GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Boost for energy reliability projects

  • The Government has announced $1 billion in funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund new energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure.
  • An interim report from the Royal Commission into aged care has been released, describing the aged care system as “sad and shocking”.
  • A new expert panel has been appointed to lead the design of an Indigenous voice to Parliament.
  • The ACCC will be taking Google to court over allegations it misled consumers about the collection and use of personal location data.
  • More than 40,000 Australians have joined a class action suit against the Federal Government, arguing their property values have plummeted due to contamination from chemical compound PFAS.
  • The UK Parliament has voted to hold a General Election on December 12, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson aiming to break the deadlock on Brexit with the early ballot.
Energy policy was once again in the spotlight this week, with the PM joining NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to announce further funding for the NSW-QLD interconnector upgrade. The two governments will jointly underwrite $102 million for the upgrade, which aims to ensure more reliable power supply, particularly in the lead up to the scheduled closure of Liddell power station in April 2023.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government also announced $1 billion in funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) for a Grid Reliability Fund designed to support new energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure. While key stakeholders welcomed the investment, commentators noted a significant shift in Coalition policy, following previous attempts to scrap the CEFC. The PM and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the fund will “unlock” private sector investment in projects that will maintain the reliability of Australia’s electricity grid. It was also revealed this week that the Government appointed an expert panel in mid-October to provide recommendations on enhancing its $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.

The economy continues to dominate public debate, with former PM Paul Keating this week saying Australia’s economy is “idling at the traffic lights”. Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe has urged businesses to take advantage of the record-low rates, encouraging further investment in projects with “really long-term pay-offs”, while reports suggest Treasury has warned that low interest rates may mean the RBA could resort to buying bank and mortgage bonds. The headline inflation rate remained low in the September quarter, rising 0.5 per cent and pushing the annual rate up to 1.7 per cent over the year to the end of September. The result was slightly ahead of expectations and reports suggest a further interest rate cut next week is unlikely.

Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has confirmed the Government will increase maximum civil penalties for companies found to have underpaid workers, following revelations Woolworths underpaid 6,000 staff almost $300 million since 2010. Mr Porter described the situation as “beyond hopeless” and said corporates are “on notice”, while also flagging a criminal penalty for the most serious types of wage theft. Meanwhile,  Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke has confirmed the Opposition will move to establish a Senate inquiry into wage theft.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has unveiled his first major policy commitment in a speech in Perth this week, pledging to address Australia’s skills crisis, implement protections for those in the ‘gig economy’ and strengthen vocational education and training. Mr Albanese signalled a shift in Labor’s overarching approach to jobs and climate policy, suggesting a “low-carbon future” will create opportunities to “revitalise the Australian manufacturing sector”. Mr Albanese’s address came as Labor MPs went on a tour of Queensland coal mines in an effort to reconnect with voters. While Labor’s internal election review is set to be released next Friday, Labor frontbencher Claire O’Neil has already called on the party to “engage in the conversation about political correctness” and communicating with middle Australia.


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