Weekly Wrap Up

10 May 2024

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  • The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) left the cash rate unchanged at 4.35 per cent.
  • Minister for Resources Madeleine King released Australia’s Future Gas Strategy, which outlines Australia’s roadmap for gas in the transition towards net zero by 2050.
  • In response to an incident between the Chinese and Australian militaries in the Yellow Sea, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated that China’s conduct was “unprofessional and unacceptable.”
  • Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher provided a pre-Budget outlook in which they declared the Budget will take a “responsible, sensible, and a balanced approach.”
  • WA Treasurer Rita Saffioti delivered [PDF] the State’s 2024-25 Budget and the first under Premier Roger Cook, revealing a $2.6 billion surplus. Read GRA Partners’ overview here [PDF].

Pre-Budget announcements

Ahead of the Federal Budget being handed down on 14 May, the Federal Government unveiled several pre-Budget announcements across various portfolios. In education, the Government revealed changes to student debt (commonly known as HECS) repayments, which going forward will be indexed by either the consumer price index (CPI) or the wage price index (WPI), whichever is lower. Additionally, a new ‘Commonwealth Prac Payment’ will be established to support nursing, teaching, and social work students with weekly subsidies of up to $319.50 during mandatory work placement programs.

In agriculture, the Government committed to a $519.1 million investment in the Future Drought Fund. The additional investment is targeted at strengthening resilience for farming communities from the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, in resources, a $566.1 million package announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Resources Madeleine King will fund geospatial mapping across Australia, targeting critical mineral discoveries for domestic manufacturing under the ‘Future Made in Australia’ policy.

Further announcements include funding allocations for infrastructure projects in Western Sydney and Melbourne. Western Sydney will receive $1.9 billion directed towards 14 new road and rail projects to accommodate anticipated population growth, while Melbourne will receive a $3.25 billion investment for the North East Link project despite previous cost blowouts.

GRACosway will release a detailed overview of the Federal Budget next week.

Senate Supermarket Inquiry

Amidst ongoing federal and state inquiries into the supermarket sector, the Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices published its final report into the price-setting practices and market power of Australia’s major supermarkets. The Committee’s findings highlighted the significant concentration of the supermarket sector globally and emphasised the inadequacy of current regulatory frameworks describing them as not “fit-for-purpose”.

Chief among the Committee’s 14 recommendations is the proposal for establishing court-ordered divestiture powers where supermarkets have engaged in “unconscionable conduct”, although this was not supported by Government Senators. Additionally, the Committee also recommended the outlawing of price-gouging and the establishment of a Prices and Competition Commission to scrutinise pricing practices across the economy.

Victorian Budget

Treasurer Tim Pallas delivered the 2024-25 Victorian Budget, marking the first under Premier Jacinta Allan’s leadership since assuming office last year. Acknowledging cost of living pressures and lingering inflation, the Treasurer emphasised [PDF]  the Budget’s focus on prudent decision-making to navigate these realities.

In response to cost of living pressures, Mr Pallas introduced a $287 million School Saving Bonus, offering a one-off payment of up to $400 per child for families with children attending government schools, set to come into effect in Term Four this year.

Despite economic pressures, Mr Pallas provided an optimistic outlook of the State’s finances. The Victorian economy is forecast to grow 2.5 per cent in the 2024-25 financial year, with further growth to 2.75 per cent in 2025-26. However, net debt has increased to $156.2 billion this financial year and is expected to peak at $187.8 billion by 2027-28, reaching just over a quarter of Gross State Product.

View GRACosway’s detailed overview of the Victorian Budget here.

Looking Ahead

Federal Parliament will sit next week with the Federal Budget being delivered on Tuesday 14 May. The New South Wales, Victorian, Tasmanian, South Australian, Western Australia, ACT, and NT Parliaments will also sit next week.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government committed $166.4 million to expand the country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime to “tranche two entities”, including lawyers and accountants. The funding will enable the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre to administer the new regime and provide education and guidance to support businesses to meet their obligations.

In response to the PwC tax leaks last year, Treasury opened additional consultations on the adequacy of the tax and accounting sectors. The first consultation calls for views on the regulations of accounting, auditing and consulting firms across the country, whilst the second consultation seeks views on stronger information gathering powers for the Australian Taxation Office and the Tax Practitioners Board. Consultations close on 28 June and 31 May, respectively.

The Federal Government released its response to the Independent Review of the Franchising Code of Conduct, led by Dr Michael Schaper. All 23 recommendations – which seek to bolster the Code’s efficacy  – were endorsed or tentatively accepted. The Government is also considering a licensing regime and expanding dispute resolution services. The exposure draft for the new Code will be open for public consultation later this year, ahead of the proposed changes coming into effect from 1 April 2025.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Qantas reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit against Qantas, after it sold tickets on flights that had already been cancelled. A penalty of $100 million will be imposed on Qantas by the Federal Court for breaching Australian Consumer Law, in addition to the approximately $20 million Qantas agreed to pay its customers.


Federal Developments

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and her Opposition counterpart Simon Birmingham travelled to Tuvalu to renew the bilateral Falepili Union agreement. In a joint statement, both nations reaffirmed their cooperation on security, development, and open engagement. The Federal Government also unveiled a $110 million funding package which includes upgrading Tuvalu’s telecommunications infrastructure and establishing a National Security Coordination Centre.

The Federal Government announced a $41.7 million investment to upgrade critical infrastructure at the RAAF Base Tinal in Katherine, Northern Territory. Included in the investment are upgrades to living accommodation and refurbishments to base facilities.

The Government hosted an International Atomic Energy Agency workshop on nuclear security in Melbourne, where participants from across the Indo-Pacific engaged on relevant nuclear security needs and challenges. The workshops included a visit to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency facilities and collaborations on improving regional nuclear security capabilities.


Federal Developments

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen committed $15 million in funding to support the expansion of high-efficiency hydrogen electrolysers production at Hysata’s Port Kembla facility in NSW. Funding will be delivered through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

State Developments

In WA, the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 passed Parliament. The Bill provides a legislative framework for the transport and geological storage of greenhouse gases encouraging the State’s industries to decarbonise; whilst also enabling exploration of naturally occurring hydrogen. Further amendments include the insertion of polluter pays provisions, royalty metering, underground storage of petroleum and blending of additives in pipelines.

The WA Government committed $500 million to the Strategic Industries Fund as part of the State’s 2024-25 Budget. This Fund will prepare land for future industrial projects, enabling sustainable growth and development of strategic industrial areas. Additionally, this fund seeks to fast-track clean energy projects.

In Queensland, the Miles Government invested  $20 million to increase capacity and extend mine life at the Mount Carbine Tungsten Mine. The funding, allocated via the Queensland Critical Minerals and Battery Technology Fund, will enable EQ Resources to undertake drill testing, and equip the plant with new equipment.


Federal Developments

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King announced investments for infrastructure projects as part of the upcoming 2024-25 Budget. This includes $50 million for Stage 2B planning of the Canberra Light Rail and $33.5 million for the WA Government for the development of Westport in Western Australia.

The Federal Government committed $100 million for a new Active Transport Fund as part of the upcoming Budget. The Active Transport Fund will upgrade bicycle and walking paths to support zero emissions travel.  Program guidelines are expected to be published on 1 July 2025.

State Developments

The NSW Government revealed a $90.6 million investment by the Federal Government for additional Fee-Free TAFE places in construction courses under the National Skills Agreement. The funding aims to remove associated cost barriers while promoting the education and training of construction apprentices and trainees.

The Queensland Government committed $300 million to the 2024-27 round of Works for Queensland. Funding will be shared between regional councils and will support the delivery of essential infrastructure and local services. Local councils will be able to submit project applications from 13 May.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government appointed Dr Zoran Bolevich as CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The AIHW is an independent statutory authority proving data and trends in healthcare to support planning and delivery of government policies. Dr Bolevich was previously Chief Executive of eHealth NSW and the Chief Information Officer for NSW Health and has been a board member of the AIHW since 2016.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy announced $7.5 million in funding will go to Indigenous-led clinical trial and cohort studies, this includes $2 million for the establishment of the Aboriginal Cancer Cohort in the SA Health and Medical Research Institute.

The Federal Government announced the Early Years Strategy, which includes a 10-year roadmap for children aged 0-5 to ensure children and their families can get the most out of the critical first five years of development.

State Developments

The WA Government handed down its State Budget with an additional $3.2 billion investment in health. The WA health budget has grown by 45 per cent since 2016-17 to $12.8 billion. Mental health, alcohol and other drug services will receive a $260 million investment, while infrastructure funding is up $839 million.

The Victorian State Budget delivered an additional $13 billion investment in healthcare measures. This included upgrades to the Austin Hospital, Northern Hospital and Monash Medical Centre, with a combined spend of $1.7 billion. The Victorian Government will also spend $15.8 million to expand the mental health workforce as part of its commitment following the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.


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