Weekly Wrap Up
18 August 2023
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- Australia’s wage growth rose by 0.8 per cent in the June 2023 quarter, according to new Wage Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
- The ABS also released latest Labour Force data, showing that the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 to 3.7 per cent in July.
- Submissions opened for the Government’s Multicultural Framework Review, which aims to make recommendations on Australia’s existing and future diversity and inclusion efforts.
- The Federal Government released the terms of reference for its review of the Franchising Code of Conduct.
- One Nation MP Mark Latham was removed as the NSW leader of the party by federal leader Pauline Hanson.
- The NSW Government launched[PDF] a parliamentary inquiry into the Sydney Metro West project, corresponding with a separate review on the matter, which will be released later this year.
- Also in NSW, Opposition Leader Mark Speakman confirmed his personal support for the Voice to Parliament.
National Cabinet met in Brisbane on Wednesday to discuss various housing, planning and rental reforms. Significantly, National Cabinet agreed to build an additional 200,000 new homes over five years from 1 July 2024, which will increase Australia’s National Housing Accord target to 1.2 million. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also announced a $3 billion ‘New Home Bonus’ program and a $500 million ‘Housing Support Program’ to incentivise the states and territories to meet the new target. The former will provide $15,000 for every new home delivered above the previously pledged housing supply target of one million, while the latter will support “well-located” housing developments by financing measures such as essential services and amenities.
Also at the meeting, leaders committed to develop a National Planning Reform Blueprint to update state, territory and local government plans relating to housing supply, and promote high-density living. National Cabinet also agreed to ‘A Better Deal for Renters’, which includes introducing a limit of one rental increase per year and developing a national requirement for reasonable grounds for eviction.
49th ALP National Conference
Australian Labor Party (ALP) delegates met in Brisbane for the 49th ALP National Conference on Thursday, to kick off a three-day event to debate and vote on key political issues. In line with the draft National Platform that was released ahead of the conference, key issues including AUKUS, stage three tax cuts, emissions reduction and housing are expected to dominate remaining debate.
Key issues discussed yesterday related to the economy and housing, and Mr Albanese also confirmed the Government’s shared equity homebuyer model, ‘Help to Buy Scheme’, will commence next year. Mr Albanese also outlined his plans to achieve universal childcare, address the gender pay gap, and complete the transition to renewable energy. Meanwhile, the Labor Party voted on a motion to rewrite Australia’s native forest logging policy. Notably, the AUKUS partnership will be on the agenda for discussion today, with Defence Minister Richard Marles stating the party is “not afraid of a difficult debate”. Debate will also be held today on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
NSW and Queensland Parliaments are sitting next week, and the Tasmanian Legislative Council will sit. Elsewhere, Labor’s National Conference continues in Brisbane until Saturday.
The Reserve Bank of Australia published minutes from the August Monetary Policy Meeting where the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 4.1 per cent. The Board’s decision acknowledged encouraging information on inflation and noted the economy was expected to grow slowly.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) published[PDF] its review of consumer experiences in home insurance claims since claims handling and settling became a regulated financial service in January 2022. ASIC identified five areas for improvement for the sector, including the need for better communication and better treatment of vulnerable consumers.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority released its updated policy priorities for authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs). The ADI policy priorities for the remainder of 2023 are liquidity, interest rate risk, additional tier 1 capital, and capital framework updates.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced he will travel to Indonesia, the Philippines and India in September to meet with regional leaders and discuss Australia’s economic security and climate agenda. Mr Albanese will attend the 3rd Annual ASEAN-Australia Summit and the 18th East Asia Summit in Jakarta, visit Manila for bilateral talks with President HE Ferdinand R Marcos Jr, and attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi.
The Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) came into effect on Monday, which provides a legal framework for greater defence cooperation between the two countries. The agreement aims to streamline more effective force cooperation, and to allow both counties to increase the sophistication and regularity of training, exercises, and other cooperative activities.
Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy confirmed the Government will deliver a new aircraft facility at Newcastle Airport to support Australia’s air fleet and defence capabilities. Construction is anticipated to commence in mid-2024, following the release of its design later this year.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Government signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with California on climate and biodiversity action. The MOU aims to create a framework for cooperation on climate action including through the creation of clean jobs, developing clean energy supply chains and technologies, and supporting green finance and clean transportation.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released compliance and enforcement guidelines for the Gas Market Code, which summarises the key requirements of the Code. The ACCC will begin enforcing the Code from mid-September, which includes a $12 per gigajoule price cap.
In a speech to the Australian Business Economists, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced the Government was examining potential policy responses to the risk of carbon leakage including the option of an EU-style carbon border adjustment mechanism.
The Victorian Government increased penalties for gas and electricity distribution businesses that breach the Electricity Distribution and Gas Distribution System Codes of Practice. The changes would penalise businesses of up to $10 million for actions related to severe consumer harm, while other breaches would result in court-ordered penalties of up to $1.5 million.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Government opened submissions for its review of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy which will help inform the roadmap for Australia’s future freight needs. Submissions close 29 September and Ministers will consider the recommendations of the review by the end of this year.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued an infringement notice over $2 million to DoorDash for breaching Australia’s spam laws. The announcement follows ACMA’s investigation into the company’s text and emails to consumers and prospective delivery drivers.
The Queensland Government announced a review of income eligibility requirements for social housing residents. Minister for Housing Meaghan Scanlon confirmed the requirements were last reviewed in 2006.
The NSW Government released its first Bus Industry Taskforce report and made seven recommendations to improve service delivery and support bus network connectivity. The taskforce will issue a second report on 10 October, with a final report and recommendations due by 1 May 2024.
NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully confirmed new homes with already-signed contracts will be exempt from sustainable building standards until 30 June 2024, to provide financial relief to new home buyers and the construction and development industry. The increased BASIX standards will be introduced from 1 October, which aim to reduce thermal energy use by at least 20 per cent.
HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND EDUCATION
Health Minister Mark Butler travelled to India for the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting to hold discussions relating to global health security and preparing for future health threats. Workforce and skilled healthcare pathways were key topics of discussion for the meetings in New Delhi.
Federal, state and territory governments released an action plan to guide efforts to end gender-based violence across Australia as part of the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032. The plan is dedicated to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and includes a 25 per cent annual reduction target of female victims of intimate partner homicide.
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic opened consultation on draft recommendations to improve Australia’s diversity and inclusion initiatives in STEM careers, following the release of a report from the Diversity in STEM Review Panel. The consultation closes on 8 September and will inform the panel’s final report to Government later this year.
South Australian Health Minister Christ Picton announced the appointment of Taimi Allan as Mental Health Commissioner for South Australia. Currently residing in New Zealand, Ms Allen – who brings 20 years of clinical experience to the rile – will commence in October.