Weekly Wrap Up
10 June 2022
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- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increased the interest rate from 0.35 to 0.85 – the largest single increase in over 20 years.
- Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen held an emergency meeting with his state and territory counterparts to discuss energy supply and pricing.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Indonesia for the Annual Leaders’ Meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
- The Prime Minister also met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney.
- Liberal Leader Peter Dutton and Nationals Leader David Littleproud unveiled[PDF] the Opposition’s Shadow Ministry.
- The Federal Government lodged an official submission to the Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review, recommending that in light of inflation, real wages “do not go backwards”.
- The Federal Government announced it has granted regulatory approval for NASA to launch three rockets at the Arnhem Space Centre in the NT within the next month.
- From 12 to 15 June, Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell and Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres will lead Australia’s delegation to the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva.
Chris Bowen convenes his first energy ministers meeting
In light of increasing energy prices and challenges in the market, Energy Minister Chris Bowen convened[PDF] a crisis meeting with state and territory energy ministers. Minister Bowen said while the country’s energy ministers had agreed to take 11 points of action to address challenges, there was no “silver bullet” and no “magic answers”. Significant actions agreed upon include providing the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) with greater powers to procure and store gas, and instructing energy regulators to develop the capacity mechanism “as a matter of some urgency”. The Energy Security Board has been tasked with developing a draft capacity mechanism, which will aim to ensure adequate dispatchable capacity to ensure demand can always be met, with a focus on renewable energy and storage.
Additionally, energy ministers vowed to collaborate on a new National Transition Plan to renewable energy and storage solutions, with Minister Bowen stating “the reason why we are in this crisis today is because there hasn’t been enough planning about the changes that are necessary”. This Plan will be developed in line with the AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (ISP), which outlines the transmission and generation infrastructure required to meet future demand in the National Electricity Market.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Jim Chalmers wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) expressing “deep concern about skyrocketing electricity and gas prices” and requesting that the ACCC investigates and takes action on any anti-competitive, or false and misleading conduct in the electricity and gas markets. Chalmers also asked the ACCC to advise the Government of any regulatory changes that could be required to ensure the proper function of the energy market.
PM’s second trip abroad
For his second significant trip abroad since being sworn in as Prime Minister, Mr Albanese met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Makassar for the Indonesia-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting. Joining the Prime Minister on this trip was Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong, Trade Minister Senator Don Farrell, Industry Minister Ed Husic, and Member for Solomon Luke Gosling OAM. Mr Albanese noted that he was the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Makassar and emphasised the importance of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, referring to it as “sophisticated”. Mr Albanese also highlighted the “enormous opportunity” of Indonesian trade with Australia, noting that Australia “is a trading nation” and “should be able to trade on a basis that benefits economies… both the exporter and the importer”.
In a joint statement from the meeting, the leaders confirmed a $200 million climate and infrastructure partnership between Australia and Indonesia and affirmed their commitment to collaborate on matters including food security and trade and investment.
In other foreign relations news, Mr Albanese is hosting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney today, with Ms Ardern being the first foreign leader to meet Prime Minister Albanese in Australia. The two leaders are set to discuss topics including the deportation of New Zealanders from Australia.
The Opposition has announced[PDF] its new Shadow Ministry, with significant appointments including former Energy Minister Angus Taylor taking on the role of Shadow Treasurer and former Finance Minister Simon Birmingham moving into the Shadow Foreign Affairs portfolio. Former Education Minister Alan Tudge has also re-joined the frontbench after stepping down in December 2021, returning to the Education portfolio. New Nationals Leader David Littleproud will serve as Shadow Minister for Agriculture, while the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio will sit with Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie. There are six Nationals in the Shadow Cabinet, including former Leader Barnaby Joyce, who takes on the portfolio of Veterans’ Affairs. Significantly, the Liberal-National Shadow Ministry includes ten women in key roles.
The SA, WA and Tasmanian Parliaments are sitting next week. Estimates hearings will take place in the NT Parliament.
Minister for Housing Julie Collins announced that from 1 July, the Home Guarantee Scheme will be expanded to include five additional lenders: Credit Union SA, Illawarra Credit Union, IMB Ltd, Newcastle Permanent Building Society, and Unity Bank Limited.
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) published an Information Sheet outlining warnings and reprimands given to financial advisers, as investigated by the Hayne Royal Commission and introduced by the Financial Sector Reform (Hayne Royal Commission Response – Better Advice) Act 2021.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) confirmed it will be working with the Federal Government to conduct a review of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM), as well as to renegotiate a new Heads of Agreement (HoA).
Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio launched a new Code of Conduct to provide protections for Victorians utilising the Victorian Energy Upgrades program in relation to matters including marketing and sales, contracts and dispute resolution. The new Code of Conduct will be enforced from 1 July 2022 for businesses operating under the program.
The NSW Government has opened the registration of interest (ROI) process for the Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) for energy project developers and businesses with large electrical loads. The Illawarra REZ forms part of the State Government’s NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The NSW Government announced a Toll Rebate Scheme will be included in the upcoming June State Budget. Under the scheme, drivers in NSW will receive a 40 per cent rebate for every dollar spent on tolls once they reach a minimum spend of $375 dollars.
The NSW Government approved the first stage of the $341 million Aspect Industrial Estate at Kemps Creek, enabling construction to commence on the project.
The Victorian Government appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Master Builders Victoria, Rebecca Casson, as Chair of the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC). Ms Casson will be the first woman to lead the BICC.
The NT Government Planning Commission opened consultation on a Discussion Paper for development of an Area Plan for Greater Holtze. Consultation closes 1 July 2022.
The NSW Government announced $743 million in funding for palliative care and specialist health services over the next five years. This investment includes $650 million to employ 600 nurses, allied health professionals, doctors, and support staff, as well as to improve services and programs. Additionally, $93 million will be used to redevelop and refurbish NSW Health facilities.
The Victorian Government will invest $353 million towards a Healthcare Worker Winter Retention and Surge Payment, which will offer payments of $3,000 to all staff working in public hospitals and ambulances services across the state. The payments will be made in two rounds, one after 15 August and one after 30 September.
As part of the upcoming State Budget this month, the NSW Government has devoted $4.5 billion over the next four years to recruit 10,148 full-time equivalent staff to hospitals and health services across the state. The funding will include $1.76 billion to NSW Ambulance to recruit 2,128 new staff and open 30 new stations.
The Tasmanian Government released the Exposure Draft of Our Healthcare Future: Advancing Tasmania’s Health, outlining the policy direction for the future of healthcare in Tasmania for the next 20 years.