GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

11 December 2015

Innovation was the key focus for the Government this week, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne and Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, releasing the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The Agenda contains a number of significant proposals to drive innovation in the economy and commits $1.1 billion over four years. In releasing the Agenda the Prime Minister said he hoped to inspire a more entrepreneurial spirit and a greater readiness of Australians to invest in smart ideas. See the Prime Minister’s statement here and GRACosway’s summary from earlier in the week here.

At the Council on Federal Financial Relations meeting on Thursday, the nation’s treasurers agreed to examine South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s tax proposal that states receive a 17.5 per cent share of income tax in exchange for the Federal Government keeping additional revenues from any increase in the GST. NSW Premier Mike Baird issued a similar proposal at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting , with the emphasis remaining on how to fund the increasing cost of health care. Potential GST reform may have cleared another hurdle this week, with the Queensland Government softening its opposition to any change should the Federal Government win a mandate from the electorate.

Negotiations continued at the UN Climate Conference in Paris this week, with discussions on a global agreement entering their final phase. The draft text released by the conference this week still significant conflicts, leading Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to acknowledge there is still much work to be done but she  she is hopeful a deal can be reached. Contention still surrounds the financing and administration of a $100 billion a year finance fund from 2020, and the treatment of both developed and developing nations under the agreement.

The Coalition’s primary vote has slipped by one per cent in the latest Newspoll, while the Prime Minister’s approval rating also  dipped slightly amid Coalition infighting. However the Government still retains its lead over the Labor Party, with 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Meanwhile, the Queensland division of the Liberal Party and the Federal Government continue to negotiate the defection of former Abbott minister Ian Macfarlane to the National Party. In further signs the Prime Minister would oppose any attempt to return Mr Macfarlane to the front bench, Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos said any move to do so would leave a “really sour taste” in people’s mouths.

Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects Paul Fletcher has replaced 72-year-old NSW Senator Bill Heffernan as the federal Liberal leader’s representative on the NSW State Executive, further adding to speculation that the Senator will not seek preselection when it occurs early next year. Senator Heffernan’s term expires on 30 June 2017.

After weeks of speculation, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, prompted by the resignation of Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller. The Cabinet has been expanded by three to provide for a more balanced workload and to allow for greater stakeholder engagement. See the Premier’s announcement here and GRACosway’s summary from earlier in the week here.

Media sources in NSW have reported that the Foreign Investment Review Board is unlikely to provide guidance on ownership and governance rules for the lease of Ausgrid until February, which forms the second phase in the privatisation of the State’s electricity networks. Read more in the AFR’s coverage here (subscription service).

A decision on the Victorian Government’s Port of Melbourne Lease transaction has also been delayed until early 2016 after the Government failed to pass legislation allowing for the lease to proceed during its last sitting day of the year. See media release: Statement on the Port Lease Legislation

All parliaments have risen for the year.

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