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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
24 July 2015
 
State and Territory leaders descended on Sydney on Wednesday for the Australian Leaders’ Retreat, ahead of a COAG meeting on Thursday. The Leaders discussed tax reform, including NSW Premier Mike Baird’s proposal to raise the GST to 15 per cent to fund rising healthcare costs; a proposal welcomed by Premiers Jay Weatherill and Colin Barnett. The meetings canvassed a number of issues, including reforms to the Federation, the current infrastructure deficit and how to better deliver healthcare and education services. Read the leaders' retreat communiqué here.
 
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor Environment Spokesperson Mark Butler announced an ambitious plan for a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030, ahead of the Labor Party National Conference this weekend in Melbourne. The policy represents a departure from recent bi-partisan changes to lower the Renewable Energy Target to 33,000 GWh, or 23.5 per cent by 2020, which passed the Senate in June. See media release here.
 
Addressing the Party Conference on Friday morning, Mr Shorten encountered hostility from some members of the audience for earlier declaring he would support the Government’s controversial boat turn back policy. Mr Shorten also used the speech to declare his support for an Australian Republic, declaring the Party was ready to govern and challenging the Government to bring on an election. Read the speech in full here (subscription service).
 
Meanwhile, the Federal Government faces a by-election in the Perth seat of Canning following the death of  Don Randall, from a heart attack on Tuesday. Parliamentary colleagues described him as a hardworking and dedicated local member. Mr Randall was first elected to the seat of Swan in 1996, but lost the seat at the 1998 election. He was elected to Canning in 2001.
 
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane will provide an explanation of the ‘nature and scope’ of changes to the national electricity market rules, in the $2.5 billion legal dispute between the Australian Energy Regulator and three NSW state-owned electricity distribution firms; Ausgrid, Essential Energy and Endeavour Energy. However, the Minister has pledged not to reflect on the merits of the case or support higher electricity prices for NSW.
 
Australian Greens Senator for South Australia, Penny Wright, announced she would be stepping down from the Senate due to illness in her family. Senator Wright was elected at the 2010 Federal Election and took her seat in the Senate in July 2011. A competitive preselection is expected in coming weeks as the Greens fill the casual vacancy created by Senator Wright’s departure.
 
SA Parliament will continue with Estimates before regular sitting resumes for Wednesday and Thursday.


FINANCE
 
The Prime Minister and First Ministers have reached agreement at the Leaders’ Summit to extend the GST to overseas online transactions for purchases under $1,000. The matter will now be discussed in more detail at an upcoming meeting of Treasurers.  See media release: Australian Leaders' Retreat Communiqué
 
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey announced Alice Williams as a part-time member of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), for a five year appointment. Ms Williams replaces Anna Buduls who served on the FIRB for 5 years. See media release: Appointment of a part-time member of the Foreign Investment Review Board
 
The Government announced a capability review of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The review, to be chaired by Karen Chester, will examine the governance and capabilities of ASIC to meet its objectives in the face of future regulatory challenges. See media release Capability review of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission



RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments
 
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt announced the signing of an agreement with Cray Inc to purchase a $77 million supercomputer for the Bureau of Meteorology. The computer, will increase the computing capacity of the Bureau 16 times, allowing for more accurate and frequent reporting, particularly during severe weather. See media release: New supercomputer to supercharge weather warnings and forecasts
 
Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, and Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Marmion released the UNCOVER Roadmap. The 10 year Roadmap identifies 16 high priority R&D activities that would increase the success of greenfield mineral exploration in Australia. See media release: Road map points to nation's future mineral wealth

State Developments
 
Victorian Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville has reappointed Phillip Honeywood as Chair of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC). The Minister also announced the appointment of Dr Charles Meredith, Ms Joanne Duncan, Ms Anna Kilborn and Dr Geoffrey Wescott to the Council. See media release: New Members Of The Victorian Environmental Assessment Council
 
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, and Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Dr Steven Miles confirmed the Government will examine current initiatives to introduce a Container Deposit Scheme. See media release: Revitalising the state’s climate change and waste agenda
 


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments
 
The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) was launched in Dandenong, Victoria, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Karen Andrews MP. The CRC is a collaboration between industry organisations, research universities and the CSIRO. The Federal Government has invested $31 million in the CRC. See speech: Launch of the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre.
 
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Baird announced that the Westconnex project is tracking 18 months ahead of schedule with work on the King Georges Road Interchange underway. See media release: Westconnex Stage 2 begins 18 months early.

State Developments
 
The consultation phase of the NSW Government’s independent review into the taxi, hire car and ridesharing market has commenced. The review is led by Professor Gary Sturgess AM and Tom Parry AM and will explore issues including taxi regulation and the growing ridesharing market. See media release here: Wheels in motion for the future of ‘Point to Point’ transport. Submission-makers are asked to email pointtopoint@transport.nsw.gov.au to register their interest.
 
Western Australia is heading in a similar direction, with Transport Minister Dean Nalder inviting public feedback on his taxi green paper which explores the future of WA’s on-demand transport. Media release here: Public comment sought on taxi green paper.
 
Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan has announced Joe Calafiore as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Transport Accident Commission. See media release here: New TAC Chief Executive Appointed.
 
Also in Victoria, Deputy Premier James Merlino has criticised the Federal Government for short-changing the State on federal infrastructure spending. The Deputy Premier claims Victorians are receiving $83 per person for major projects over the next five years, while some states receive in excess of $300 per capita. Coverage by The Guardian here: Victoria short-changed in federal infrastructure, says deputy premier



HEALTH

Federal Developments
 
Minister for Health, Sussan Ley announced number of new appointments to the 13 member National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The appointments are for three years and the Minister confirmed Professor Anne Kelso AO as the new Chief Executive. See media release: Appointments to key health and medical research body
 
Minister Ley also announced this week $541 million to list Lucentis on the PBS, a treatment for diabetic macular oedema and retinal vein occlusion. The listitng, which took effect from 1 July 2015, will provide access to 18,000 Australians who would otherwise have to pay up to $10,000 for treatment.  


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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