Weekly Wrap Up
1 September 2023
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- Inflation increased 4.9 per cent in the year to July 2023, according to latest Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed legal action against Qantas for allegedly engaging in false, misleading, or deceptive conduct by advertising and selling cancelled flight tickets. Meanwhile, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce appeared at a cost-of-living committee inquiry on Monday.
- The Federal Government signed an agreement with Western Australia to provide up to $3 billion in loans and equity investments to WA to support the state’s renewable energy grid projects.
- The Australian Energy Market Operator indicated a risk of blackouts due to higher electricity demand this summer in its latest Electricity Statement of Opportunities report[PDF].
- A parliamentary inquiry into the appointment of Josh Murray as Secretary for Transport for NSW commenced[PDF] this week.
- The Victorian Liberal Party retained the seat of Warrandyte after candidate Nicole Werner won at a by-election last Saturday. Also in Victoria, Liberal MP Matt Bach has resigned from his shadow portfolios.
Referendum date announced
During his visit to Adelaide on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the Voice to Parliament referendum will be held on Saturday 14 October. The announcement officially launched the start of a six-week campaign, with Mr Albanese stating, “When Yes wins, all Australians will win”. Meanwhile, ‘No’ campaign spokespeople Senator Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine visited Tasmania, where the Senator stated Mr Albanese is “dividing our country”. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton also commented on the announcement, stating, “If you don’t know, vote ‘no’”. While Mr Albanese said he remains confident the referendum will succeed, during an interview he indicated that the Government would not legislate a voice if the referendum failed to produce a yes vote.
Tony Burke National Press Club address
In a speech to the National Press Club , Minister for Employment Relations Tony Burke discussed the next tranche of industrial relations reform which he intends to introduce into Parliament on Monday 4 September. Mr Burke confirmed the Closing Loopholes Bill 2023 will cover four ‘loopholes’, including wage theft; permanent casual employment; labour hire; and the gig economy. Of note, the Bill aims to empower the Fair Work Commission to set minimum standards for “employee-like workers” on digital platforms – including rideshare and food delivery workers – to stop work conditions from being “a race to the bottom”. Mr Burke also reiterated that where casual hours are indistinguishable from a part or full timer, an employee should be able to convert; and that certain wage theft cases should be a criminal offence. Additionally, the Bill intends to provide equal pay for labour hire workers compared to their permanent counterparts as part of the ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ reforms. Mr Burke will provide more detail on Monday, following the introduction of the proposed legislation.
Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments sit next week.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones published a discussion paper which examines the practice of screen scraping and the feasibility of implementing a ban on the practice. This follows a recommendation from the statutory review of the Consumer Data Right (CDR). Additionally, Treasury has published exposure draft rules on the expansion of the CDR to the non‑bank lending sector and a design paper which is seeking input on the development of changes to consent rules and potential enhancements to the CDR Rules.
The Federal Government announced it will discontinue the Modernising Business Registers program following Treasury’s review[PDF] of the program. The review found the cost to deliver the program exceeded the expected benefits and it would not be delivered in full until 2029, five years later than anticipated.
Minister for Small Business Julie Collins released the report from the independent review of the Payment Times Reporting Act 2020. The review has recommended overhauling the Payment Times Report Scheme and includes 14 recommendations with 23 actions for Government.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones opened consultation on options to address unfair trading practices. Treasury published a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement to support its points of inquiry for the consultation process, which will close on 29 November.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Defence Richard Marles released a statement to acknowledge the death of three US marines and injured personnel following the crash of a US military aircraft just north of Darwin. The aircraft was used as part of a joint military exercise involving more than 2,000 defence force personnel from the US, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.
The Government committed $765 million to deliver two key air and missile defence capability projects as part of the Joint Air Battle Management System program. This will be the second tranche of the program.
The Australian and Indonesian governments signed an expanded Memorandum of Understanding on the Indonesia-Australia Development Exchange Pilot to support Australia and Indonesian businesses and workers to improve workplace skills. This mobility pilot program operates under Australia’s free trade agreement with Indonesia and will run for five years.
Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy visited Tuvalu this week to meet Prime Minister Kausea Natano and to discuss supporting shared interests in creating a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum. During his visit, Minister Conroy also visited the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced the total project cost of Snowy 2.0 is anticipated to be $12 billion due to “design immaturity” and “site conditions and geology”. The Project is expected to be completed in December 2028.
Prime Minister Albanese confirmed the appointment of Adam Fennessy PSM as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry following the resignation of Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO. Mr Fennessy will commence his five-year appointment on 18 September.
The Government confirmed the rollout of the Capacity Investment Scheme across Victoria and South Australia to support the development of renewable energy storage and dispatchable generation in the states. The scheme aims to improve energy reliability and security while progressing cheaper, cleaner energy across the grid.
The Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Conference was held in Perth to discuss clean energy and sustainable development across the Asia-Pacific. The event included local and international representatives, with WA Premier Roger Cook stating it was an opportunity for the State to position itself as a “reliable” trading partner for China.
The Queensland Government announced an investment of $151 million for the disposal of organic waste. The investment will support Councils to deliver lime-green lidded bins and kitchen caddies for households to separate food organics and general waste.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland published the eSafety Commissioner’s Roadmap for Age Verification and the Government’s response, which aim to prevent and mitigate children’s exposure to online pornography. The Government confirmed it will not mandate age assurance technologies but endorsed the development of industry codes as part of the Online Safety Act 2021 which intend to limit access to online pornography.
The Victorian Economy and Infrastructure Committee released the final report of its inquiry into Victorian land transfer duty fees. The report recommended that the Victorian Government replace stamp duty with a broad-based land tax, which it suggested would improve housing affordability.
The Victorian Government unveiled Melbourne’s Tram Plan which aims to invest $3.8 billion to improve the reliability, accessibility and modernity of Melbourne’s tram network. The plan will deliver new trams and stops and follows on from previous investments to make the network more interconnected.
HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND EDUCATION
The Government released the National Eating Disorders Strategy 2023–2033 which provides a roadmap to support Australians with eating disorders over the next 10 years. The Strategy was developed by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration.
The South Australian Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care released its final report into the future of early childhood education and care across the state. The report made 43 recommendations to the Government to reform the industry including a series of changes to the outside of school hours care sector.
NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park signed a memorandum of understanding with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association to progress the roll-out of Safe Staffing Levels in NSW public hospitals. The new regulations will begin in emergency departments before expanding to ICUs, maternity services, and regional and community hospitals with the ultimate aim to enshrine the levels in the Public Health System Nurses’ and Midwives’ (State) Award.
Victorian Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes introduced the Triple Zero Victoria Bill 2023 which will amend the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA). The Bill will make ESTA a statutory authority which will be led by a board and CEO, who will be directly accountable to Minister Symes.