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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
22 April 2016
 
Australians will almost certainly head to the polls for a double dissolution election on 2 July, after the Senate narrowly defeated the Government’s legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), 36 votes to 34. The Prime Minister has confirmed that he will advise the Governor-General to dissolve both houses of parliament and call an election for 2 July after the Federal Budget is handed down on 3 May and appropriations bills are subsequently passed. PM Turnbull has until 11 May to request a double dissolution election for 2 July. The Coalition entered the week trailing Labor in the latest Newspoll, 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis. 
 
The Opposition criticised the Government for failing to present further legislation for debate during this week’s parliamentary sitting, after MPs and senators were especially recalled to Canberra to consider the Government’s two industrial relations bills. Only the ABCC legislation was brought forward for debate and a vote, while the Registered Organisations bill was not considered by the Parliament. Both houses of parliament adjourned on Tuesday – after passing legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal – and will not sit again until Budget week.   
 
The Government kicked off its unofficial election campaign by announcing a $40 billion plan to build 42 surface warships in Adelaide and Perth, generating 2500 long-term jobs to boost the nation’s naval shipbuilding industry. Shipbuilding is shaping up to be a key election issue in South Australia, where independent senator Nick Xenophon criticised the Government’s plan, saying it will add little value to the state’s economy. Further announcements about the successful bidder for Australia’s new fleet of submarines are expected to be made next week, following meetings of the cabinet’s National Security Committee this week. See the Government’s media release here and coverage by the Australian Financial Review here (subscription service).
 
While the Opposition continued to call for a Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking and financial services sector, the Government announced a $127.7 million reform package for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Under the changes, ASIC will be given greater powers through improved data analytics and increased surveillance capabilities. In addition, ASIC’s costs will be recovered from the industry sectors it regulates from 2017-18, as recommended in the Financial System Inquiry. See the Treasurer’s media release here. The Australian Bankers' Association responded to the Government’s moves by announcing its own review of commissions paid to sales staff, and pledging to improve protections for whistle-blowers. See coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).
 
Prime Minister Turnbull launched the Government’s $230 million Cyber Security Strategy in Sydney on Thursday, appointing Children’s eSafety Commissioner Alistair MacGibbon as his special adviser on cyber security matters. The plan includes measures to support the growth of Australian cyber security businesses and foster stronger partnerships between government, academics and the private sector on cyber security. A Cyber Ambassador will also be appointed, to represent Australia on cyber issues at an international level. See the Prime Minister’s media release here and coverage by The Australian here (subscription service).
 
No parliaments sit next week however the NSW Treasurer, Gladys Berejiklian, this week confirmed she would hand down the state’s budget on 21 June.
 


FINANCE
 
The Government released the final report of the independent review of the small amount credit contract (SACC) laws. Key recommendations from the report include retaining existing price caps on SACCs, expanding the SACC protected earnings amount requirement to all consumers and decreasing it to 10 per cent of a customer’s net income, introducing a cap on the cost of consumer leases on household goods and introducing protected earnings amount requirements for lease providers of 10 per cent of all consumer’s net income. See media release: Small amount credit contract final report released
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY
 
Queensland State Development Minister and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham announced an immediate ban on underground coal gasification due to potential risk to the environment and agricultural industries in Queensland. Minister Lynham announced legislation will be introduced to the Parliament by the end of the year. See media release: Underground coal gasification banned in Queensland
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments

The Federal Parliament passed legislation this week to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, after the body recently ordered new minimum pay rates that would disadvantage self-employed truck drivers. Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester confirmed more than $4 million a year will be redirected to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to address safety outcomes through a single national monitoring system for heavy vehicles and other measures. See media release: High-tech surveillance network to target fatigue
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government’s project to add a loop to the Rowsley Crossing section of Victoria’s freight network is underway, with the first tracks being laid. See media release: First tracks laid for new Rowsley Crossing loop
 
The NSW Government has laid electronic message signs providing travel times on the Eastern Distributor,  part of its $14 million traveller information program, which aims to introduce travel time services on Sydney’s road network. See media release: Travel time information for Eastern Distributor to start this week
 


HEALTH
 
The Victorian Government has released a plan to address bullying in the state’s health system, following a report by the Victorian Auditor-General which found widespread harassment in health facilities. Under the strategy, health services could lose funding or be fined for failing to adequately manage workplace bullying and harassment. Staff will also be surveyed regularly to identify areas where bullying is most common. See media release: Tough new plan to crack down on bullying in hospitals  
 
Also in Victoria, Health Minister Jill Hennessy has announced a $1.6 million funding injection for eight health services to introduce new technology for patient record sharing. The new system will enable doctors to send electronic discharge summaries straight to a patient’s GP following a hospital visit, offering improved security and timelier information sharing. See media release: Reboot for hospital ICT to provide safer patient care
 

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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