Weekly Wrap Up
- The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest World Economic Outlook forecasted Australia’s economic growth at 4.5 per cent in 2021, one per cent higher than its interim outlook in January. The IMF expects economic growth to reach 2.8 per cent in 2022.
- Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Michaelia Cash appointed Michael Easton as Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), while Bernadette O’Neill, Sophie Mirabella, Phillip Ryan and Alana Matheson will commence as Commissioners over the coming year.
- The Australian Electoral Commission confirmed it will investigate reports about whether Bowman MP Andrew Laming operated social media accounts without proper authorisation and disclosure.
- NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan is taking leave from the Senate to commence treatment for an aggressive form of cancer.
- Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly Jonathan O’Dea announced[PDF] that the Upper Hunter By-Election is scheduled for 22 May. Construction manager David Layzell was confirmed as the Nationals candidate.
- Final results were declared for the Western Australian Legislative Council, with Labor winning 22 of the 36 seats. Subsequently, Premier Mark McGowan announced the 41st Parliament will commence on 29 April.
Women’s Cabinet priorities
The Women’s Cabinet Taskforce held its inaugural meeting this week, co-chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Women Marise Payne. The Cabinet addressed the Government’s response to the 2018 Respect@Work Inquiry and will adopt all 55 recommendations (in part or full), including the creation of a separate taskforce and council to deliver legislative and regulatory reform. Significantly, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash reported that the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 will be extended to include Federal Judges and Members of Parliament.
The Prime Minister also announced that the National Women’s Safety Summit will be held on 29 and 30 July, and has launched a public consultation on the next National Plan to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia.
A Lowy Institute report analysed the impact of Chinese trade restrictions on Australian exports since the Prime Minister called for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. While the policy changes resulted in a $20 billion a year loss across barley, coal, copper, cotton, sugar and timber products, the Institute found exporters have offset almost all costs though untapped markets. Australia’s wine traders, however, are still struggling to recover from the 220 anti-dumping measures imposed by China in November.
Elsewhere, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye invited Australian journalists to a press conference at the embassy in Canberra to address reports of human rights abuse in the Xinjiang Province. Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated Australia’s concerns about the situation and said the Government would continue to advocate for the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit the region. Minister Payne also noted Australia does not presently have the appropriate regime to impose any sanctions on foreign officials due to human rights issues.
After receiving advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the Prime Minister announced that Australia’s vaccination program would be adjusted to respond to risks associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. It is now advised that those under the age of 50 receive the Pfizer vaccine and the longer-term timeframe for the program is being reviewed. The details are set to be discussed at National Cabinet today.
Across the Tasman, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed[PDF] the two-way bubble would commence on Sunday 18 April. Following her announcement, a border-related case of COVID-19 was recorded in Auckland. The hotel quarantine security guard had been in the community for four days with symptoms.
The New Zealand Parliament will sit next week.
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