Weekly Wrap Up
1 December 2023
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- Inflation rose 4.9 per cent in the year to October 2023, down from 5.6 per cent in September, according to the latest CPI data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
- The latest Newspoll data showed Labor is no longer ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, with support at 50-50. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continues to lead Opposition Leader Peter Dutton as preferred Prime Minister, 46-35, despite his popularity dropping to its lowest level since the 2022 Federal Election.
- A joint parliamentary committee inquiry into the 2022 Federal Election delivered its final report, making 21 recommendations including to double the number of senators for the ACT and NT.
- Senator Patrick Dodson announced he will retire from the Senate on 26 January 2024 due to poor health.
- Former Liberal MP for Wentworth Dave Sharma returned to Federal Parliament after securing the NSW Senate position, which was vacated following Marise Payne’s retirement.
- Stephanie Foster was appointed Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs for a five-year term commencing immediately, following Michael Pezzullo’s removal from the position after an independent inquiry found he breached the Government’s code of conduct on several occasions.
- The Federal Government confirmed its support for an extension to the truce between Israel and Hamas, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong stating a ceasefire “cannot be one-sided”.
This week marked the penultimate sitting week for the year for both chambers of Parliament. Significantly, the Government’s Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 passed the House of Representatives, which proposes new protections for gig economy, casual, and labour hire workers. This came after Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke made 81 amendments to the Bill and negotiated further amendments with the Australian Greens and Independent MP Allegra Spender, such as criminalising superannuation underpayments.
Also in the House, Treasurer Jim Chalmers introduced the Treasury Laws Amendment (Reserve Bank Reforms) Bill 2023 to reform the governance structure and policy objectives of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Minister for Housing Julie Collins also introduced the Help to Buy Bill 2023, which would establish a scheme to enable low and middle-income Australians to purchase a home with an equity contribution from the Government. Meanwhile, the Migration Amendment Bill 2023 passed the House without the Coalition’s support, placing additional conditions on former detainees that were released following the High Court’s ruling that indefinite detention of immigrants is unlawful. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC also introduced the Modern Slavery Amendment Bill 2023 delivering on an election commitment to establish a Modern Slavery Commissioner as a within the Attorney-General’s portfolio. Additionally, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese delivered a national apology to Australians impacted by thalidomide, a drug recommended to pregnant women in the 1950s, which has since been found to cause severe developmental issues to babies in utero.
Meanwhile in the Senate, a motion from the Greens calling for an urgent ban on the use of manufactured stone by 1 July 2024 passed. Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg also successfully established an inquiry into insurance and retirement outcomes, which will be conducted by the Senate Economics References Committee. Elsewhere, the Government passed its Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 with support from crossbenchers to deliver the revised Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Climate Policy and COP28
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen delivered the Government’s second Annual Climate Change Statement 2023 to Parliament which outlined Australia’s progress towards its emission reduction goals. During his address, Minister Bowen confirmed that Australia is currently set to reduce its emissions by 42 per cent (from 2005 levels) by 2030 based on its current trajectory, one per cent below the legislated target of 43 per cent. Mr Bowen indicated that the Government accepted 39 out of 42 recommendations – the three rejected related to fuel efficiency standards and phasing out gas connections to homes. The statement reported that emissions from the transport sector accounted for 21.1 per cent of the country’s total emissions in 2023, a 7.8 per cent increase since 2022.
The Statement comes ahead of the Minister’s attendance at the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, which commenced on Thursday and will conclude on 12 December. The Summit brings together signatories of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement signed by over 150 governments in 1992 to address the climate crisis, working towards agreement on mitigation goals and strategies. Minister Bowen expressed that the Federal Government supports tripling global renewables capacity, as well as doubling global energy efficiency efforts.
Federal, NSW, WA and Tasmanian parliaments will sit next week.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers appointed Andrew Hauser as the new Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia for a five-year term. Mr Hauser has extensive experience in central banking and macroeconomics, having spent over 30 years of his career at the Bank of England.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its seventh interim report as part of its Inquiry into Digital Platform Services. In its report, the ACCC found that new competition laws are required due to the expansion of digital platform services which has created risks to competition and consumer choice.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher introduced the Identity Verification Services Bill 2023, which aims to establish a legislative framework to create an economy-wide digital identification (ID) system in Australia. This includes expanding the Digital ID system to incorporate state and territory-based ID and strengthen privacy protections for users.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones and Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland released a consultation paper on a new Scams Code Framework. Under the proposed framework, banks, telecommunication providers, and digital platforms would have to comply with obligations to prevent, detect, and remove scams or be penalised.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles travelled to the United States for the second AUKUS Defence Ministers’ Meeting in California. Marles will meet with the US Secretary of Defence and the UK Secretary of State for Defence to discuss enhancing capabilities related to the AUKUS partnership.
The Government introduced the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023 which will expand Australia’s existing trade controls to regulate the supply of controlled items and provision of services on the Defence and Strategic Goods List. This will ensure Australia’s military technologies are protected and will also provide a national exemption for the trade of defence goods and technologies with the United States and United Kingdom.
The Government committed up to $12 million in a new partnership to accelerate access to new HIV prevention and treatment solutions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Australia will work with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Health Equity Matters to deliver the initiative.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced that the Government signed two enforceable commitments with APLNG and Senex to supply the east coast gas market with 300 petajoules of gas by 2030 (and 140PJ by the end of 2027). Further details on the commitments will be released by the ACCC in the near future.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen and Minister for the Public Service Katy Gallagher released the Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy. Under the strategy, the Australian Public Service (APS) will seek to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 through measures such as transitioning to renewable energy sources and phasing in electric vehicles as part of the APS fleet.
The Federal Government published the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) Corporations Investment Mandate and confirmed the NRF will begin investing in enhancing industrial capabilities. The Mandate outlines funding priorities across renewables, medical science, transport, forestry and fishery, resources, defence capabilities and enabling technologies.
The NSW Government successfully passed its Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill in Parliament this week, which enshrines emissions reductions targets of 50 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050 into law. The Bill also establishes the Net Zero Commission to actively oversee and monitor NSW’s progress in reducing its emissions.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government released the terms of reference for its review into the Optus outage. The review will focus on emergency calls, customer communications, and complaints handling, and provide an opportunity for the telecommunications industry to address underlying issues arose from the outage. Former Deputy Chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Richard Bean will lead the review.
The Senate Standing Committee on Economics presented the final report from its inquiry into the market power, influence, and conduct of digital platforms. The report focuses on ‘the five largest platforms’: Alphabet (Google); Amazon; Apple; Meta; and Microsoft, and the importance of them considering the consumer and market impacts of their operations.
The NSW Government announced it will amend the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to accelerate the construction of low and mid-rise homes across the state. The proposed changes would enable a greater diversity of homes such as multi-dwelling flat buildings and town houses in council areas that do not currently permit them. The Government confirmed that the proposed developments will be targeted in the Hunter, Central Coast, Greater Sydney, and Illawarra-Shoalhaven.
The South Australian Parliament passed legislation to reform the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 to enforce better protections for tenants. Amongst other things, the legislation will establish new grounds for termination and enable pets in rental homes with reasonable conditions.
The Federal Government announced the first stage of vaping reforms are set to commence on 1 January 2024, which will see a ban on disposable single use vapes will be implemented. Further changes are expected to commence from 1 March 2024, including the halting of the personal importation of vapes and a ban on the import of non-therapeutic vapes.
The Federal Government launched the Defence Strategy for Preventing and Responding to Family and Domestic Violence 2023–2028. The strategy will facilitate appropriate responses to family and domestic violence experienced in the Defence community and contribute to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 within the context of the Defence community.
NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park launched the NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2023-2030, which provides a roadmap to reduce the incidence of skin cancer in the state. The strategy seeks to improve skin cancer prevention and access to quality shade in schools and public places.
The WA Government announced $40 million in additional funding to reduce elective surgery waitlists. The funding is equivalent to 6,000 elective surgeries and procedures. The announcement is part of wider reforms to the WA Health sector currently being undertaken.