GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Climate of Change
- The Federal Government has made a suite of announcements this week concerning climate change, including approval of Snowy 2.0, a $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package and funding to construct a new interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland.
- Media reports suggest Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo is preparing to announce his retirement, with suggestions that a formal announcement may follow this weekend.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison also spent time in New Zealand, discussing a range of high profile issues with NZ PM Jacinda Ardern.
- Labor has announced a $640 million Banking Fairness Fund to support victims of financial services misconduct.
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has written to the PM, informing him the Opposition will seek pre-election briefings from government departments ahead of the election.
- Ita Buttrose will be the next Chair of the ABC after the PM and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield announced the recommended appointment.
The latest Newspoll has revealed a two-party preferred vote of 53-47 in Labor’s favour, broadly consistent with the Essential Poll released on Wednesday that positioned Labor ahead on 52-48 per cent. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a brief, two-day trip to New Zealand at the end of the last sitting week, meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges. Climate change was at the top of the Government’s agenda this week, while the Opposition continued its focus on financial services.
Climate solutions announced
Illustrative of a pre-election policy focus on climate change, the Government has this week announced approval of Snowy 2.0, a project initially proposed under Scott Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. The Federal Government will commit up to $1.38 billion to support “high-tech expansion of the iconic Snowy Mountains Scheme”, aiming to drive down prices and ensure network reliability. The total cost of the project is expected to total between $3.8 billion and $4.5 billion.
A new $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package has also been announced this week, Mr Morrison saying the Government will meet emissions reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement without “wrecking the economy”. $2 billion of this funding will support the Climate Solutions Fund, a successor to former PM Tony Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund. Mr Morrison said the new fund will promote “real solutions” to address climate change, such as helping to protect existing forest areas, reducing emissions from waste management, and increasing native habitats.
Mr Morrison travelled to Tasmania during the week, where he committed $56 million in funding for a 1,200MW interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland. He said the interconnector would generate up to $1.6 billion for the Tasmanian and Victorian economies and create 1,400 jobs, turning Tasmania into the “battery of the nation”.
Tension across the Tasman
The Prime Minister’s meeting with long-term ally and trading partner New Zealand was not without tension, as NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern questioned the Australian Government’s treatment of refugees and deportation of New Zealand nationals found guilty of criminal conduct. Prime Minister Morrison defended the Government’s approach to border protection, arguing those who violate Australian visa conditions should not expect to remain in Australia. As part of the trip, the two leaders discussed some $30 billion in joint investments, including new shared digital economy initiatives such as e-invoicing. Both leaders also played down talk of difficulties in their respective relationships with Beijing, despite recent issues over coal and milk exports.
Royal Commission follow-up
In a further response to the Hayne Royal Commission, Labor announced a $640 million Banking Fairness Fund to support victims of financial services misconduct. In order to fund the proposal, a levy will be imposed on financial institutions which number among the largest 100 companies on the ASX. The Opposition proposed the fund will raise $160 million from major financial institutions each year in order to support a number of initiatives including an additional 500 financial counsellors for those experiencing hardship as a result of financial services misconduct. Labor estimates the additional counsellors could assist up to 125,000 people per annum. Labor has also proposed to direct $120 million from the fund to increase the number of financial legal assistance lawyers available nationally from 40 to 240.