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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
19 June 2015
 
The week began with the Federal Government in a decidedly unsteady position over allegations of government payments to people smugglers, before seeing media attention turn sharply towards the Opposition. While the Government refused to comment on ‘on water matters’ the Opposition too came under question over similar allegations when it was in office.
 
It was a challenging week for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, with the latest Newspoll showing a drop in his approval rating, followed by  suggestions of impropriety during his days as Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union. In an effort to clear his name, Mr Shorten sought to bring forward his appearance at the Royal Commission into Union Corruption and will now appear on 8 July. 
 
The Prime Minister, Minister for Trade Andrew Robb and the Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng signed the China Australia Free Trade Agreement, concluding negotiations that began under the former Howard Government. More than 85 per cent of Australian exports to China will be tariff-free once ratified, in time rising to 95 per cent. See the Minister’s media release here.
 
Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison reached agreement with The Greens to secure passage of the Government’s proposed cuts to the aged pension. Changes to the Pension Assets Test will see the threshold for couples, excluding the family home, fall from $1.15 million to about $820,000 and will save the budget $2.43 billion over the forward estimates. See media release here.
 
Prime Minister Tony Abbott was joined by senior cabinet ministers to release the Developing Northern Australia White Paper. The Paper provides a template for encouraging investment and infrastructure in the Top End and outlines $1.2 billion in new investment with an additional $5 billion Infrastructure Loan Facility, as announced in last month’s budget. Read the White Paper or see GRACosways’s summary here.
 
In the latest Newspoll, Labor leads the Coalition 51:49 in the two-party-preferred vote.
 
South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis delivered his second budget and the first since the Weatherill Government rebooted its policy agenda at the February opening of Parliament. The budget projects a surplus of $43 million in 2015-16 rising to $961 million in 2018-19. See GRACosway’s budget brief here.
 
Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian will deliver the NSW Budget on Tuesday 23 June. GRACosway will bring you coverage of the budget next week.
 
Federal, NSW, VIC, WA, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE
 
Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that Australia will start negotiations on a new Double Taxation Agreement with Germany to update the current agreement signed in 1972. Submissions are invited by 24 June. See the media release: Beginning tax treaty negotiations with Germany
 
The Federal Government and Labor Opposition have reached an agreement on the taxation of biodiesel and fuel ethanol. Excise payable on domestically produced biodiesel and fuel ethanol will slowly rise to approximately 50 per cent of the full petrol and diesel excise rate by 2030-31.  See media release: Government reaches agreement with Labor on taxation of biodiesel and fuel ethanol
 
The Federal Government has announced that the submission period for the Tax White Paper has been extended by six weeks until 24 July 2015 to allow for an additional stakeholder engagement process.  See media release: Tax White Paper consultation process to be extended



RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
The Australian Energy Market Operator released the 2015 National Electricity Forecasting Report which shows electricity consumption is forecast to rise by an average 2.1% per annum over the next three years. See medial release: LNG and rooftop PV – changing electricity consumption in the NEM

State Developments
 
The Victorian Government is calling on the Federal Government to remove Section 7c from the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (Cth), which currently prevents Victoria from adopting a state based scheme. See media release: It’s Time For Abbott To Support Victorian Jobs And Renewables
 
The Tasmania Minister for Primary Industries and Water Jeremy Rockliff tabled the Water Management Amendment (Dam Works) Bill 2015 which includes a range of measures to simplify and streamline the dam works approval process. See media release: New water certainty to give farmers confidence



INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has completed the formal ascension to the Cape Town Convention, allowing Australian airlines to gain access to lower cost finance for aircraft purchases. See media release: Australian Government makes good on Cape Town Convention
 
State Developments
 
In NSW, tenders opened this week for Stage Two of the $114 million upgrade of Narellan Road in Western Sydney, with construction to begin in 2016. See media release: Tenders open for Narellan Road Upgrade
 
The Victorian Government has announced the terms of reference of its Regional Network Development Plan and the make up of the Regional Transport Advisory Group. See media release: Preparations Ramp Up For Regional Public Transport Plan
 
The Queensland Government has announced a $160 million package for major road upgrades on the Gold Coast in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. See media release: Multi-million dollar package for Gold Coast roads
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee held a public hearing on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2015, which was fronted by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Medicines Australia, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Australian Rheumatology Association, Generic Medicines Industry Association and representatives from the departments of Health, and Industry and Science. The Committee is due to report by 23 June. See Committee home page.
 
Following the hearing, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has issued a statement amidst industry concerns regarding the recommendation of biosimilar drugs. The PBAC has recommended that biologics be substituted for biosimilars where medically appropriate and the Government is anticipating potential savings arising from the use of biosimilars. See media release here: Safety of biosimilar medicines and ABC Online: Biosimilar medicines: New class of generic biological drugs to be introduced as cheaper option
 
Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced $372 million will be spent over five years, through a new tiered payment system, to assist medicine compounders continue to deliver chemotherapy drugs on demand to patients and doctors in a timely manner. See media release: $372m to ensure timely access to chemotherapy drugs
 
The Senate Standing Committee on Economics has released its report on the Private Health Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Bill 2015. See report: Private Health Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Bill 2015 [Provisions]

State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has committed $33 million for the construction of the Barwon Health-North facility which will be built in Geelong’s new Northern Arts, Recreation and Community Health and Wellbeing Hub. See media release: Northern Health Hub Chosen For Barwon Health-North
 
The NSW Government has allocated an extra $12 million over four years to the NSW Centre for Medical Cannabis Research and Innovation which will study the benefits of medical cannabis. See media release: Funds for medical cannabis research


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
 
GRACosway is a Member of the Clemenger Group
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