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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
18 March 2016
 
The Government’s position in the polls improved this week, with the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll showing the Coalition ahead on 53 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote. Despite a deterioration in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s personal approval ratings – down seven points on the previous poll – the latest results place the Government in a commanding position, with Treasurer Scott Morrison confirming company tax cuts will be his priority in the upcoming May budget, and shelving personal income tax cuts until the budget position improves.
 
After a marathon all night sitting on Thursday, the Senate finally passed voting reform legislation early Friday afternoon. Passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016 introduces optional preferential above the line voting for the Senate, and was secured with the support of the Greens and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. The Bill’s passage through Parliament after more than 40 hours of debate has greatly added to speculation the Government will now move for a double dissolution election. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
The Government surprised many this week following announcement of the ‘effects test’, a key recommendation of the Harper Review into Australia’s competition laws. The Government will seek amendments to section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act that will introduce new provisions preventing firms with substantial market power from acting in a manner that reduces competition. See media release: Fixing competition policy to drive economic growth and jobs
 
Treasurer Morrison announced on Friday that he has reached agreement with his state and territory counterparts on amendments to Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations that will now see the sale of critical state-owned infrastructure assets to private foreign investors subject to review. The announcement follows last year’s controversial sale of Darwin Port to the Chinese Landbridge Group. See Treasurer’s media release here.
 
Meanwhile, Australia’s newest Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson was sworn in on Tuesday and delivered his maiden speech on Wednesday, in which he outlined his opposition to the national curriculum and support for a debt ceiling. Senator Paterson – who is the Liberal Party’s youngest ever Senator – is the former Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.
 
Former federal industry minister Greg Combet has quit as Chairman of South Australia's Automotive Transformation Taskforce to assume a new Victorian government role as Defence Industry Advocate. Minister for Industry Lily D'Ambrosio said Combet will promote the State’s defence industries, which contribute up to $8 billion to Victoria’s economy annually. See media release here.
 
In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad released the updated State Infrastructure Plan, which establishes a new $500 million State Infrastructure Fund of which $180 million will be allocated for ‘significant regional infrastructure projects’. The Plan outlines the State’s future infrastructure needs and advocates partnering with the private sector, as well as implementing a number of reform initiatives. See the Premier’s media release here and the Plan here.
 
Also in Queensland, voters face the first state referendum since 1992 regarding the introduction of four year fixed terms for State Parliament. Queensland is currently the only state without four year terms and, along with Tasmania, one of only two states that does not have fixed terms. Queenslanders also face local council elections this weekend, with parties making their final pitch to voters on Friday.
 
In Western Australia, former federal Defence Minister Stephen Smith saw his audacious bid to topple party leader Mark McGowan and become Leader of the Opposition resoundingly rejected by a special party room meeting. Smith had hoped to lead the Party to the next election from outside of Parliament in a similar manner to Campbell Newman, citing his lack of faith in McGowan’s ability to lead the Party to victory as motivation.
 
The NSW, Victorian, SA and WA parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison introduced the Tax Laws Amendment (Tax Incentives for Innovation) Bill 2016 to Parliament this week, which forms part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The Bill includes a tax incentive for early stage investors and new arrangements for Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (ESVCLP). A 20 per cent non-refundable tax offset capped at $200,000 will be available to early stage investors, while the maximum size for new and existing ESVLCPs will increase to $200 million.  See media release: Turnbull Government introduces tax incentives to boost growth and jobs
 
Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer introduced the Financial System Legislation Amendment (Resilience and Collateral Protection) Bill 2016 to Parliament, which seeks to clarify domestic regulation governing the trading of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives. The Bill will bring Australia closer into alignment with the US, Europe and Japan regarding international margin requirements on non-centrally cleared derivatives. See media release: Financial System Resilience Bill
 
Minister O’Dwyer also introduced the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Choice of Fund) Bill 2016, which will allow employees a choice of superannuation fund as part of the Government’s response to the Financial System Inquiry (FSI). See media release: Government moves to give more employees choice
 
The Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Transparency Measures) Bill 2016 introduced this week will improve the information available to fund members when comparing fund performance. Superannuation funds will be required to establish product dashboards for their ten largest investment options. See media release: Improving transparency in the superannuation industry
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg visited the Gorgon LNG Project in Western Australia this week to witness the project’s first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The $70 billion project, operated by Chevron in joint venture with ExxonMobil, Shell, Osaka Gas, Tokyo Gas and Chubu Electric Power, is the largest private investment project undertaken in Australia. The Gorgon project has an expected 40-year lifespan, with the majority of gas to be exported to Asia.  See media release: Gorgon LNG Project produces first shipment
 
State Developments
 
Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio released a draft stakeholder engagement strategy for the State’s mining regulator Earth Resources Regulation. Once finalised, the Strategy will guide the Regulator’s processes and operations to ensure they are in line with the Government’s focus on the health and wellbeing of local communities. A new compliance strategy is also being developed as part of the reform process.  See media release: Giving Victorians confidence in our mining regulator and the draft Stakeholder Engagement Strategy 2016–2018
 
NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant and Minister for Industry, Resource and Energy Anthony Roberts announced that the billion dollar Dubbo Zirconia Project will proceed after being granted its final Environmental Protection Licence following approval of the mining lease in December last year. The mine will produce highly valued and sought after minerals, including zirconium, hafnium, niobium, light rare earths and heavy rare earths.  See media release: Billion Dollar Dubbo Rare Metals and Rare Earths Mine an Economic Boon
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Infrastructure Darren Chester and Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan signed a joint funding agreement for the upgrade of intersections on the Calder Freeway and Station Road near Gisborne. The Federal Government will provide $5 million and the Victorian Government $1.7 million under the agreement, with construction to be completed by the end of the year. See media release: Major works get started to improve the Calder Freeway—Station Road intersections at Gisborne
 
State Developments
 
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan have announced an increase to the Government’s initial order of High Capacity Metro Trains from 37 to 65 seven-carriage sets, the single biggest order of trains in Victoria’s history. The new trains will begin arriving in 2018 and will be deployed on the Cranbourne Pakenham line. See media release: Biggest Train Order In Victoria’s History
 

HEALTH
 
Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley addressed the Medicines Australia annual parliamentary dinner on Tuesday, where she spoke about Federal Government measures to support innovation in the pharmaceutical sector. The Minister also indicated the Government’s response to the Review of Medicines and Medical Devices will soon be released, and flagged her interest in making Australia a preferred location for clinical trials. Read the full speech here.     
 
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) released the first Private Health Insurance Report Card, which compares the rebate levels offered by major private health insurers on 22 of the most common hospital procedures. AMA President Professor Brian Owler urged consumers to seek more information about their private health policies. See the AMA’s media release here.
 
State Developments
 
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has signed an agreement with the Commonwealth Government on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which will see the scheme rolled out across Queensland from July 2016. The Premier said more than 90,000 people with a disability stand to benefit from the NDIS, which will also create up to 13,000 jobs in Queensland over three years. See media release: Landmark NDIS agreement reached for Queensland rollout.
 
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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