GRACosway Weekly Policy Wrap Up

29 April 2016

 This week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Defence Marise Payne announced the first of 12 next generation submarines will be constructed in Adelaide by French company DCNS at a cost of $50 billion. While Mr Turnbull admitted there was a premium to be paid for local construction, he reiterated that it was important to ensure Australia maintained a sovereign defence industry. Following the announcement, the Prime Minister spoke with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, who was strongly associated with the unsuccessful Japanese bid, in order to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the Japanese alliance. See the Prime Minister’s media release here.

Treasurer Scott Morrison informed the prospective buyers of S. Kidman and Co. Limited, Chinese-owned Dakang Australia Holdings Pty Ltd (Dakang), on Friday that he does not believe their proposed acquisition in its current form to be in the national interest. The Treasurer’s preliminary determination follows an external review of the sale process ordered by Mr Morrison, and Dakang now have until 3 May to address the concerns raised. The Kidman portfolio covers approximately 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total land area and accounts for 2.5 per cent of the country’s agricultural land. See the Treasurer’s statement here.

Prime Minister Turnbull announced the Federal Government’s Smart Cities Plan this week ahead of Tuesday’s budget, which focuses on affordable housing and better transport connectivity for Australian cities. The Plan includes $50 million to accelerate planning and development works on major infrastructure projects, and a commitment to establish an infrastructure financing unit within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to investigate “innovative” financing solutions. See the Prime Minister’s release here.

Speculation surrounding next week’s federal budget continues, with media reporting that the Government will announce cuts to the $153 million annual free-to-air licensing fees following concerted relief campaigning from the networks. The news also follows a NSW Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, which determined that Nine Entertainment’s live streaming via the internet is not classified as broadcasting, as defined under existing legislation. The Government is also reportedly set to announce significant reforms to university fee structures in a modified version of its previously failed deregulation policy, which will include a cap on fee increases. Read more in the AFR’s coverage here.

The Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt launched the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20-Year Action Plan, which commits $225 million in funding over the next 10 years to secure the Australian Antarctic program and enhance Australia’s Antarctic and science capability. See media release here.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced the Labor Party’s Climate Change Action Plan, a key party policy in the lead up to the election. The policy calls for the introduction of a 50% renewable energy target by 2030, supported by a transition from old coal fire power stations to cleaner technologies and an Emissions Trading Scheme. The Plan also proposes new emissions standards for motor vehicles, a boost to the Carbon Farming Initiative and the doubling of Australia’s national energy productivity by 2030. See full policy here.

In Victoria, Treasurer Tim Pallas delivered the second budget of the Andrew’s Labor Government on Wednesday under the theme of “getting it done”. Infrastructure was a key focus of this year’s budget, with the Treasurer confirming funding for the Melbourne Metro Rail Project as well as $12.4 billion in new capital investment financed by the 50-year lease of the Port of Melbourne. The budget surplus for 2016-17 has also been revised upwards from $1.5 billion in the Mid-Year Budget Update to $2.9 billion. See GRACosway’s briefing note from earlier in the week here.

Federal, NSW, Victorian, Tasmanian and ACT parliaments sit next week.

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