Weekly Wrap Up
18 February 2022
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- Latest Newspoll data shows Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis 55-45 – but PM Scott Morrison leads Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese as preferred PM 43-38.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released labour force data for January, revealing that Australia’s unemployment rate remains at 4.2 per cent.
- Origin Energy issued a statement confirming it will bring forward the closure of Australia’s largest coal-fired power plant, the Eraring power station in NSW, to 2025.
- Meanwhile, Australia and India entered into a low emissions technology partnership agreement to drive down the cost of low and zero emissions technologies.
- Following the NSW state by-elections last weekend, Labor is set to win the seat of Bega, previously held by former Transport Minister Andrew Constance. It will be the first time Labor has held the seat since its creation in 1988. Labor retained Strathfield, and although the Liberals held Willoughby and the Nationals held Monaro, there were swings against the Coalition in both seats. Please see GRACosway’s briefing note for more detail.
- The South Australian Government will enter caretaker mode from tomorrow, with the state election to be held on Saturday 19 March.
Final Parliamentary Sitting Until Budget
The House of Representatives resumed this week, while Budget Estimates were on in the Senate. Prime Minister Morrison delivered a speech to the House to mark the 14th anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples. The PM has since received criticism over the speech in which he asked for forgiveness from First Nations Peoples. After being introduced last week, the Government’s critical infrastructure reforms passed the House and will now move to the Senate when parliament resumes in March. Meanwhile, Greens Leader Adam Bandt introduced legislation relating to a six-month moratorium on new coal, gas and oil projects. The Greens will seek support for the legislation in exchange for backing Labor if it holds the balance of power in the House or Senate after the election.
The fourth Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting took place in Melbourne this week, where the Foreign Ministers of Australia, India and Japan and the US Secretary of State committed to cooperate on challenges to maritime security and pandemic recovery. In a nod to tensions in China and Russia, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne stated that “the Quad is not about what we’re against…we are for freedom and openness and transparency, freedom from coercion and the opportunity for states to preserve and protect their sovereignty and their territorial integrity”.
Elsewhere, the Prime Minister accused Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese of being “weak” on national security and of appeasing China, while ASIO director-general Mike Burgess condemned the politicisation of national security.
Federal Parliament is now on a five week break until the Budget, which is due to be delivered on 29 March. Tomorrow marks the start of caretaker mode for the South Australian Government, with the state election to be held on Saturday 19 March.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released an update from its Payments Systems Board, outlining how it is working with Government and stakeholders to progress payments reform, including the review of submissions for the Banknote Distribution Arrangements review and research on a central bank digital currency.
Minister for Financial Services Jane Hume announced a statutory review into the Consumer Data Right (CDR), with the review set to explore whether the implementation of the CDR has supported the core policy objectives of the program. The Government has appointed Ms Elizabeth Kelly PSM to lead the review, which will be completed by July 2022.
Minister Hume also confirmed that 31 appointments have been made to the Financial Services and Credit Panel (FSCP), which will investigate suspected misconduct by, or relating to, a financial adviser. The FSCP will sit within the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and takes over the functions previously served by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA).
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published its Gas inquiry interim report, outlining a slight rise in domestic gas contract prices between March and August 2021. The ACCC and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have noted that investments and advancements of infrastructure and gas basins are critical to avoiding early gas supply shortfalls in Australia’s south.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley announced an investment of over $47 million to improve transparency in project approvals and expand nationally the Digital Environmental Assessment Program (DEAP) currently being trialled in WA.
NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean outlined the potential for over $100 billion of investment in the state’s Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ). The REZ has registered commercial interest from solar projects, onshore and offshore wind projects, large-scale batteries, and hydro-projects, amounting to a possible 100,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy annually.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Together with the Prime Minister, Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher committed an additional $2.26 billion to complete the final stage of South Australia’s North-South Corridor motorway project. Construction on the project is expected to start in late 2023 and finish by the end of 2030.
The Government published new data on the Supply Chain Benchmarking Dashboard. The Dashboard now contains insights into the supply chains of an additional 12 commodities including cement, asphalt, bitumen and molasses.
The Federal and SA governments pledged $15 million toward a business case into the Northern Water Supply project. A desalination plant located in the Upper Spencer Gulf is being considered as an option.
The Victorian and Federal governments awarded the contract for the Sunbury Road Upgrade to Winslow Infrastructure. The project will see installations of new lanes, bridges and safety barriers, as well as new walking and cycling paths.
The Queensland Government announced a partnership with the private sector to secure more direct international flights to Queensland. The government is committing $100 million matched by the state’s largest four airports in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne committed an additional $375 million in funding to support the Government’s Health Security Initiative in the Indo-Pacific region, which aims to prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt released new guidelines for aged care residents that will increase visitation access and reduce isolation restrictions.
Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath launched an $8 million program to improve youth mental health access. The program will leverage an online therapy platform to increase support services for young people across the state.
In Victoria, the resumption of all elective surgery was confirmed for the end of February.