Weekly Wrap Up

1 March 2024 

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Highlights  

  • Labor leads the Coalition 52-48 on a two-party preferred based while the Coalition leads Labor 36-33 on primary votes, according to the latest
  • Victorian Senator Linda White passed away after taking a brief period of leave for health issues. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described her as a “beloved friend and valued colleague”.
  • The Workplace Gender Equality Agency published its gender pay gap data for private sector companies with 100 or more employees. The data shows only 30 per cent of employers have a median gender pay gap in the target range of +/-5 per cent.
  • Inflation increased by 3.4 per cent in the year to January, according to Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Treasurer Jim Chalmers stated the news was “welcome progress”.
  • Treasurer Jim Chalmers addressed the G20 Economic Ministers Forum in São Paulo, Brazil, where he noted inflation is moderating but warned of “weak” growth.

Federal Parliament

In Federal Parliament this week, the Government successfully passed its Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024 with the support of the Coalition. The legislation will increase tax cuts for low and middle income earners, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling it a “huge win for all 13.6 million Australian taxpayers”.

Meanwhile in the House, the Government passed its Help to Buy Bill 2023, which aims to establish a shared-equity scheme on housing purchases for low and middle income earners. However, the Albanese Government faces difficulty in the Senate where it will require the support of the Greens, with the Coalition confirming it will oppose the Bill. The Greens are seeking changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts in exchange for their support, which the Government has previously rejected. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered his valedictory speech on his retirement from Parliament, thanking his colleagues for their support.

Ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Melbourne, the Parliament also welcomed the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to address a joint sitting of both houses. President Marcos emphasised the importance of the Australia-Philippines bilateral relationship in his speech, stating “the security of Australia is bound with the security of the Philippines”.

Dunkley by-election  

The Dunkley by-election will be held this weekend in what is likely to be the first major test this year for the Albanese Government. The by-election was prompted by the passing of former Labor member Peta Murphy from breast cancer. Labor holds the seat on a margin of 6.3 per cent following the 2022 Federal Election.

Women’s advocate Jodie Belyea is running as the Labor candidate while Mayor of Frankston Nathan Conroy was selected as the Liberal Candidate. The Animal Justice Party, Libertarian Party, Victorian Socialists, Greens, Australian Democrats, and an Independent are also contesting the by-election, with preference flows expected to play a major role in the outcome.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has acknowledged that “by-elections are tough for governments”, but said Labor’s “positive plan”, including fee-free TAFE places and increased tax cuts for low and middle income earners, should help Labor’s prospects. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton argued that the by-election is “an opportunity to send a message to a bad government”.

With recent polling suggesting the by-election will be close, it is possible that the final result may not be known until late next week.

Looking Ahead

Budget Estimates will continue in NSW while the VIC, QLD, and SA Parliaments will sit next week.


FINANCE

Federal Developments

The Federal Government commenced an independent review of Australia’s Credit Reporting Framework which will assess its efficiency and whether current legislative arrangements enable effective lending. Ms Heidi Richards has been appointed to lead the review with a final report due to government by 1 October.

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced the Compensation Scheme of Last Resort (CSLR) will start from 2 April. Ms Jo‑Anne Bloch has been appointed as the inaugural independent Chair of the Board of CSLR Limited for an initial term of three years.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released its Issues Paper[PDF] for industry feedback relating to its ongoing Inquiry into the Supermarket Sector. Submissions are being sought to address competition settings, supply chain factors, the role of suppliers, and other matters relating to supermarkets. Consultation closes 2 April.

Susan Woods has been appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), a newly created role which will see her work closely with the Governor and Deputy Governor in coordinating policy, operational and organisational decision-making. Since 2018, Ms Woods has been the Assistant Governor (Corporate Services) at the RBA overseeing Information Technology and Workplace and the Enterprise Data Office.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE

Federal Developments

Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell met with his Chinese counterpart Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation conference in Abu Dhabi. The ministers focused on the potential removal of tariffs on Australian wine, with a Chinese review into the matter expected by the end of March.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles travelled to Indonesia to undertake high-level defence and security discussions with his counterparts. The countries are expected to sign a Defence cooperation agreement in the coming months.

The Government released its Defence Industry Development Strategy which establishes the framework and principles for Australia’s defence industry policy, and touches on procurement, workforce capability, and uplifting the defence industry’s security posture.

State Developments

Western Australia’s Minister Assisting the Minister for State and Industry Development, Jobs and Trade Stephen Dawson has travelled to the United States to lead the ‘Western Australia: US Connect’ delegation of business leaders. During his visit Minister Dawson will officially open the ‘Invest and Trade WA Americas Hub’ Office in Austin, Texas.


ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment, and Water released its National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the 2023 September quarter. According to the report, Australia’s emissions are at 25.4 per cent of 2005 levels, with the largest reductions made in the energy sector. Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen attributed the emissions levels to the increasing use of renewable energy.

A Senate inquiry has been established to look at the effectiveness of the Federal Government’s waste reduction and recycling policies in delivering a circular economy. The inquiry comes after industry statements concerning the potential consequences of waste export regulations and anticipation of the potential introduction of a mandatory product stewardship scheme for packaging this year. A report is due to government by 22 November.

State Developments

The NSW Government announced a $275 million grants program under the Net Zero Manufacturing Initiative.  Renewable manufacturing, clean technology innovation, and low carbon product manufacturing comprise the three streams in which companies can apply for grants.


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments

Meta announced its decision to no longer pay for news content in the United States and Australia and will deprecate Facebook News from April. In response, Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland confirmed the Government is seeking advice from Treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on its next steps as it is committed to implementing the News Media Bargaining Code.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland opened consultation on whether reforms to mobile infrastructure sharing requirements are required for a more competitive mobile market. The consultation follows the ACCC’s findings from the Regional Mobile Infrastructure Inquiry 2022-23 that existing legislation is not fit for purpose. Consultation closes 22 March.

Federal, State and Territory transport ministers endorsed a set of collaborative principles for a National Approach towards Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS). C-ITS provides interconnected transport systems, which aim to increase transport and road productivity in Australia.

The Federal and NSW Governments announced a joint $115 million investment into five projects as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The projects aim to deliver critical water to support the river system, wetlands and wildlife. Upon completion, the projects are expected to contribute 605GL of water to the rivers.

State Developments

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car announced a new manufacturing program aimed at upgrading public schools across the state. The ‘Manufacturing for Schools’ program is being prioritised in “high growth” areas in North-Western and South-Western Sydney while also rebuilding schools in areas affected by floods along the North Coast.


HEALTH

Federal Developments

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells announced Australians will now be able to view the amount aged care providers spend on care, food, and wages in order to increase transparency in the sector via the My Aged Care website. The ‘Dollars to Care’ measure comes directly from a recommendation made by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commissioner Tracy Mackey announced her resignation effective from May. Ms Mackey has served as Commissioner for the majority of her three-year term. The recruitment process to find a new Commissioner is now underway.

 

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