GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

15 April 2016

The Prime Minister was in Perth on Monday to address the 18th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG18), where he spoke of the industries importance to Australia, before heading to Shanghai for Australia Week in China (AWIC). Arriving at AWIC, Mr Turnbull used his keynote address at Thursday’s gala luncheon to call for greater trade liberalisation and legal certainty for businesses operating in China. The Prime Minister also met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, before preparing to return home ahead of an historic sitting of Parliament on Monday.

While passage of the Coalition’s key industrial relations Bills – Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 – remain uncertain, the Government has reportedly secured the numbers in the Senate it needs to immediately repeal the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal as a proposed measure to ensure safety and working conditions for the trucking industry. Read more in The Australian’s coverage here (subscription service).

Meanwhile, Treasurer Scott Morrison has dismissed warnings from credit rating agency Moody’s that Australia risks losing its AAA credit rating if the Government fails to outline a legitimate pathway to surplus in the upcoming May 3 Budget. While the Treasurer said the Budget will include a range of revenue measures, he remains tight-lipped about reports the Government may adopt a Labor proposal to significantly increase cigarette taxes. The Government is also expected to announce additional powers and resources for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as early as Monday in an attempt to head-off calls from the Opposition for the establishment of a Royal Commission into the banking sector. Read more in the AFR here (subscription service).

An east coast high-speed rail network is back on the national agenda, with reports the Prime Minister is set to announce a comprehensive cities policy ahead of the Budget that will focus on population growth in regional centres. Mr Turnbull said the Government could use ‘value capture’ financing to help fund the project, which would be built in stages and ultimately run from Brisbane to Melbourne. Discussion between the NSW and federal governments has begun, with a paper on fast-tracking the first link which will run from Sydney’s CBD to Badgerys Creek to be released in July. Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has dismissed the announcement, saying it is just more ‘hot air’ from the Government in an election year. Read more in The Australian here (subscription service).

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the upcoming State Budget on 27 April will allocate $1.46 billion across the forward estimates to fully fund the construction of the Western Distributor project after the Federal Government refused to commit any funding. Federal Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects Paul Fletcher argued that the project does not require federal funding because its economic modelling is underpinned by toll revenue. See the Premier’s media release here and coverage in The Age here (subscription service).

Premier Andrews also announced a $572 million funding boost in response to the State’s Royal Commission into Family Violence in order to tackle 65 of the Commission’s most urgent recommendations. This additional funding will provide for more housing and crisis refuge services, counsellors and prevention programs, and support for children who are victims of family violence. See Premier’s release here.

In South Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill announced ridesharing services, such as Uber, will be legal from 1 July, following a review of the State’s taxi and hire car industry. The announcement includes a $60 million compensation package of $30,000 per plate to be funded through a $1 levy on all point to point transport services, and a freeze on plate numbers for five years. See the Premier’s media release here.

Federal, Queensland and NT parliaments sit next week.

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