Weekly Wrap Up
18 March 2022
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- Voters will head to the polls tomorrow for the South Australian Election.
- Latest Federal Newspoll data demonstrates Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred (2PP) basis of 55-45 – unchanged from the previous two Newspolls. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost his lead as preferred PM for the first time since February 2020, ranking evenly with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese at 42 per cent, with 16 per cent of voters uncommitted.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABC) released its labour force data for February, showing the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.2 per cent to 4 per cent – the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008.
- The Victorian Government opened applications for a two-year pilot program that will see casual workers have access to sick pay.
- The Federal Government committed $4.3 billion for a large-vessel dry berth at WA’s Henderson shipyard.
- National Cabinet agreed to adopt a nationally consistent approach to COVID-19 management, under which close contacts are no longer required to quarantine. This is the last time National Cabinet will meet until June 2022.
- Minister for Foreign Affairs Marisa Payne announced new Australian Government sanctions on 33 Russian oligarchs, prominent businesspeople and their immediate family members. Sanctions have also been placed on 11 additional Russian banks and government entities.
- The Committee on Social Media and Online Safety tabled its final report, which included 26 recommendations focused on the regulation of digital platforms.
- The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet issued a statement on the rebranded Women’s Network logo, stating that the Prime Minister and his Office were not involved in the design.
- The full Federal Court ruled that Environment Minister Sussan Ley does not owe a duty of care to protect children from climate change harm when considering mining applications, overturning a decision made last year.
- Jarrod Bleijie was elected as Deputy Leader of the Queensland LNP Opposition, following David Janetzki’s resignation from the position.
- The NZ Government announced fully vaccinated Australian travellers will be able to enter the country without quarantine requirements from 12 April.
- Labor Senators Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher published a joint statement rejecting bullying allegations made following the death of Senator Kimberley Kitching.
Spotlight on Cost of Living
With data from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) indicating that average petrol prices reached an eight-year high in February, the Federal Government has come under pressure to address the increasing cost of living. SA Liberal Premier Steven Marshall wrote to the Federal Government requesting a temporary reduction in the fuel excise, while Liberal National Senator for Queensland Susan McDonald made similar comments, stating that a fuel excise pause is “something that [the Government is] going to have to look at”. The Prime Minister has indicated that any decision to ease pressure on petrol prices will not be announced until the Federal Budget, due to be handed down on 29 March.
Meanwhile, the ABS published Residential Property Price Index data showing that 2021 had the highest annual growth in property prices since records began in 2003, with prices rising 23.7 per cent over the year.
South Australians will head to the polls tomorrow for the first Australian election since the Omicron wave of COVID-19. Public polling suggests Steven Marshall’s Liberal Party will be returned to Opposition after one term in government, with a YouGov poll released by The Advertiser on Tuesday showing a substantial Labor lead on a 2PP basis of 56-44. With over 172,000 pre-polling votes cast as of this morning and not due to be counted until Monday, a result is unlikely over the weekend. Read the full election coverage in this week’s issue of ‘SA Votes’.
The Victorian, Tasmanian, ACT, WA, NSW and NT Parliaments will sit next week.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released its December quarter authorised deposit-taking institution statistics, highlighting the strength of the banking sector despite the Omicron wave.
Minister for Financial Services Jane Hume announced the first round of consultations on the expansion of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) to Open Finance. This initiative will see the CDR expanded to non-bank lenders, general insurance and superannuation, with consultation open until April 2022.
Minister Hume also released the Terms of Reference for the Quality of Advice Review and appointed Ms Michelle Levy to lead the review, which responds to recommendations 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 of the Financial Services Royal Commission.
A Victorian Parliament Committee investigating GST distribution has tabled its final report, finding that that all states, except WA, will lose money when the GST “no worse off” guarantee expires in 2026-27. The SA, TAS and ACT governments also made submissions to the inquiry supporting changes to the GST distribution.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources released its 2022 Critical Minerals Strategy, alongside an announcement from both the Prime Minister and Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt that the upcoming Budget will include a $200 million Accelerator grants program aimed at fast tracking early to mid-stage critical minerals projects, and $50 million to support research and development.
Together with Minister Pitt, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley confirmed the upcoming Budget will include a $128.5 million reform package that will streamline environmental assessment processes and compliance.
The Queensland Government committed $192.5 million from the Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund toward the Wambo wind farm near Dalby.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce announced the Government will invest an additional $483 million in the 970-gigalitre Urannah Dam in Central Queensland. Funds will be provided through the 2022-23 Federal Budget.
Infrastructure Australia released the Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps report identifying priority areas for investment and planning in the regions, produced in collaboration with 48 Regional Development Australia committees. Further consultation is ongoing with submissions closing 29 April 2022.
The Government will commit an additional $40 million over the next four years in the Bridges Renewal Program, with 85 per cent of projects based in regional Australia.
The Opposition announced an elected Albanese Labor Government will join with the Queensland State Government to invest $22 million in the Lansdown Industrial Precinct in Townsville, Australia’s first sustainable advanced manufacturing, technology and processing hub.
In Queensland, the State Government launched a $55 million electric vehicle (EV) package, which includes $3000 incentives for upfront EV purchases and $10 million for charging infrastructure. This comes alongside the new Queensland Zero Emission Vehicle Strategy 2022-2032.
The WA and Federal Governments have agreed to commit an additional $25 million each to the Perth City Deal for the Edith Cowan University (ECU) and Swan River Bridge upgrades. The contract for the ECU campus was awarded to Multiplex, while a consortium comprising Civimec Construction and Engineering, Seymour Whyte Constructions, and WSP Australia will deliver the bridge.
Minister for Senior Australians Richard Colbeck unveiled a $1.2 billion investment aimed at preparing the aged care sector for the impacts of COVID-19 and influenza ahead of winter.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt committed $140 million to fund the development and upgrade of health clinics and staff housing for Indigenous communities.
The Health Minister also announced a four-year agreement with the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) to reform the Prostheses List, saving approximately $900 million for consumers accessing medical devices through private health insurance.
The Federal Government invested more than $35.9 million for flood-affected communities to increase access to health services and mental health support. The package will fund immediate primary health care responses as well as more therapies, services, and centres to address psychological needs of flood victims. Meanwhile, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet released a $25 million mental health package for those affected by recent floods in the state.
The Victorian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Korea to increase mRNA research and development in both jurisdictions. Under the partnership, mRNA Victoria and Korean Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) will facilitate information sharing to drive innovation and local industry development.
The Victorian Government also entered into an agreement with biopharmaceutical company Pfizer to collaborate on mRNA and RNA research and industry.