Weekly Wrap Up
- ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr handed down the 2020-21 State Budget this week, noting that the economy is set to grow 2.7 per cent per year over the forward estimates, while the fiscal position has improved by $300 million.
- The Parliamentary Budget Office published its December quarter update, reporting that revenue and expenses results were better than those estimated at the 2020-21 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, with expenses returning to pre-pandemic levels.
- Prime Minister Scott Morison inducted the first F-35A aircraft into BAE Systems Australia’s maintenance depot, making the Joint Strike Fighter Program fleet 33-aircrafts strong.
- Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne advised that Australian journalist Cheng Lei was formally arrested on 5 February after six months in detention. Australian Embassy officials have visited Ms Cheng six times since her detention.
Labor industrial relations reform
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese unveiled Labor’s Job Security Plan, emphasis on secure work and noting that up to half of the Australian workforce are employed insecurely (for example as gig workers, contractors or freelancers). The Opposition made a number of specific policy commitments, including inputting ‘job security’ as an object in the Fair Work Act 2009 so it will be considered by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in decision-making processes, and expanding the jurisdiction of the FWC to include gig economy style workers. The Opposition also committed to increase pay, and abolish the Registered Organisations Commission and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Following the Prime Minister’s address to the National Press Club last week, where he indicated a preference for Australia to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party Michael McCormack indicated that agriculture may be exempt from the target. National members Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan wrote an op-ed in The Australian saying that The Nationals could not support net-zero emissions while representing farmers. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese took the opportunity to reiterate that Labor’s 2050 net-zero emissions policy remains.
New South Wales Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello tabled the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s (ILGA) final report for the inquiry into the Barangaroo casino. Commissioner Patricia Bergin’s report concluded that the casino’s licensee Crown Sydney Gaming Pty Ltd was not suitable to operate a licence and raised serious concerns relating to organised crime and money laundering. ILGA Chairperson Phillip Crawford stated that it will take time for the Authority to give proper consideration to the report before determining the most appropriate course of action.
Directors Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland resigned[PDF] from the Crown board, while James Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) terminated its consultancy contract with non-executive board member John Poynton. ILGA will formally consider its response to the report at the Board meeting on 12 February.
COVID-19 Victoria lockdown
The Victorian Holiday Inn COVID-19 cluster of the UK variant increased to 13 cases. Health officials stated the outbreak may be attributed to a positive hotel quarantine guest using a personal nebuliser device. Due to the highly infectious nature of the virus, Victoria will enter into a five day ‘circuit breaking’ lockdown from 11:59pm 12 February until 11:59pm 17 February.
Stage four restrictions will be imposed and masks will be mandatory in all indoor and outdoor public spaces. A number of states and territories have moved to implement border restrictions. If you need more information or advice about how the developments in Victoria may affect your business, please contact our team on +61 2 8353 0400.
The Federal, Victorian, NSW, SA and Tasmanian Parliaments will sit next week and the Northern Territory Parliament will return.
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