Weekly Wrap Up
11 November 2022
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- Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil announced an inquiry into Australia’s immigration system, amid allegations that the system is being exploited. Dr Martin Parkinson, Dr Joanna Howe and Mr John Azarias have been appointed to lead the review.
- The Australian Cyber and Security Centre released the 2021-22 Cyber Threat Report, showing a 13 per cent increase in reports of cybercrime from the previous financial year.
- Medibank revealed that 9.7 million of its customers have been affected by the recent cyber-attack and that the company has refused to pay a ransom to the attackers. Minister Clare O’Neil has supported the private health insurer’s decision, noting this is consistent with the Government’s advice.
- The Federal Government appointed health economist Dr Pradeep Philip to conduct an independent review into the integrity of Medicare and its compliance mechanisms.
- Hearing Block 1 for the Robodebt Royal Commission continued[PDF] this week.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released the fifth report of its five-year Digital Platform Services Inquiry, recommending legislative reform to address consumer and competition harms identified across a range of digital services.
- Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek suggested that supermarket retail chains should “step up” to find a solution to soft plastics recycling, following the pause of the REDcycle scheme.
- Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that the State will switch from green to amber under its COVID-19 traffic light system, following a 15 per cent increase in cases over the past week.
- The NSW Government responded to the recommendations of three separate investigations conducted by the State’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, as well as the review into public service appointments conducted by Graeme Head.
- Also in NSW, State Parliament passed property tax reforms that will provide first home buyers with the option to pay an annual property tax instead of stamp duty.
The House of Representatives sat this week while the Senate undertook Budget Estimates hearings. Yesterday in the House, the Government’s industrial relations legislation passed after Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke announced a series of amendments to the Bill following stakeholder consultation. The Bill passed with the support of the Greens and Independents Zoe Daniel, Dr Monique Ryan, Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie. It will now be introduced into the Senate in the next sitting period in late November, where the Government will need the support from the Crossbench for the legislation to pass. Independent Senator David Pocock has said the Bill is being “rushed through” and has already indicated he will push for a number of further changes. Meanwhile, the Government’s Respect at Work legislation, which implements recommendations from the report delivered by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in 2020 in relation to sexual harassment in the workplace, passed the House.
The Government’s Privacy Bill also passed the House. This legislation imposes a significant increase in fines for serious or repeated privacy breaches and grants the Australian Information Commissioner greater powers in response to data breaches. A Senate Standing Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Bill and is due to deliver its report on 22 November.
Also on Parliamentary matters, the Joint Select Committee on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) Legislation handed down its report into the Bill to establish the NACC and made six recommendations. Prior to the report being tabled, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announced the Department would begin receiving applications for the first National Anti-Corruption Commissioner, with a view to establish the Commission by mid-2023.
Outside of Parliament, international relations have continued to be a focus. In Egypt this week, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen led Australia’s delegation to the COP27 climate conference, joined by Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy and Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Jenny McAllister. Australia joined multiple global pledges and groups, including a pledge to reduce emissions in the shipping industry, and also launched its formal bid to co-host COP31 in 2026 in partnership with Pacific nations.
From today through to next weekend, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will join world leaders at upcoming international and regional summits, travelling to attend the ASEAN, APEC and the G20 summits in Cambodia, Thailand and Bali, respectively. The Prime Minister has indicated that while a meeting has not yet been confirmed with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, “dialogue is always good” and he hopes to see “cooperation” in relationship between Australia and China.
Also on the topic of Sino-Australian relations, Minister for Defence Richard Marles has confirmed that a joint AFP-ASIO Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce is investigating reports that Chinese officials approached former Australian Defence Personnel to provide military training to China.
Next week, the NSW, SA and WA Parliaments are sitting. Prime Minister Albanese is attending the Bali G20 Summit in Indonesia from Monday.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones launched[PDF] the national anti-scam centre, which will bring together industry with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to address cybercrime. This is part of the broader Scams Awareness Week 2022.
Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Deputy Governor Michelle Bullock delivered a speech entitled ‘The Economic Outlook’, where she discussed last week’s Statement on Monetary Policy and the RBA’s policy approach.
Last week, the Data and Digital Ministers meeting was held[PDF]. Federal and State Ministers discussed identity resilience, ongoing efforts to establish digital identity programs, and early work on the National Data Sharing program.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority released a discussion paper with a series of proposals to help trustees prepare for and manage fund transfers more efficiently.
Treasury opened consultation on a Public Beneficial Ownership Register as a multinational tax integrity measure. Submissions close on 16 December 2022.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek asked the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water to inquire into and report on the impact of plastic pollution in Australia’s oceans and waterways. The Committee is accepting submissions until 22 December 2022.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen opened consultation on the National Energy Performance Strategy. The Government is seeking feedback on measures to ease the pressure on energy bills, reduce emissions, and improve energy reliability.
The SA Government released a new timetable and proposed items for inclusion in the next stages of its single-use plastics ban. Legislation for the next elements of the ban will be introduced in three stages over the next three years, with consultation on the first stage of the ban set to open in February 2023.
The ACT Government announced plans to introduce a new minimum energy efficiency standard for rental properties in the Territory from April 2023, with a phase in period to November 2026. The new standard will require rentals to have insulation installed or upgraded to R5 if ceiling insulation does not exist or is rated less than R2.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government awarded $18 million among 12 projects under the first round of the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships (EATP) program, in an aim to encourage the take-up of emerging aviation technology in Australia. Many of the projects awarded funding will focus on drone technology.
The NSW Parliament passed legislation establishing a shared equity scheme that will see the State Government contribute an equity share of up to 40 per cent for a new home or up to 30 per cent for an existing home purchased by eligible buyers. Those eligible for the scheme include first home buyer teachers, nurses, police officers, single parents and singles over age 50.
Also in NSW Parliament, the State Government introduced the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Amendment Bill 2022 into Parliament, which will provide a $905 million assistance package to taxi licence holders in NSW and complete the deregulation of the NSW Point to Point industry.
The Tasmanian Government indicated that tomorrow it will open an Expressions of Interest process for proposals to partner with the Government to build over 200 new social housing residences as part of the State’s Community Housing Growth Program.
The Fair Work Commission committed to increasing the minimum wages for aged care workers in direct care roles by at least 15 per cent under a union-initiated work value case. The Commission also announced a possible further increase in wages for these workers, as well as a potential pay rise for aged care administrative and support staff.
The Federal Government invested $16.4 million to establish targeted Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain GP Clinics which aim to improve women’s access to specialised support in primary healthcare settings. Throughout November the Federal Government, in collaboration with Primary Health Networks, will identify General Practices with strong experience in managing women’s health to become specialised clinics.
ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson confirmed the ACT Residential Centre for eating disorders will be built in Coombs and indicated a tender for the construction of the Centre will be released in the coming weeks. The Centre is due to be completed in 2023-24.