Weekly Wrap Up

16 February 2024 

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  • The Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand released a joint statement saying they are “gravely concerned” about Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah. The leaders also reiterated calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza.
  • The Federal Government published the ‘2023 Closing the Gap Report’, revealing that only four out of 19 targets aimed at improving the lives of First Nations Australians are “on track.”
  • The unemployment rate increased to 4.1 per cent in January, the highest rate in two years, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • Liberal Senator for Western Australia Linda Reynolds revealed she will not contest the next federal election.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his engagement to long-time partner Jodie Haydon on social media.

Federal Parliament

With Senate Estimates commencing this week, the House of Representatives was the only chamber of Parliament sitting. Following the passage of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No.2) Bill 2023 in the Senate last week, the Bill returned to the House where it ultimately passed despite attempts by the Opposition to delay the legislation by moving numerous unsuccessful amendments. However, criminal penalties relating to the ‘right to disconnect’ measures were unintentionally included, prompting the Government to introduce the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2024 to repeal the penalties.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024 also passed the House with Treasurer Jim Chalmers declaring “Today the working people of this country are one step closer to a bigger tax cut to help with cost of living”. The Bill will proceed to the Senate when Parliament resumes later this month.

Also debated in the House was the Treasury Laws Amendment (Foreign Investment) Bill 2024, which aims to triple foreign investment fees relating to the purchase of existing housing and the Help to Buy Bill 2023, which would establish a Commonwealth shared-equity scheme for home buyers.

Tasmanian Election

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff advised the Governor to call an early election due to instability in the Tasmanian Parliament. The general election has been scheduled for Saturday, 23 March.

Leading up to the announcement, Mr Rockliff wrote to independent backbenchers Lara Alexander and John Tucker regarding a new “confidence and supply arrangement” that would have ensured the continuity of the Liberal Government. The two independents, who have since refused to guarantee Mr Rockliff confidence and supply, are former Liberal MPs who resigned from the Party in May last year over concerns relating to the proposed Macquarie Point Stadium and Marinus Link.

The latest YouGov poll from January 2024 suggests third parties, such as The Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network, will increase their share of Tasmanians’ first preferences.

Looking Ahead

The Victorian, South Australian, and Western Australia Parliaments will sit next week while NSW Budget Estimates will commence.


Federal Developments

Treasury opened consultation on the draft legislation for public country-by-country reporting aimed at improving multinational tax transparency. The Exposure Draft aims to align Australia with the EU’s public country‑by‑country regime and proposes to delay the start date by 12 months (to commence 1 July). Consultation closes 5 March.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) confirmed that at least 150 ATO officials are suspected to have taken part in a social media scam that resulted in $2 billion in GST refunds. The investigation “Operation Protego” undertaken by the ATO has resulted in the termination, administrative action, or criminal prosecution of 12 officials to date.

The Federal Government welcomed international ratings agency S&P’s assessment of Australia’s fiscal position, which maintained Australia’s AAA credit rating. Australia is one of only nine countries to be rated AAA by all three major credit rating agencies.

State Developments

Queensland Deputy Premier and Treasurer Cameron Dick announced the Queensland Venture Capital Development Fund closed deals with five major venture capital firms, which will provide Queensland start-ups access to almost $200 million in funding. The venture capital firms involved in the deal are Antler, Five V Capital, Main Sequence, Mandalay Venture Partners, and Salus Ventures.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government committed an additional $50 million in grant funding to Ukraine’s military procurement through the International Fund for Ukraine, run by the UK’s Ministry of Defence. This brings Australia’s total assistance to $960 million.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles announced $399 million in additional funding for the design, engineering and manufacturing of the MQ-28A Ghost Bat unmanned aircraft. The Ghost Bat is the first military combat aircraft in over 50 years to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia.

State Developments

South Australian Minister for Planning Nick Champion announced[PDF] the Osborne shipping yards will undergo environmental, social, and economic impact assessments ahead of a likely expansion. Osborne is the proposed site for construction of Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarine fleet under the AUKUS pact.


Federal Developments

Minister for Resources Madeleine King announced applications are now open for the $40 million International Partnerships in Critical Minerals Program. The Program is designed to support early to mid-stage critical mineral projects that build end-to-end supply chains with international partners. Grant applications are open on an ongoing basis for up to two years.

State Developments

Storms across Victoria left almost half a million customers without power due to the collapse of transmission lines, subsequently sending AGL’s Loy Yang A power station offline. The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action stated it was one of the largest outage events in Victoria’s history.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles introduced[PDF] legislation to enshrine emissions reduction targets in law. The Clean Economy Jobs Bill 2024 commits to a 30 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030, 75 per cent by 2035 and net zero by 2050. The Bill was referred to the Clean Economy Jobs, Resources and Transport Committee for consideration.


Federal Developments

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic announced the establishment of a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Expert Group. The group will discuss voluntary and mandatory AI regulations relating to transparency and accountability of AI systems in Australia, particularly in “high-risk settings.”

The Federal Government has completed the first water buy back related to the Murray-Darling Basin. With an estimated cost of $205 million, the buy back is expected to recover an additional 26.25GL of water per year.

State Developments

The NSW Government committed $800 million to upgrade seven train stations as part of its Safe Accessible Transport Plan. Targeted stations include Macquarie Fields, Moss Vale, Lewisham, Griffith, Bardwell Park, Chester Hill, and Queanbeyan, with construction expected to commence later this year.

The NSW Government opened public consultation on short and long-term accommodation across the state. The consultation paper seeks feedback on the current regulatory framework for short-term rental accommodation and potential policy options to incentivise longer-term leases. Consultation closes 14 March.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government accepted in principle seven of the nine recommendations from the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections. In response to the Inquiry, the Government has developed a national plan which provides a framework for the health response to Long COVID.

Minister for Health Mark Butler announced $230 million for over 100 medical research projects through the Medial Research Future Fund. Projects are being undertaken on a wide range of health issues ranging from dementia to cardiovascular disease.

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells confirmed the extension of public consultation on the proposed new Aged Care Act to 8 March. The consultation paper is a direct recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.


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