Weekly Wrap Up
8 April 2022
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- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has again kept the cash rate at 0.1 per cent. The Board highlighted that before increasing rates, it wants to see tangible evidence that inflation is “sustainably within” the 2-3 per cent target range.
- Jeremy Rockliff has been confirmed as Tasmania’s new Premier following Peter Gutwein’s resignation announcement earlier this week. Michael Ferguson will assume the role of Deputy Premier.
- Australia signed a free-trade deal with India, which will see tariffs reduced for wine, wool, sheep meat, and a number of fruits and nuts.
- Bruce Miller was appointed as the Foreign Investment Review Board’s (FIRB) new Chair for a five‑year period.
- Jana Stewart was confirmed as the Senate replacement for the late Senator Kimberley Kitching.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report, suggesting that “rapid and deep” emissions reduction is required from “all sectors” of the global economy in order to limit global warming to 1.5C or 2C
Federal Election Looms
Over a week after the Federal Budget was delivered, focus has now turned to Scott Morrison in the anticipation of a Federal Election being called for either the 14th or 21st of May – with the latter the last possible day the election can be held.
The latest Newspoll showed a slight increase in support for the Coalition following last week’s Federal Budget, however Labor continues to lead on a two-party preferred basis of 54 to 46. Labor’s primary vote is now two points higher than the Coalition’s at 38 to 36, with Mr Morrison continuing his slight lead as preferred PM over Anthony Albanese, 43 to 42.
After delays caused by ongoing factional disputes and court proceedings, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has endorsed candidates in nine key federal seats across NSW. Meanwhile, the High Court fast-tracked a special leave application from a former member of the NSW Liberal state executive into the legitimacy of the Prime Minister’s intervention into preselection, with the application due to be heard at 4pm today.
The Prime Minister has also rejected allegations of comments he made in 2007 about his opponent for preselection in the seat of Cook. Meanwhile, during an interview, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers outlined that the Opposition doesn’t “have any proposals for tax increases beyond working with other countries to make the multinational tax regime fairer”.
In light of growing national security concerns, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton confirmed on Tuesday that $3.5 billion in funding would be provided to acquire three types of strike missiles. This announcement was coupled with the confirmation that Raytheon Australia and Lockheed Martin have been selected to deliver the Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance.
Following this, six and a half months after the AUKUS partnership was announced, Prime Minister Morrison met with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden to discuss progress under the initiative. The leaders committed to extend cooperation on defence innovation to include hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonics missiles, in addition to electronic warfare capabilities. This announcement comes alongside recent reports that both China and Russia have also made progress in testing hypersonic weaponry.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson for China Zhao Lijian responded to the announcement by stating that the US, UK and Australia are trying to build an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO”. Mr Zhao has also claimed that the countries’ commitment to develop hypersonic weapons will “undermine peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region”.
Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marisa Payne confirmed further sanctions against Russia in response to ongoing aggression in Ukraine. Targeted financial sanctions and travel bans have been imposed on an additional 67 individuals linked to the Russian military.
At 4pm (AEST) today, the High Court is due to hear a special leave application from a former member of the NSW Liberal state executive into the legitimacy of the Prime Minister’s intervention into preselection for federal candidates.
The Federal Government released Australia’s Digital Trade strategy, which builds on the previous Digital Economy Strategy and outlines how the Government will support the growth of digital trade over the next decade.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has launched Phase 2 of its Superannuation Data Transformation, aimed at increasing the detail of data APRA collects across the superannuation industry.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has extended its product intervention order on Contracts for Difference for an additional five years to May 2027.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finalised the Government’s rejection of the application for the Offshore Petroleum Exploration Permit PEP-11.
The Federal Government approved a $1.25 billion loan via the Critical Minerals Facility to Iluka Resources for the development of Australia’s first integrated rare earths refinery, located in WA. The Eneabba Refinery Project will produce various separate rare earth oxide products that will be used in various technologies such as clean energy generation, electric vehicles, and defence.
Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor wrote to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), requesting changes to the National Electricity Rules that would require energy companies to give longer notice periods for the closure of electricity generators. These changes would see the notice period extended from three and a half years to a minimum of five years.
The Federal Government invested an additional $75 million into Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation Project and the Marinus Link electricity interconnector. The Marinus Link is expected to export 1,500 MW of hydro-electricity from Battery of the Nation across Tasmania and the National Electricity Market.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government has committed $268.8 million towards the construction of the Muswellbrook bypass on the New England Highway in the Hunter Region, with the NSW Government to contribute $67.2 million. Construction on the project is expected to commence in early 2023 and be completed by late 2027.
The Opposition confirmed that an elected Albanese Labor Government will invest $200 million to upgrade the Bruce Highway in Brisbane’s North. This investment would see the highway widened to eight lanes from Dohles Rocks Road to Anzac Avenue and see on/off ramps built at the southern end.
NSW Minister for Planning and Homes Anthony Roberts announced the Government will revise the BASIX (Building Sustainability Index) standards in an attempt to improve the quality and affordability of housing across the state. As part of the changes, the Government will consider any issues arising from the state’s ongoing inquiry into recent floods, particularly regarding land use planning.
Also in NSW, Minister for Regional New South Wales Paul Toole revealed the Government is investing $225 million to extend its contract with voestalpine Railway Systems Australia Pty Ltd (vaRSAU) for five years. Under the contract, vaRSAU will continue to supply the NSW Government with track component requirements.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt confirmed $260 million in funding for mental health and suicide prevention support in Queensland. Over a period of five years, the package includes the establishment of new mental health centres and increased suicide aftercare services across the state.
Under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, the Government awarded $23 million to Global Medical Solutions Australia to support local medicine manufacturing. The funding will see Global Medical Solutions Australia work in partnership with Monash University and Telix Pharmaceuticals to locally produce medicines for the treatment of cancer, kidney disease and other illnesses.
Together with Shadow Minister for Health Mark Butler, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese pledged that an elected Labor Government would reform Australia’s Newborn Screening Programs. Reforms would see the nation’s screening program test for 80 birth conditions across all Australian jurisdictions, instead of the current 25.
The Victorian Government announced $1.5 billion to increase surgery levels to catch up on deferred care and waitlisted patients as part of the Government’s COVID Catch-Up Plan. The investment will see over 240,000 procedures for public patients each year until 2024.