Weekly Wrap Up
10 March 2023
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- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lifted the cash rate for the tenth consecutive time – increasing it by 0.25 basis points to 3.6 per cent. RBA Governor Philip Lowe has since stated the RBA has an “open mind” on the matter of future rate rises.
- Latest Newspoll data was released, indicating that Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis but with a slight decrease in support, 54-46.
- Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared[PDF] before the Royal Commission into the former Robodebt Scheme.
- The Senate Select Committee on Work and Care tabled[PDF] its final report on its inquiry into the impact that combining work and care responsibilities has on the wellbeing of workers, carers, and those they care for. The report made 33 recommendations.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it will examine the expanding ecosystems of digital platform service providers in Australia as part of the next phase of its ongoing Digital Platform Services Inquiry.
- Former Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe was cleared of contempt of parliament in relation to an undisclosed relationship she had with a former motorcycle gang leader.
- The Federal Court dismissed an application from Independent MP Monique Ryan’s Chief of Staff to continue working for Dr Ryan for the duration of a trial regarding an employment dispute between the two.
- In NSW, the Independent Commission Against Corruption announced that it found no evidence of corrupt conduct in the recruitment of former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to a US trade commissioner role, and discontinued its investigation into the matter.
In Federal Parliament this week, legislation establishing the Government’s proposed National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) passed the House of Representatives and will soon be debated in the Senate. Announced as a pre-election commitment, the NRF is intended to invest in priority areas of the Australian economy, such as domestic manufacturing, through public-private partnerships. Significantly, the Government reached a deal with the Greens to secure the Party’s support for the legislation in the Senate on the basis of a guarantee the NRF will not invest any new coal and gas projects, gas pipelines or the logging of native forests. With the Greens’ support, the Government now needs two additional votes in order to secure the passage of this legislation through the Senate. It is understood that the Government is continuing negotiations with members of the crossbench in order to see the bill passed by its target of late March.
In the House, debate also continued on the Government’s legislation to reform the safeguard mechanism. The Greens have remained firm on their request to see the end of new coal and gas mines in exchange for the Party’s support on the legislation. Meanwhile, Independent Senator David Pocock has indicated his desire to see the implementation of recommendations from a recent review of Australia’s carbon credit system before confirming his support for the legislation. The implementation of recommendations from the Chubb review into Australia’s carbon credit system was also recommended in the final report[PDF] of the Senate committee investigating the legislation, which was released earlier this week.
Elsewhere in Parliament, Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones reintroduced draft legislation for the Financial Accountability Regime and Compensation Scheme of Last Resort in the House of Representatives, in line with a pre-election commitment to finalise the response to the Hayne Royal Commission. Also in the House, Independent Member for Mackellar Sophie Scamps introduced a Private Member’s Bill that aims to promote greater transparency in political appointments, which she has referred to as an ‘ending jobs for mates’ bill.
Outside of Parliament, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit to India has been a key focus of the week. At the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Albanese visited India’s new NS Vikrant aircraft carrier, where he referred to India as a “top tier security partner” for Australia. The Australian Prime Minister also confirmed the finalisation of the Australia–India Education Qualifications Recognition Mechanism, under which the qualifications of Indian and Australian students studying in either country will be recognised in both India and Australia.
Today, Mr Albanese referred to his visit to India as “exceptionally successful” and took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the bilateral relationship between India and Australia. He stated that his time in India had been centred around the themes of national security and economic and cultural ties, and will have “more to say” about these areas later today.
Prime Minister Albanese has also declared he will visit the US on Monday for a meeting with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss the AUKUS partnership. Mr Albanese indicated that after this meeting, he will be making “further comments about specific proposals” in relation to AUKUS and Australia’s ability to manufacture submarines under the partnership.
It is a public holiday on Monday in Victoria, SA, the ACT and Tasmania. The Queensland and WA Parliaments are sitting next week.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced a review of the regulatory framework for the managed investment scheme. The review will examine whether the current regulatory framework is fit-for-purpose and consider potential improvements that can be made to reduce undue financial risk for investors.
Treasury released for consultation two sets of exposure draft regulations that aim to reduce the complexity of corporation and financial services laws. Feedback on these regulations is open until 3 April.
In NSW, the Secretary of the Treasury published the 2023 Pre-election Budget Update[PDF], indicating a significant deficit in 2022-23 and 2023-24, before returning to a small surplus from 2024-25.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Qin Gang while at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi and covered issues of trade restrictions, human rights, and sovereignty. During the meeting, Minister Wong also called for China to use its position of influence to drive the end of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Minister Wong joined several foreign ministers across the globe to share a statement acknowledging current human rights issues facing women in Afghanistan, and called on the Taliban to reverse its restrictive decision-making.
Separately, Minister Wong announced Mr Justin Mohamed will be appointed as the new Ambassador for First Nations People, commencing in April. Leading the Office of First Nations Engagement within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Mohamed will be responsible for the international representation of Indigenous people.
The Australian Government last week deployed a rapid assessment team to Vanuatu to survey the impact of Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin and provide humanitarian assistance. Following this, the Government sent additional support, with the HMAS Canberra ship later deployed to the country.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Resources Madeleine King published the results of Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources report. The report stated that Australia is the lead producer of major commodities including lithium and iron ore.
The Queensland Government declared it will spend $5 billion to take ownership of the Copperstring 2.0 project, under which it will deliver the proposal to build a 1,100km power line connecting Mount Isa to the national electricity market to transmit renewable energy.
Also in Queensland, the Ville Resort-Casino in Townsville signed a deal with CleanCo that will see the facility become 100 per cent powered by renewable energy by 2025.
WA Minister for Environment and Climate Action Reece Whitby announced that a climate resilience strategy has been established for the Ningaloo Coast, making the Coast the first World Heritage site with such a strategy. The development of the strategy was led by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
In the NT, consultation opened on the Territory Government’s steps to phase out single-use plastics. Items proposed to be banned include heavy weight plastic bags, plastic cutlery, plates and bowls, and Expanded polystyrene consumer food containers. Consultation closes 14 April.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government opened applications for those interested in joining the Brisbane Airport Community Airspace Advisory Board, which will help inform future airspace changes aimed at better managing aircraft noise. Applications close 26 March 2023.
The Victorian Government launched an Expression of Interest process for civil works to deliver the Commonwealth Games Villages across regional Victoria prior to the Commonwealth Games in March 2026. Construction sector parties can register for the process via the Buying for Victoria website until Tuesday 28 March.
The Queensland Government released the Women in Manufacturing Strategy, which aims to encourage and increase participation in traditionally male-dominated roles as well as retaining women in the industry.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler removed COVID-19 testing requirements for passengers arriving from China, noting there continues to be a drop in cases, hospitalisations and deaths from the virus.
In Parliament, Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John established a Committee into the Provision and Access of Dental Services in Australia. The Committee is due to present its final report by 28 November 2023.
Also in parliament, the Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Improvements for Families and Gender Equality) Bill 2022 passed. This will enable more parents to access Parental Leave Pay, with either parent able to claim first, as well as increased flexibility in accessing the entitlements.
The SA Government launched[PDF] a review into palliative care services, which will consider best practice models and make recommendations to improve current services in the state.