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GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up
22 July 2016
 
The new Coalition Ministry was sworn in by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove in Canberra on Tuesday, while the Australian Electoral Commission announced on the same day that it will conduct a recount in the final undetermined seat of Herbert after Labor’s Cathy O’Toole finished just eight votes ahead of Liberal National Party incumbent Ewen Jones. The final Herbert result may face a legal challenge after it was reported that defence personnel from Townsville – located in the Herbert electorate – may have been participating in a military exercise in South Australia on Election Day where it was confirmed 628 personnel were unable to vote due to a lack of polling booths. The Queensland seat recount began yesterday and is expected to take up to two weeks, which means the House of Representatives currently stands at 76 seats for the Coalition, 68 for Labor and one remaining in doubt.
 
The Labor Opposition announced the members of its expanded 32-person Shadow Ministry this afternoon, following a caucus meeting in Canberra. New frontbench members include recently-elected former NSW Deputy Opposition Leader and state government minister Linda Burney, Member for Chifley Ed Husic, Victorian MP Clare O’Neil, NSW Senator Sam Dastyari and Tasmanian Senator Carol Brown. Victorian Senator Kim Carr has retained his spot in the Shadow Ministry, while Victoria’s David Feeney and the Illawarra’s Sharon Bird have been replaced. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will announce portfolio allocations for his team tomorrow.
 
A number of Government backbenchers have voiced concerns about the proposed superannuation changes announced prior to the election, with Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen threatening to cross the floor in protest against the measures, which he described as a “lazy government’s way” to improve the Budget bottom line. Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the reforms, saying “technical issues” may be addressed but the broader policy package is necessary to maintain Australia’s triple-A credit rating. Speaking at the Financial Services Council Leaders Summit in Melbourne on Thursday, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer said the Government will begin consultation on the exposure draft legislation for the reforms “shortly” and intends to “listen carefully to advice on the design of the legislation”. Read Minister O’Dwyer’s full speech here.
 
A push to introduce fixed four-year terms in Federal Parliament gained momentum this week, with Liberal Member for Banks David Coleman calling for a 2019 referendum on the matter. In an opinion piece published by Fairfax on Thursday, Mr Coleman said fixed four-year terms would eliminate the uncertainty around election timing and improve business and consumer confidence, while also giving the government of the day more time to achieve its policy agenda. Labor frontbencher Nick Champion said fixed four-year parliamentary terms are “in the nation’s interest” and accused the Liberals of running a “tawdry scare campaign” against the change in a 1988 referendum, which proposed four-year terms for both Houses of Federal Parliament.
 
The NSW Government has informed the two Chinese companies bidding for the State’s electricity distributor Ausgrid that it will accept bids which remain conditional on approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board, despite usual privatisation processes requiring unconditional bids. The Baird Government plans to sell a 50.4 per cent stake in Ausgrid as part of its poles and wires privatisation plan and expects to raise $10 billion from the sale. Two potential buyers remain in the contest: Chinese state-owned company, the State Grid Corporation of China and private company, Cheung Kong Infrastructure. South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said he has written to Treasurer Scott Morrison to ask whether the Federal Government has received advice from security agencies and the Department of Defence about the transaction, writing “any sale to a foreign government-owned company should raise significant national interest concerns on this basis alone”. Meanwhile, Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has announced he will introduce a private member’s bill to prevent the sale of Ausgrid to State Grid, calling it the “first test for the Government”.
 
The Productivity Commission released its draft report on regulation in agriculture this week, which recommends the removal of state bans on genetically modified crops and statutory marketing legislation for rice and sugar, among a range of other measures to reduce the burden of regulation in the agricultural sector. The report also criticises the Federal Government’s tightening of foreign investment laws and recommends the threshold for scrutiny of foreign investment in Australian farmland and agribusiness is returned to its former level of $252 million. Deputy Nationals Leader Senator Fiona Nash defended the Coalition’s moves to tighten foreign investment laws, saying there was “virtually no scrutiny” of sales to overseas investors under the former threshold introduced by Labor.
 
Budget Estimates hearings will take place in Queensland and South Australia next week, while Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed the 45th Parliament will sit for the first time on 30 August 2016.


FINANCE

Federal Developments
 
Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Council of Financial Regulators (CFR) report to the government which focuses on the effect of the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union (EU). The report details the consolidated view of CFR agencies include the Reserve Bank of Australia; the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority; the Australian Securities and Investments Commission; and the Treasury. See media release: Council of Financial Regulators report on the implications of Brexit and the CFR report here.
 

RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

Queensland Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan has been promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, while Minister Josh Frydenberg has been appointed Minister for Energy and the Environment. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Energy portfolio will include all “key energy policy areas” such as energy security and domestic energy markets, while also combining the Environment portfolio policy areas of renewable energy and emissions reduction. For further details see the new Ministry list here.

State Developments

The Victorian Government has approved a $650 million windfarm near Dundonnell in Victoria’s South West, which will have 96 turbines. In order for the windfarm to gain environmental approval, certain adjustments had to be made, such as reducing overall turbine numbers and creating buffer zones around adjacent wetlands. See media release: Jobs and clean energy boost for South-West Victoria.
 
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has called for a national summit to discuss energy prices in South Australia, saying “the nation can't afford to see heavy industry shut down because of crippling power prices and uncertainty over supply”. Mr Giles suggested the summit should also investigate the possibility of building a pipeline to deliver Northern Territory gas to the south and eastern states. See coverage by the AFR here.  
 

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
 
State Developments
 
NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that tunnelling works are underway on the M4 East as part of the WestConnex project. The Premier and the Minister for Roads Duncan Gay also revealed new details for the interchange at Rozelle, which will feature an extra underground connection below the former Rozelle Rail Yards to reduce congestion on Victoria Road. The NSW Government expects the WestConnex project to add $20 billion to the NSW economy and generate 10,000 jobs. See media release: New inner west park and tunnel link announced.
 
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has announced applications are now open for the first stage of the NSW Government’s $250 million Taxi Industry Adjustment package. Taxi license holders can apply to receive $20,000 in payments to help with the cost of transition. The package also includes a buy-back scheme for perpetual hire car licenses. See media release: Applications open for taxi industry adjustment payments.

Queensland Minister for Water Mark Bailey announced that 100,000 residents of Moreton Bay will be connected to the main South East Queensland Water network. The $16.5 million investment will construct approximately 600 kilometres of pipelines and help secure the region’s water supply, while producing 50 jobs. Once the project is complete, the Petrie Water Plant will be permanently shut down. See media release: 100,000 more Moreton Bay residents to connect to the SEQ Water Grid for the first time.
 


HEALTH

Federal Developments

Health Minister Sussan Ley held her first official post-election meeting with Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Michael Gannon on Thursday, saying she “couldn’t wait to get started” and indicating the Government will aim to be “collaborative, consultative [and] close to the people” in its approach to health policy. Mr Gannon said the Government should scrap its plan to continue the indexation freeze on Medicare rebates until 2020, telling reporters he would be “gobsmacked” if the Government took the policy to the next election after getting the “scare of their life” on health policy at the July 2 poll. See opening remarks from the meeting between Minister Ley and Mr Gannon here and AMA media release here.

State Developments
 
The NSW Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States to boost collaboration in cancer research. The agreement will see the US National Cancer Institute and the NSW Government work together on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative – announced by US President Obama – which will facilitate the sharing of advances in cancer research and ensure it is translated into patient care.  See media release: USA and NSW to share cancer research.    
 
The Victorian Government has released Victoria’s International Health Strategy 2016-2020: Partnering for a healthy and prosperous future. The strategy aims to position Victoria as a leading global exporter of goods and services in health and medical research. The key focus areas are promoting Victoria’s health system to international markets, attracting new revenue for health services and encouraging collaboration for service delivery and research partnerships. See media release: Victorian health innovation to shine on the world stage.
 
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy has specified the research agencies selected to take up residence in the new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. The Ian Potter Centre for new Cancer Treatments, as it will be known, will house the Immunotherapy Research Program, The Australian Genome Research Facility, the Cooperative Research Centre for Cancer Therapies and the Innovative Clinical Trials Centre. The International Cancer Research Centre will also be on the same level in the building, which will encourage partnerships to be formed and promote global studies and trials. See media release: Victorian to lead the way in pursuit of improved cancer treatments. 
 
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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