Weekly Wrap Up
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed he will travel to Washington D.C. from 21 to 24 September to attend the first face-to-face meeting of Quad leaders at the invitation of President Biden.
- The ABS released the August Labour Force figures which show the national unemployment rate has fallen to 4.5 per cent — a 13 year low — however, the data also shows over 146,000 Australian’s have found themselves out of a job since July.
- The Queensland Parliament passed voluntary assisted dying legislation in a conscience vote 60-29, following over a decade of campaigning by advocacy groups. The scheme will be operational from January 2023.
- The Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security tabled its advisory report on the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2020.
- Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon announced he won’t recontest his seat of Hunter in the upcoming federal election. Mr Fitzgibbon has held the seat since 1996; a successor has yet to be named.
AUKUS Agreement Announced
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was joined virtually by United States President Joe Biden and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to announce a trilateral security defence partnership to be known as AUKUS. Mr Morrison said the first initiative under AUKUS is for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology. Subsequently, it was confirmed the Government would exit its $90 billion contract with French-owned Naval Group for the Future Submarine Program. France’s Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly responded to the announcement saying it is a “regrettable decision” which is “contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia”. Additionally, the Morrison Government also confirmed the Full-Cycle Docking of the Collins class submarines will continue to be conducted at Osborne Park in South Australia – a move that Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan described as disappointing.
Overnight China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the new agreement “gravely undermines regional peace and stability”, claiming the Australian, US and UK Governments were being extremely irresponsible in using nuclear exports as a “tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards”. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its latest Economic Survey of Australia, warning that Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be derailed if trade tensions with China intensify.
Earlier this week, the Minister for Industry Christian Porter updated[PDF] his Register of Members’ Interests to include information that part of the payment of his legal fees — regarding the defamation proceedings Mr Porter launched against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan earlier this year — were paid by a blind trust. News of the blind trust has been met with criticism including from Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. The Prime Minister has said he is seeking advice to ensure this activity is compliant with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
National Cabinet will meet today where the agenda includes discussions on home quarantine solutions to address the issue of more than 40,000 Australians stranded abroad, as well as the ongoing outbreak in NSW and the national vaccination rollout. Earlier this week, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced the state’s home quarantine trial would be expanded to include around 90 Australian Defence Force personnel returning from lower-risk countries. SA has reported success with the trial program so far, with 18 of the initial 50 participants successfully completing their home quarantine. Feedback and assessment of the trial will assist in future discussions around a national approach to home quarantine.
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