GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Bushfire Royal Commission established
- PM Scott Morrison has formally announced the terms of reference for a national Royal Commission into Australia’s devastating ‘Black Summer’ bushfires.
- Coles and Target have admitted to underpaying their employees, as the Government warns companies will soon be “absolutely and utterly compelled” to pay staff correctly.
- Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is expected to make Labor’s first post-election climate change policy announcement during a speech today in Melbourne, backing a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
- ABS figures reveal January’s unemployment rate rose to 5.3 per cent, while wages grew by 0.5 per cent in the December quarter.
- The PM has announced a $1.1 billion upgrade to the RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory in order to fast-track jet fighter rollouts and support US aircraft.
- Iconic Australian car manufacturer Holden announced it will close after a stretch of poor sales. The closure will impact approximately 600 employees and 185 car dealers across Australia.
- The Government has extended the travel ban from China into Australia for another week amid ongoing concern about Coronavirus.
- Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has been appointed as Australia’s new High Commissioner to India.
Bushfire Royal Commission established
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has released the terms of reference for a national Royal Commission into Australia’s devastating ‘Black Summer’ bushfires. The Commission is set to examine the nation’s preparedness and response to natural disasters, in addition to considering granting further powers to the Commonwealth in a national emergency. The commissioners will also explore the issue of hazard reduction and the impacts of climate change on bushfire risk. The PM stated his priority is keeping Australians safe, particularly in the face of “longer, drier and hotter summers”. The Government has appointed Dr Annabelle Bennette AC SC, Professor Andrew Macintosh and Air Chief Marshall Mark Binkskin AC to lead the Commission. The PM wants the inquiry to begin “as soon as possible”, with the final report due back to Government by August 31.
Coalition weighs up technology investment
While the PM acknowledged the role of climate change in contributing to Australia’s extreme summers, reports this week indicate the Government may not commit to net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of a major UN climate meeting in Glasgow this November. The PM would not confirm reports that the Government will instead adopt a technology investment target, however flagged plans to take a “technology over taxation” approach in combatting climate change. The PM also travelled to Adelaide this week to open the new headquarters of the Australian Space Agency with Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews. The PM pointed to future overseas investment in Australia’s space capabilities, outlining his vision for the country to be part of the “growing space economy” which is expected to exceed $1 trillion globally by 2040.
Wage underpayment crackdown
It was revealed this week that some of Australia’s largest companies have been underpaying their staff, including Coles and Target, only months after Woolworths admitted to approximately $300 million in underpayments. Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter described wage underpayment as “endemic” in large Australian organisations. Mr Porter confirmed his intention to introduce new legislation in coming weeks which looks to criminalise the worst cases of wage theft, while also forcing employers to admit to having underpaid their employees.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that Australia’s unemployment rate climbed from 5.1 to 5.3 per cent in January, with more people looking for work. In minutes from its latest meeting, the RBA warned of the material threat of Coronavirus to Australia’s economy, and kept the option open for a further cut to interest rates. The IMF also signalled bad news for Australia’s economy, noting the nation faces a double hit from the recent bushfires and Coronavirus. Further, the IMF warned Australia’s economy is more likely to feel the impact of more frequent climate-related natural disasters in the future. Treasury officials are reportedly calculating the economic damage from Australia’s bushfire season and Coronavirus as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg prepares to attend the Group of 20 meeting in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
The closure of iconic Australian car manufacturer Holden has prompted the PM to hit out at parent company General Motors, claiming it allowed Holden to “wither away” while pocketing $2 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies. Minister for Industry Karen Andrews criticised Holden for only alerting the Government of its decision shortly before making the announcement. The Labor Party accused the Coalition of contributing to Holden’s demise by stripping $500 million worth of support from the automotive industry in 2013-14.