Weekly Wrap Up

14 June 2024

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Highlights

  • In the latest Newspoll, the Labor Party and Coalition are tied at 50-50 on a two-party preferred basis. Anthony Albanese remains preferred Prime Minister over Peter Dutton at 46-38.
  • The unemployment rate fell by 0.1 per cent to 4 per cent in May, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that Chinese Premier Li Qiang will visit Australia later this week to discuss bilateral and regional issues. This marks the first visit by a Chinese Premier to Australia since 2017.
  • The Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee published its final report into the management and assurance of integrity by consulting services in the wake of the PwC tax scandal.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reiterated that the Federal Government has “ambition” to pursue universal childcare, saying it would “boost productivity.”
  • QLD Treasurer Cameron Dick handed down the 2024-25 State Budget, revealing a $2.6 billion deficit ahead of an October election. Read GRACosway’s detailed overview here.

Coalition opposes 2030 emissions target

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton confirmed that the Coalition would not pursue the Albanese Government’s emissions reduction target of 43 per below 2005 levels by 2030, if elected. In an interview on his second anniversary as Opposition Leader Mr Dutton labelled the Albanese Government’s 2030 target as “ideological” and said the Government’s “renewables-only policy” has contributed to higher electricity prices for Australian households. Asked about the Coalition’s alternative approach, Mr Dutton did not specify whether the Coalition would implement a different 2030 target but said a broader nuclear energy policy would be announced “in due course.” The Opposition remains committed to the Paris Agreement and the transition to net-zero by 2050, according to Mr Dutton.

In response, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the Coalition’s stance as a “complete vacuum” and accused Mr Dutton of creating uncertainty for business. Mr Albanese also pointed out that walking away from a 2030 target would effectively mean abandoning the Paris Agreement, which requires signatories to set 5-yearly emissions reduction targets. The divergence in energy and climate change policy is expected to be a key issue as the federal election approaches.

NSW draft redistribution

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) proposed that the Division of North Sydney be abolished as part of the redistribution of New South Wales’ federal electorates. Redistributions are triggered by changes in a state’s population and aim to ensure that each electorate across the country has roughly the same amount of voters. Under the AEC’s proposal, the Division of North Sydney will be abolished and will be absorbed by the neighbouring electorates of Bradfield (held by Liberal MP Paul Fletcher), Bennelong (held by Labor MP Jerome Laxale) and Warringah (held by Independent MP Zali Steggall).

North Sydney is currently held by Independent MP Kylea Tink with a margin of just under 3 per cent from 2022. Historically, it has been considered a safe Liberal seat. It is unclear at this stage whether the draft redistributions will pay electorate dividends to a certain party or candidate.

Objections to the AEC’s proposal close on 12 July with the redistribution set to be finalised by October. The AEC also released draft redistributions for Victoria and Western Australia last week, while the process for the Northern Territory remains ongoing.

Looking Ahead

The NSW, VIC, SA, WA, NT (Budget estimates), and TAS Parliaments will sit next week. NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey will hand down the NSW 2024-25 Budget on Tuesday 18 June.


FINANCE

Federal Developments

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the second annual forum on Australia’s Economic Outlook. In his address, Mr Albanese discussed challenges and opportunities to Australia’s economic progress, including lingering inflation, the gender pay gap, unemployment, and the Future Made in Australia package. Following this, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the reappointment of Dr Steven Kennedy PSM to his position as Secretary to the Treasury, commencing September 2024.

Treasury opened consultation on draft regulations for the Treasury Laws Amendment (Delivering Better Financial Outcomes) Regulations 2024. The draft regulations aim to support the implementation of legislation delivering on the first tranche of the Government’s Quality of Advice reforms. Consultation closes on 8 July.

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones MP announced that the Federal Government’s National Anti-Scam Centre (NASC) would be joining the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX) intel exchange alongside Australian banks, telecommunications companies, and digital platforms. The NASC will share and receive intel such as bank accounts, scam phone numbers, and URLs.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) voiced concerns about Sigma Healthcare’s proposed acquisition of Chemist Warehouse, commenting that it may harm competition in the pharmaceutical supply industry and impact rival pharmacies. The ACCC welcomes submission from interested parties until 27 June.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE

Federal Developments

The Federal Government confirmed that over $86 million worth of wine has been exported to China in the month since tariffs were removed in April. In light of the resumption of wine exports, the Government confirmed it will continue its Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant Program and also announced a $3.5 million Grape and Wine Sector Long-term Viability Support Package.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong welcomed the UN Security Council’s resolution in support of a ceasefire, a permanent end to hostilities, and the start of reconstruction in Gaza. Minister Wong reaffirmed the Government’s support for President Biden’s three-phase proposal for ending the conflict and committed to supporting international humanitarian efforts. The Federal Government also confirmed an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The Federal Government announced a $15 million investment into the upcoming 2026 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which will be hosted in Australia. Expected to attract approximately 24,000 visitors and generate $200 million for the economy, both the tournament and the Government’s investment will aim to boost women’s sporting opportunities, particularly in football. The Asian Cup builds on the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Australia last year.

State Developments

The WA Government launched its ‘Walking on a Dream’ tourism campaign on the social media platform Douyin in China. The advertising campaign, alongside partnerships with several Chinese travel agent companies, aims to promote WA flight, hotel, and tour travel packages. The launch follows China Southern Airlines’ announcement that its non-stop service between Guangzhou and Perth will return from 28 November.


ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

The Federal Government secured an additional 40 petajoules of gas through a new supply deal with Walloons, part of Shell. The deal will be made available under an enforceable supply commitment under the gas code of conduct and follows similar commitments made with other gas suppliers. The Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed the enforceable supply commitments have been pushed back to 2028 to help ease projected gas shortfalls.

The Federal Government announced $300 million investment into Murray-Darling Basin communities. The Sustainable Communities Program will ensure states work with basin communities on local investments that are less water dependent and create local jobs. The Government reaffirmed its commitment to returning 450 gigalitres of water to the environment by 2027.

State Developments

The NSW Government will waive waste levies for residents in six local government areas affected by heavy rain and flooding in early June. The exemption will mean affected residents will not be charged with a levy until September 2024

The QLD Government passed the Resources Safety and Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2024. The Bill seeks to implement the final recommendations of the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry which investigated the Grosvenor mine explosion. The reforms will be implemented over the next five years and will require mines and quarries to include critical controls in their safety management systems.


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER

Federal Developments

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic hosted a roundtable with representatives from the pre-fabricated homes sector. They discussed how efficiencies in constructing prefabricated and modular housing could support efforts to deliver on Australian’s housing target. Under the National Housing Accord, the Australian Government committed to building 1.2 million homes over five years from July 2024.

Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton announced the Coalition’s intent to raise the minimum age of social media platforms from 13 to 16. If elected, Mr Dutton declared the Coalition would roll out an age verification scheme within the first 100 days of government. The announcement also came in support of Nova’s 36month campaign, which seeks to protect Australian children online, particularly young girls.

State Developments

The NSW Transport and Arts Committee launched an inquiry into the use of e-scooters, e-bikes and related mobility options across the state. The inquiry follows the ongoing role of e-mobility devices in the community. The inquiry will examine the risk and benefits of e-mobility in NSW, with a focus on users’ safety.

The NSW Government tasked Infrastructure NSW Co-ordinator General Tom Gellibrand to identify and address obstacles hindering the delivery of crucial infrastructure projects surrounding the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. Infrastructure NSW will take responsibility for coordinating infrastructure to support employment, housing, and energy priorities.


HEALTH AND EDUCATION

Federal Developments

The Federal Government committed to investing $14.5 million into research grants to generate better evidence on the effective management of long COVID in the Australian community. The initiative is part of a $50 million commitment from the Medical Research Future Fund and aims to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to support affected individuals and improve healthcare management.

The Department of Health and Aged Care launched [PDF] a review into the private hospital system to better understand the sector’s operating environment by assessing financial performance, pressures and profitability. Under the review, private hospitals will be required to provide detailed revenue and profit margin information for assessment.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney announced a $2 million grant to FightMND for research into a cure for motor neurone disease (MND). The funding will support clinical trials of potential treatments and therapeutics that can be used against MND, plus increase collaboration across the MND sector. The announcement coincides with the launch of the 10th anniversary of the ‘Big Freeze’ campaign.

The Federal Government announced a $12.5 million investment to provide free period products to women and girls living in remote First Nations communities. The initiative aims to help address period poverty and reduce cost-of-living pressure by improving access to essential health products.

State Developments

The NSW Government announced plans to invest $1 billion in rural and regional health projects, over half a billion in Western Sydney hospitals, and an additional $47.8 million in Ryde Hospital as part of pre-Budget announcement. New investments include $265 million for the upgrade of Port Macquarie Hospital, $250 million for a critical maintenance program at hospitals and health facilities across NSW and additional funding for hospital redevelopments.

 

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