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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
21 August 2015
 
Despite demands for a return to Cabinet discipline, the Federal Government continued to be plagued this week by Cabinet leaks, the same sex marriage debate and repeated calls for the resignation of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, fuelling talk of leadership instability.
 
Adding to the Government’s woes, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) made submissions to the Royal Commission into Union Corruption calling on Commissioner Heydon to stand aside. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has, however, conceded that the Commission should continue even if the Commissioner recuses himself. The matter was heard on Friday with a decision expected early next week. Read The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).
 
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey met with his state and territory counterparts in Canberra on Friday, at the Council of Federal Financial Relations. In a submission to the meeting, the Victorian Government, supported by Queensland, has called for the Medicare levy to be lifted by 2 per cent, while the NSW Government continues calls for a lift in the GST to 15 per cent. See Treasurer Hockey’s media release here.
 
The Senate Economics Committee on Corporate Tax Avoidance, chaired by Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, has tabled its interim report making 17 recommendations to combat ‘aggressive’ tax minimisation by multinationals. The Report, which recommends increasing public disclosure requirements, has been criticised by the Government who claim the balance to be just about right and have instead proposed a voluntary disclosure code. Read the interim report here.
 
Meanwhile, Treasurer Hockey announced the Government will table legislation in the next fortnight to require 30 multinationals with annual turnover greater than $1 billion to establish a taxable presence in Australia. The American Chamber of Commerce in Australia (AmCham), has called for a longer transition period to the laws which are intended to take effect from 1 January 2016. Read the AFR’s here (subscription service).
 
The Treasurer has also this week tabled the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Bill 2015 and the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 in Parliament, which both form part of the Government’s tighter restrictions on foreign ownership of Australian agricultural assets.
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt introduced legislation to amend Section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which according to Attorney-General George Brandis “allows radical green activists to engage in vigilante litigation to stop important economic projects.”  This follows a successful court challenge to the environmental approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. See media release:  Government acts to protect jobs from vigilante litigants and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s interview on ABC's 7.30
 
Following his endorsement at a joint sitting of the Tasmanian Parliament on Tuesday, Nick McKim was sworn in as the newest senator from Tasmania on Thursday replacing former Greens party leader Christine Milne.
 
The Victorian Liberal Party is dealing with the fall-out of a forensic audit that uncovered more than $1.5 million in irregular expenditure claims between 2010-14. State President Michael Kroger has referred a number of unauthorised transactions linked to the former State Director to the Victorian Police for further investigation.
 
NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and NT parliaments sit next week.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
The Federal Government has announced the commencement of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements. The Commission, to report in late 2016, will consult government and non-government stakeholders and has invited public submissions in developing its recommendations.  See media release: Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements and the Productivity Commission website
 
Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson has welcomed the establishment of an Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, fulfilling an election commitment. The legislation provides small businesses an easy access point for advice to avoid and manage disputes through the role of the Ombudsman.  See media release: The Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman legislation passes the Senate
 
The Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce Interim Report has been released with the final report to the Federal Government due in November 2015.  Feedback on the Interim Report can be provided until 14 September 2015. See media release: Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce Interim Report and Interim Report
 


RESOURCES AND ENERGY
 
State Developments
 
Victoria’s Auditor-General John Doyle tabled his wide-ranging report “Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts”, which concludes Victoria’s gas moratorium should not be lifted, as the state is unprepared to respond to the risks and impacts that could eventuate. See media release: Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts.
 
Queensland Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham released the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Abbot Point coal port. The EIS regarding the expansion of Abbot Point to meet export demand from proposed Galilee Basin mining projects is open for comment until 18 September. See media release: Abbot Point coal port project takes a step forward.
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
The Andrews Victorian Government this week committed to implementing the $416 million Murray Basin Rail Project, standardising lines and fixing missing links across the network. The Government has allocated $220 million to the project in this year’s budget, with works expected to begin in 2016. See media release: Labor Government Backs Full Murray Basin Rail Project
 
Also in Victoria, the contract for the $31.2 million Sand Road and Princes Freeway East at Longwarry interchange project has been awarded to Cut & Fill Pty Ltd, and will be completed by mid-2017. See media release: Contract awarded to construct Sand Road interchange
 
In Queensland, planning work has begun on widening of the Bruce Highway south of Cairns from four to six lanes. The $58 million upgrade, funded in an 80:20 split by the Federal and State governments, will begin this year after the wet season and will be completed by mid-2017. See media release: Bruce Highway to be widened to six lanes south of Cairns
 
In Tasmania, tenders for the construction of safety upgrades to the Bass Highway are now open. Expected to be completed in 2016, the Federal Government will provide $7.7 million and the State Government $1.9 million to fund the project. See media release: Tenders called for Bass Highway Upgrade
 

HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
The Prime Minister launched a national Ice hotline, as part of the Federal Government’s Dob in a Dealer campaign, designed for people to contact the Government if they have information relating to the distribution, manufacturing or use of the drug ice. See media release: Helping the Community Tackle Ice
 
The review of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) Guidelines took a step forward this week with the announcement of a public consultation process for items to be included in the review. The Guidelines are used by the pharmaceutical industry to prepare submissions to the PBAC so it can assess whether a product should be included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Submissions as part of the PBAC Guidelines Review can be provided until 5pm on 31 August. Details are available at the PBAC Guidelines Review Public Consultation page

State Developments
 
The Victorian Government plans to introduce ‘no jab, no play’ legislation into the Victorian Parliament that will make it mandatory for children to be vaccinated in order to attend child care or kindergarten. See media release: Enhanced No Jab No Play to Protect More Children
 
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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