Weekly Wrap Up
1 April 2022
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- Minister for Defence Peter Dutton expressed concern about a potential military pact between the Solomon Islands and China.
- Victorian Labor Senator of nearly 20 years Kim Carr announced he will not run in the forthcoming Federal Election.
- The High Court rejected an application from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to hear an appeal to preserve their power to intervene in the preselection process for key federal seats in NSW.
- After being lowered to an unwinnable spot on the Liberal Senate ticket for NSW, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells launched an attack on the Prime Minister in a speech to Parliament.
- Independent Senator Rex Patrick confirmed he will run in the Senate against his former boss Nick Xenophon, and criticised Mr Xenophon for his links to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
- Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino has assumed the role of Acting Premier while Daniel Andrews recovers from COVID-19.
Treasurer Josh Freedenberg delivered the 2022-23 Federal Budget on Tuesday evening, with relief for cost-of-living pressures at the centre of the “pre-election pitch”. For further information, please see our dedicated Budget analysis.
In his Budget-in-reply speech on Thursday evening, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese focused on aged care, promising that Labor will implement a five-point plan to reform the sector. Proposed reforms include a requirement for a full-time registered nurse to be available 24 hours a day in every aged care facility in Australia, and government support for a pay increase for workers across the sector. Mr Albanese called on Australians to elect Labor to “build a better future”.
Final sitting week of the parliamentary term
The final sitting week of this term of Parliament started with a condolence motion for Senator Kimberley Kitching, with senators delivering speeches in honour of their colleague. Notably – consistent with bullying allegations following Ms Kitching’s death – multiple senators shared concerns over the Senator’s treatment within the Labor Party.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Australian Parliament on Thursday, warning of the global impacts if Russia is allowed to continue its invasion of Ukraine and requesting further support in the form of armoured vehicles and weapons. In response, Prime Minister Morrison referred to Mr Zelenskyy as “a lion of democracy” and announced further assistance for Ukraine. Australia will provide an additional $25 million in defensive military assistance for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which will include tactical decoys, unmanned aerial ground systems, rations and medical supplies.
Budget Estimates will take place in the Senate next week. Meanwhile, the VIC, WA and ACT Parliaments will sit.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released analysis of superannuation funds as part of its 2021 MySuper and Choice heatmaps, finding that smaller funds are less likely to deliver quality outcomes to their members.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) published its enforcement update for July to December 2021, noting that it collected $84 million in civil penalties and successfully prosecuted 99 people or companies. This period also included the filing of the last civil proceeding arising from the Hayne Royal Commission.
The House Standing Committee on Economics tabled its final report on the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)’s 2019 and 2020 annual reports, examining the RBA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other policy issues relating to the economy.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced the allocation of $14.8 million in funding to AGL’s 50 MW lithium-ion large scale battery storage system in Broken Hill, NSW. AGL has engaged with a consortium of Fluence – an energy storage technology provider – and Valmec to supply $41 million for the project.
Queensland, NSW and Victoria signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate to develop an east coast hydrogen refuelling network for heavy transport, encompassing a series of critical roads and highways.
NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean and Acting Premier Paul Toole indicated there may be $4 billion of potential commercial investment in the proposed Hunter and Illawarra Hydrogen Hubs. It follows a recent call for expressions of interests in the projects.
The Northern Territory Government introduced legislation to facilitate the development of a $30 billion Sub Cable Australia-Asia PowerLink project. The link is expected to be the world’s largest renewable energy transmission system, encompassing a solar farm, a battery, a converter site, and transition facilities.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
In response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, the Government has promised $811.8 million over five years to the Connecting Regional Australia Initiative to provide an estimated 8,000 kilometres of new open access mobile coverage.
The Tasmanian and Federal governments awarded local Tasmanian company Gradco a $6.2 million contract for the first stage of the Illawarra Road upgrade.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt awarded funding to six recipients under the Home Care Workforce Support Program. The program aims to support the growth of Australia’s home care workforce to 13,000 over the next two years, while ensuring more senior Australians can access Home Care Packages.
The ACT Government committed $12.9 million in funding for mental healthcare services and suicide prevention support over the next five years, with the Federal Government to contribute $25.2 million.
The Queensland Government unveiled the Queensland Women’s Strategy 2022-27, a five-year strategy outlining the State’s support for women’s economic security and safety. The Strategy offers a roadmap to increase women’s career presence in male-dominated industries, establish a Women’s Health Strategy and support First Nations women.