Weekly Wrap Up
14 July 2023
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- Treasurer Jim Chalmers confirmed the Government will deliver Australia’s first wellbeing national framework within the next three months. The framework will include around 50 indicators of wellbeing including health, the environment, whether people feel connected, and how much time people spend at home, work and with their children.
- The Federal Government announced its national gambling self-exclusion register BetStop will be launched on 21 August. Meanwhile, the NSW Government established an independent panel to support the state’s cashless gambling trial and gaming reform roadmap.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced the next phase of its Digital Platform Services Inquiry will focus on data broker services.
- The ACCC also published draft environmental and sustainability claims guidance for business to address the findings identified in the ACCC’s recent greenwashing internet sweep.
- The NSW Government appointed Josh Murray as the Secretary of the Department of Transport and Kiersten Fishburn as the new Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment.
International relations in the EU
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Lithuania to attend the NATO summit this week, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Prime Minister Albanese reiterated that Australia would continue to support Ukraine “to the best of our capacity” and subsequently announced an additional 30 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles to support Ukraine’s defence capabilities. On the sidelines of the Summit, Mr Albanese also held discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement which continues to face challenges regarding certain agricultural products, including feta and prosecco. Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell also travelled to Belgium to continue negotiations on the agreement.
During his trip, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, where they discussed climate, defence, and trade relations, with Mr Albanese confirming Australia will join Germany’s international Climate Club to support emissions reductions, and green steel and hydrogen developments. The Prime Minister also signed a more than $1 billion defence agreement with Germany to supply over 100 Rheinmetall Defence Australia Boxer Heavy Weapon Carriers from 2025 and agreed to base a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and 100 Australian military personnel in the country for six months to support military supply to Ukraine.
New Reserve Bank Governor appointed
Following a cabinet meeting this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced the appointment of Michele Bullock as the new Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Ms Bullock will replace incumbent RBA Governor Philip Lowe from 18 September. She is currently the RBA’s Deputy Governor, having joined in 1985, with Dr Chalmers stating she is “best placed to take the Reserve Bank into the future”.
Earlier in the week, RBA Governor Phillip Lowe delivered an address to the Australian Conference of Economists in Brisbane on Wednesday where he announced a series of changes to its decision-making and communications model. The changes are in response to several recommendations made by the independent review of the Reserve Bank which was released earlier this year, with Dr Lowe stating, “as times change, we too need to change”. Significantly, Board meetings will be reduced from 11 to eight times a year from 2024, meetings will be held across two days instead of one, a media conference will be held by the Governor after each Board meeting, and Monetary Policy Decisions will be issued by the Board instead of the Governor. The RBA will also establish a separate board to set the rates, which will be implemented next year. Other recommendations made by the review, such as publishing the Board’s vote count on rate decisions, and additional public appearances from its members, will be considered by the RBA next year under Ms Bullock’s leadership.
Response to Robodebt report
Responses to the Robodebt Royal Commission’s findings have continued this week, following the release of the final report last Friday. Both former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge rejected the report’s findings against them, with Mr Morrison stating they were “wrong, unsubstantial and contradicted by clear documentary evidence presented to the commission”. Mr Tudge also confirmed he was not notified of his name being mentioned in the “sealed chapter”. Meanwhile, former Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert welcomed the report and its “sensible recommendations”.
The Fadden by-election will be held on Saturday, following the resignation of former Liberal Minister Stuart Robert in May. Elsewhere, the ACT Parliament will sit for its first week of Budget Estimates.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones tabled the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority’s review into the effectiveness and capability of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA), which provided recommendations to improve APRA’s regulation of the superannuation sector.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services published the final report from its inquiry into the effectiveness of Australia’s corporate insolvency laws. The Committee found that the insolvency system was “overly complex, difficult to access, and creates unnecessary cost and confusion for both debtors and creditors”. The Committee made 28 recommendations, which included the need for a comprehensive independent review of the system.
The House Standing Committee on Economics held two public hearings, at which CEOs of Australia’s big four banks made an appearance. The sessions were held to support two of the Committee’s ongoing inquiries into the major banks; and promoting economic dynamism, competition, and business formation.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Australia appointed a series of new High Commissioners and Ambassadors in posts around the world, including: Malta, Mexico, Qatar, and Tuvalu; the first resident High Commissioner in the Maldives; the Ambassador for Arms Control and Counter-Proliferation; and the Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong visited Jakarta to participate in the annual ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and ASEAN Regional Forum. In these forums, she discussed Australia’s strategic partnership, climate change, health security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
China asked for a one-month extension on its decision to suspend tariffs on Australian barley, having already received a three-month grace period to consider a deal. The Australian Government warned it would resume its dispute at the World Trade Organisation if the tariff is not cancelled by 11 August.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government announced the Mandatory Gas Code of Conduct came into effect on Tuesday, which includes a price cap set at $12/GJ. The Code will be enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and will be reviewed every two years.
The Federal Government committed $70 million to develop a hydrogen hub in Newcastle, which aims to establish a pathway to export renewable hydrogen and provide more job opportunities in the region. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2025 with operations to commence in 2026.
Federal, state and territory ministers agreed to an updated Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry at an Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on Thursday, which includes a proposed timeline to phase out battery-farmed eggs by 2036.
The WA Government provided a $200 electricity bill credit to all households across the state to support cost of living relief as part of the first tranche of the Household Electricity Credit, with a further $200 to come in the November-December billing cycle. The Government is also offering free electricity during off-peak times (9am-3pm) for hardship customers.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Carol Brown chaired two industry roundtables to discuss road safety initiatives and heavy vehicle priorities. The former meeting covered topics relating to seatbelt use, driving under the influence, and speeding, while the latter was used to update the industry on the Heavy Vehicle Rest Area initiative and reforms to the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
The Federal Government confirmed works on the NSW Parkes-Peak Hill Water Supply Project have begun. Expected to be completed by 2025, the project is funded through a partnership with the Federal and NSW governments and Parkes Shire Council.
The Victorian Government announced the commencement of works on the Somerton Freight Terminal project in Melbourne’s North. The terminal is being built at the Austrak Business Park with the terminal expected to be operational in 2025.
The Tasmanian Government opened consultation on the Water Miscellaneous (Delegation and Industrial Water Supply) Bill 2023. The draft Bill seeks to amend water legislation to enable the supply of water from the Tasmanian Irrigation to the Tasmanian Green Hydrogen Hub.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration removed restrictions on certain health professionals prescribing and dispensing medical abortion pill MS-2 Step. The termination drug can now be prescribed by any healthcare practitioner with appropriate qualifications and training, without the need for certification.
Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells announced the expansion of the Transition Care Programme (TCP), committing $40 million to provide 2000 older people with short-term therapy focused on care and support services for up to 12 weeks following discharge from hospital.
Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman committed $150 million to six new or updated Primary Health Care centres in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula.
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park and Minister for Industrial Relations Sophie Cotsis committed to a pay rise of up to 8.5 per cent for some of the lowest paid health sector workers following recent negotiations between the NSW Government and the Health Service Union. Minister Park confirmed it will not impact the Government’s commitment to a 4 per cent public sector pay rise.