with clinicians in the development of health policy.  See media release: NSW Government Strengthens Clinician Engagement
 
The NSW Government also unveiled 12 new mobile breast screening vans this week which will join the existing 3 vans to tour 150 towns and cities across the state.  See media release: State-of-the-art Breastscreen Fleet to Serve Women Across NSW
 
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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