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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
27 March 2015
 
In the final sitting week before the budget, the parliament paused for a day on Monday to reflect on the life of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.  Later in the week, the Senate passed the government’s controversial data retention laws, the fourth tranche of national security legislation for Attorney-General George Brandis, which will force telecommunications providers to keep individuals' phone and internet use for two years.  The government is now widely expected to release the Taxation White Paper and the final report of the Competition Policy Review early next week.
                                                                                        
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, will be appointed Chief of the Army in May and Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Davies will be appointed Chief of the Air Force in July.
 
The Prime Minister will head to Singapore on the weekend to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.
 
The Prime Minister announced an additional $100 million in new funding for the Great Barrier Reef Trust to support the implementation of a new Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan, jointly released by the Federal and Queensland governments last weekend.
 
In an address to the Australia China Business Council, Treasurer Joe Hockey said that Australia is considering its position in joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) before Tuesday’s deadline to sign a memorandum of understanding.  Treasurer Hockey listed best practice governance principles Australia would like to see applied to the new body in his speech.
 
Long-time Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason announced that he will retire from politics before the May budget.  He gave his final speech to the Senate this week.  Also in the Senate, former ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher was sworn in to replace Labor’s Kate Lundy who has now retired.
 
The Productivity Commission released terms of reference for an inquiry looking into the most cost-effective way of developing mobile broadband capability for public safety agencies.  See the review homepage here.
 
In Defence, media reports suggest the Government will soon release the findings of the David Peever-led First Principles Review into the Defence Department and its agencies, recommending a major reform package.
 
This week’s Newspoll shows Labor leading the Coalition 51:49 in the two-party-preferred vote.
 
In Queensland, the 55th Parliament was officially opened this week with Independent Peter Wellington becoming Speaker.
 
Voters go to the polls tomorrow in the NSW state election, with Premier Mike Baird hoping to better Labor’s Luke Foley to secure a second-term for the Coalition Government.  GRACosway will bring you a final wrap of the campaign later today.
 
No parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE

The Review of Retail Life Insurance Advice, chaired by John Trowbridge and commissioned jointly by the Financial Services Council (FSC) and Association of Financial Advisers, has been released.  The report includes 11 recommendations, including steps to minimise conflicts of interest in remuneration and capping commissions.  The Federal Government will consider the findings in the context of responding to the Financial System Inquiry.  See the Assistant Treasurer’s media release: Review of Retail Life Insurance Advice, the full report, and the FSC media release
 
Minister for Small Business Bruce Bilson has introduced a bill to Parliament, which if passed, will change the tax treatment of employee share schemes.  See media release: More restoring and rebuilding for Australian business
 
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has released a consultation paper on the professional standards of financial advisers based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.  Submissions close 7 May.  See media release: Professional standards of financial advisers
 
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue has released its report into taxation disputes, which includes recommending that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) establish a new appeals area within the ATO.  See the report here: Tax disputes
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt released a consultation paper on the Review of the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) and the Carbon Neutral Program.  Under the NCOS scheme companies are able to voluntarily offset their carbon emissions.  Submissions on the paper close 22 April.  See media release: Consultation invited on review of the National Carbon Offset Standard and the review homepage
 
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has also called for submissions on the planned Emissions Reduction Fund safeguard mechanism, a process to ensure that abatement is not offset by rises in emissions elsewhere.  Submissions on the consultation paper close 27 April.  See media release: Safeguard paper released for consultation: government to achieve targets
 
Negotiations on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) have not been successful so far, with the Government now said to be looking at dealing with Senate crossbenchers if Labor won’t settle for the preferred target of 32,000 gigawatt hours.  See the Australian Financial Review (AFR): Solar industry fears it will lost out under the proposed RET deal

State Developments
 
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced changes to wind farm planning laws that will reduce the residential veto on proposed wind turbine developments from 2km to 1km.  See media release: Victoria to Lead the Way on Renewable Energy
 
WA Energy Minister Mike Nahan has outlined the Government’s proposed reform package for the State’s electricity industry, which includes giving household’s a choice in determining their electricity retailer.  The Australian Energy Regulator will also assume responsibility for the regulation of the Western Power electricity network.  See media release: Government Energised for Electricity Reform
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has allocated $5 million for six projects as part of the SA River Murray Sustainability Program.  For details, see media release: River Murray funding for economic development projects
 
The Federal Government has approved $11 million for upgrade works on the Queensland Outback Way.  See the media release: Funding approved for Outback Way in Queensland

State Developments

WA Transport Minister Dean Nalder announced a traffic bypass around the town of New Norcia.  The project is expected to cost $30 million, with an additional $10 million in floodway upgrades, and is due to be delivered by 2017.  See media release: New Norcia bypass funding locked in
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced $123.5 million in grants for over 100 researchers and projects under the National Health and Medical Research Council grants.  See media release: $120 million for tomorrow’s medical breakthrough
 
Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield announced the appointment of Mr David Tune AO PSM as Chair of the Government’s Aged Care Sector Committee.  See media release for all the committee members here: David Tune to Chair Abbott Government’s Aged Care Sector Committee

State Developments

In Victoria, new smoking bans on the grounds and entrances to schools, child care centres and hospitals will begin in April.  See media release: New Smoking Bans to Start at Schools and Hospitals
 
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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