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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
4 March 2016
 
Tensions flared within the Government this week amid reports the AFP had been called in to investigate the leaking of sensitive information from the Defence White Paper regarding the deferred delivery of Australia’s next generation of submarines. Comments made by Tony Abbott – who said he was flabbergasted by the decision to delay their delivery – have been widely interpreted as a veiled swipe at Prime Minister Turnbull.
 
Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield announced the long-awaited media law reforms, with legislation introduced into the Lower House on Tuesday. The reforms seek the abolition of both the two-out-of-three and reach rules, and introduce higher local content requirements, but have angered the industry who say the changes do not address broadcaster licencing fees. Minister Fifield has said this issue will be considered in the May Budget. See the Minister’s release here.
 
Senate voting reform legislation is set to progress through Parliament, with the Government agreeing to the Greens’ amendments to the Bill that will allow for optional preferential voting below the line as well as above. The latest amendments follow a one day hearing on the legislation earlier in the week and also include greater vote-saving provisions and come with a guarantee from the Government that a double dissolution election won’t be held before the end of June.
 
Meanwhile, Gary Gray has stood down as Shadow Special Minister of State following his declaration of support for the proposed Senate voting reforms, which are contrary to Labor’s position. Mr Gray, who is retiring at the upcoming election, will remain in Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has appointed Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor Shadow Special Minister of State.
 
The ALP is set to lose yet another Federal West Australian Parliamentarian following the retirement of Senator Joe Bullock, who announced this week he could not support the Party’s stance on same sex marriage. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten revealed the Party’s National Executive will determine Senator Bullock’s replacement and clears the way for Mr Shorten’s preferred candidate, ‘father of reconciliation’ Pat Dodson. The Executive will also determine pre-selection candidates for the NSW federal seats of Barton and Hunter, and the state seat of Canterbury. Joel Fitzgibbon will contest the seat of Hunter, while current State Member for Canterbury, NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney, confirms she will stand for the federal seat of Barton. Read more in the SMH coverage here (subscription service).
 
The Productivity Commission has called on the Government to review anti-dumping provisions, warning existing laws may be harmful to national productivity. In a research report published this week, the Commission claims that nearly all of the efficiency and fairness arguments in support of the existing regime lack credibility. Read the report here.
 
NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian delivered a keynote speech on Monday, in which she foreshadowed a possible reduction in the number of government departments, agencies and state owned corporations following recommendations from the Government’s Commission of Audit. Ms Berejiklian said streamlining government structures would better enable the delivery of key services and infrastructure to the people of NSW. Read more of the Treasurer’s comments in the SMH here (subscription service).
 
Also in NSW, Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello announced a Taskforce and hotline to combat compulsory third party (CTP) insurance fraud ahead of a government review of the State’s $2.2 billion CTP insurance scheme. See the Minister’s media release here and read more in the AFR here (subscription service).
 
The NSW, Victorian, South Australian, ACT and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week. 


FINANCE

Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer announced Vickki McFadden has been appointed President of the Takeovers Panel. A number of new members were also appointed to the Board for a three year period. See media release: Takeovers Panel appointments
 
The Corporations Amendment (Financial Advice Measures) Bill passed Parliament this week. The Bill makes amendments that improve financial advice for customers, including increasing the renewal opt-in notice period from 30 to 60 days, further clarifying client-pays and intra-fund advice provisions, expanding education and training provisions for financial services professionals, and introducing limits to regulation-making power that ensures any future cases resulting in conflicted remuneration are resolved.  See media release: FOFA amendments pass the Parliament
 
The Tax Laws Amendment (Implementation of the Common Reporting Standard) Bill 2015 also passed Parliament this week. The Common Reporting Standard was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to stop cross-border tax evasion. The Standard will be implemented by more than 95 jurisdictions and commence on 1 July 2017, with information exchange between jurisdictions to start in 2018. See media release: Tougher measures to tackle tax evasion pass Parliament
 
The Corporations Amendment (Life Insurance Remuneration Arrangements) Bill 2016 passed the lower house on Thursday, despite opposition from Government MP, Member for Forde Bert van Manen, due to the significant damage it will inflict on independent advisors. The bill is expected to be put to the Senate in the next sitting. Read coverage in the AFR here (subscription service)
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
The Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg has welcomed the completion of the Eastern Gas Pipeline (EGP). The $150 million project will increase the pipeline’s capacity by 20 per cent and is underwritten by a 15-year gas transportation agreement between Jemena and AGL Energy.  See media release: Investment continues in Australia’s gas infrastructure and Greater gas security for NSW.
 
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne has commended the collaboration between agribusiness Emerald Grain and mining company Iron Road on their plan to develop a multi-commodity distribution network in South Australia. In conjunction with the Central Eyre Iron Project, the new development will allow third parties like Emerald Grain access to transport facilities designed to support mining and ore processing operations.  See media release:  New SA grain distribution network strengthens export outlook  
 
State Developments
 
The Queensland Government has released the Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap discussion paper, which identifies the challenges facing the State’s manufacturing sector and forms a guide for the transition from traditional to advanced manufacturing. Consultation on the discussion paper will be undertaken until 24 March.  See media release: Drive begins for manufacturing roadmap and read the discussion paper: here.
 
The Victorian Government has announced the appointment of Heather Campbell as Chairperson of Sustainability Victoria. Sustainability Victoria recently launched their new strategic plan, SV2020, which seeks to address and take action on climate change, energy, materials efficiency and waste issues, and will shortly be refreshed to ensure it supports the Victorian Climate Change Framework to be released this year.  See media release: Sustainability Victoria to welcome new Chairperson.  
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester, and Federal Minister for Major Projects Paul Fletcher, met with the Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan in Canberra this week to discuss Commonwealth funding for the Melbourne Metro Project. Minister Fletcher said the Federal Government has referred the proposal to Infrastructure Australia before making a determination on funding. See media release: Commonwealth & Victorian Ministers discuss infrastructure needs in Victoria
 
State Developments
 
The Victorian Government has opened the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process for design and construction of the new rail line to Mernda. The tender process will be finalised this year, with construction scheduled to begin in 2017. See media release: Getting on with it: Mernda Rail Project Released to Market
 
Built Pty Ltd. has been awarded the $100 million Flinders Street Station refurbishment contract. The project will begin in the middle of this year and is expected to be completed in 2018. See media release: $100 Million Flinders Street Station Restoration Ramps Up
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Health Minister Sussan Ley confirmed this week that 20 private health insurance providers submitted lower premium increases, following the Minister’s request in January for providers to justify previously proposed increases to insurance premiums. Minister Ley said the lower increases rise by an average of 5.59 per cent – compared to an average yearly increase of 6.1 per cent – and will save Australian consumers $125 million. See media release: Health premiums hit 4 year low after record resubmissions
 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley announced health and medical research grants worth $129.4 million this week, which will fund research into issues such as childhood obesity, Indigenous health, the impacts of inactivity, and developing an AIDS vaccine. The grants are funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council. See media release: $129.4 million in grants to support medical research
 
A new generation of Hepatitis C medicines were listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) this week, following the $1 billion investment announced by the Federal Government in December 2015. Health Minister Ley said the four newly-listed treatments have a cure rate of 90 per cent and would help stop the spread of Hepatitis C in Australia, while also moving the country closer to eliminating the disease altogether. See media release: Hep C cures available today for as low as $6.20 a prescription
 
State Developments
 
In South Australia, Health Minister Jack Snelling has announced a review of procedures relating to management of the State’s patient medical records following 21 privacy breaches at Flinders Medical Centre. Minister Snelling has also requested a quarterly report from SA Health on the number of staff disciplined for inappropriately accessing medical records. See media release: Proactively disclosing patient privacy breaches
 
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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