Weekly Wrap Up
13 October 2023
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- A Senate inquiry into the aviation industry released its final report[PDF], which made 10 recommendations including that the Government “immediately review” its decision to reject Qatar Airways’ application for additional air rights.
- The Federal Government confirmed the arrival of Australian journalist Cheng Lei to Australia, following a three-year detention period in China.
- The Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the Government’s decision to cancel hosting rights for the 2026 Commonwealth Games commenced hearings this week.
- The Tasmanian Labor Party confirmed it will introduce a no-confidence motion in Premier Jeremy Rockliff in Parliament next week, following former Attorney-General Elise Archer’s resignation last week over bullying allegations.
- In NSW Parliament, the Government introduced the Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023, which mandates a 50 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050.
Voice to Parliament
The 2023 Voice to Parliament referendum will take place tomorrow, where Australians will decide on whether to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a constitutionally enshrined Voice. Both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns shared their final messaging with Australian voters this week, with a recent Newspoll showing the ‘No’ vote remains ahead, 58 to 34. On Wednesday, Labor Senator Pat Dodson addressed the National Press Club, stating, “‘No’ is not neutral and that ‘No’ is a denial of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”. Meanwhile, Liberal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price spoke at a ‘No’ campaign event in Adelaide and stated, “If ‘Yes’ is successful going forward, the consequences are huge and they’re unknown”. Over 7,000 polling booths will open on Saturday at 8am and close at 6pm in respective time zones, with counting to commence at 6pm AEDT. The Australian Electoral Commission estimated that approximately four million Australians have voted at early voting centres, and two million have applied for a postal vote.
If the referendum is successful, the Government will commence[PDF] a design process with First Nations peoples and the public before introducing legislation in Parliament to establish the Voice. If it results in a ‘No’ vote, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will “respect the outcome of the referendum” and not move to legislate a Voice.
Conflict in Israel
Amid conflict developing in Israel and Gaza, the Australian Government has condemned the attacks and called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all those taken hostage”. The Government has also commenced assisted-departure flights for Australians wanting to leave Israel, with flights to be operated by Qantas free-of-charge. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Melbourne to meet with the Jewish community in St Kilda, stating, “we will stand with Israel” and confirmed that “what we’re dealing with is the responsibility of Hamas”. Meanwhile, the NSW Police Force launched Operation Shelter to respond to unauthorised protestors and support public safety, following violent actions at a protest in Sydney on Monday.
New Zealand Election 2023
New Zealanders will also head to the polls tomorrow, with the trend from recent polls pointing to a potential centre-right coalition under the leadership of the National Party’s Christopher Luxon. If the predicted polls are correct, the details of a new coalition with the National Party may take several weeks to work out, as the coalition will need to encompass National, the ACT party, and the NZ First party. The NZ First party is led by Winston Peters, an MP since 1978, who has confirmed he will not work with a coalition of Labour and the Greens.
The final vote tally will not be officially known until early next month, alongside the policy priorities and cabinet structure.
Federal, Victorian, NSW, SA, WA, NT, and Tasmanian Parliaments will sit next week.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers released draft legislation for public comment on amendments to the Payment Systems (Regulation) Act 1998. Under the proposed amendments, the definition of ‘payment’ and ‘payments systems’ will be modernised, the Reserve Bank will be empowered to regulate new and emerging payment systems such as digital wallet providers, and specific payment services or platforms of national significance may be subject to additional oversight at Ministerial discretion. Submissions to the public consultation close 1 November.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones released a consultation paper on a proposal to have superannuation paid to an employee’s fund on their payday. The consultation paper will also consider potential improvements to employee onboarding in relation to nominating a chosen superannuation fund. Consultation closes on 3 November.
Chair of the Future Fund, Peter Costello, advised the Government that he will not seek an additional term as Chair when his term expires in February 2024. In response, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Finance Minister Kay Gallagher announced the start of an independent recruiting process for a new Chair.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced the appointments of Ms Simon Carton, Mr Phillip Davies, and Professor Kerrie Sadiq to the Tax Practitioners Board. The new appointees have significant experience in law, finance, and taxation matters.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
The Federal Government released the ‘Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040’ to support Australia’s economic engagement with the region. The Strategy identifies 10 priority sectors that offer the most potential for growth and highlights a pathway to increasing Australia’s two-way trade and investment with the region.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell welcomed Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Secretary of Trade Alfredo Pascual to Adelaide for the sixth Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting. The meeting focused on opportunities to deepen trade and investment, strengthen Australia’s security and maritime ties, and to explore cooperation on agriculture and food, the energy transition, education, and skills.
The Federal Government announced it would provide $1 million to support the people of Afghanistan following the deadly earthquake which struck Herat Province. Australia’s assistance will be directed through the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Pat Conroy travelled to Sri Lanka to represent Australia at the 23rd meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers. Discussions included maritime safety and security, the blue economy, climate change, and the IORA Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) authorised Brookfield and MidOcean’s proposed $18.7 billion takeover of Origin Energy. The ACCC made the decision on the basis of public benefits from renewables and emissions reduction, which would surpass competition concerns.
The Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth released its final report following its inquiry into Australia’s transition to a green energy superpower. The report made 16 recommendations across a range of policy areas relating to trade, investment, energy and manufacturing, and the Government is yet to provide a formal response.
The Economics Legislation Committee released its report on the Competition and Consumer (Gas Market Code) Regulations 2023. The final report found that the Gas Code Regulations should stand as is.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government opened consultation on draft planning rules to mandate the inclusion of mobile coverage for new housing developments, through proposed amendments to the Telecommunications in New Developments policy. Consultation closes on 8 November.
The ACCC issued ten infringement notices to Tesla Motors for allegedly breaching Australian Consumer Law by not complying with mandatory safety standards. The ACCC alleged that Tesla failed to test its products with button batteries and use explicit safety warnings, which has the potential to cause harm to young children.
Victorian and Queensland governments confirmed additional social and affordable housing projects will be delivered through investments from the Federal Government’s ‘Social Housing Accelerator Program’. The Victorian Government will deliver 120 new homes to a vacant site in Broadmeadows through an investment of more than $80 million, while the Queensland Government confirmed it will build 600 additional homes across the state with a $398 million investment.
The first phase of the NSW Government’s ‘Landcare Enabling Program’ commenced, enabling a $33 million investment to employ up to 83 Landcare coordinators and support staff. New coordinators will be responsible for supporting projects for environment and agricultural systems, amongst other roles.
The Queensland Government introduced legislation to improve e-scooter safety and other Personal Mobility Devices (PMD). Under the proposed laws, it will be an offence for a rider of a PMD, bike or e-scooter to ride without care and attention across paths and roads.
The Federal Government released its ‘National Mental Health Workforce Strategy‘ which provides a roadmap to build the nation’s mental health workforce, meet the demand of mental health care, and address current workforce shortages. The Strategy was developed and endorsed by federal, state and territory governments and will be implemented over the next ten years.
The Federal Government confirmed that older Australians will have access to a free shingles vaccine as part of a $826.8 million investment. Almost five million people who are at risk of severe disease from shingles will be able to receive the free Shingrix® vaccine from 1 November under the National Immunisation Program. This includes those aged 65 and over, First Nations people 50 and over, and immunocompromised individuals 18 years and over at high risk of herpes zoster infection.
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park announced the Government will expand its drug laws aimed at preventing drug-related criminal charges and supporting addiction issues. Under the proposal, the NSW Police will be permitted to issue Criminal Infringement Notices to adults in possession of small quantities of illicit drugs and would be incentivised to access rehabilitation or health intervention programs to pay off their fines.