Weekly Wrap Up
18 November 2022
To receive regular policy and political updates, subscribe to our Weekly Wrap Up here.
- Latest labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics was released, showing that the national unemployment rate fell to 3.4 per cent in October.
- Meanwhile, wages increased by 1 per cent in the September quarter of this year and 3.1 per cent annually – the fastest quarterly increase in 10 years.
- The Fair Work Commission ordered towage operator Svitzer Australia not to proceed with planned industrial action to lockout its employees today.
- The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) stated that he believes Russia is responsible for the cyber attack on private health insurer Medibank.
- Meanwhile, the AFP and the Australian Signals Directorate initiated an ongoing, joint standing operation to investigate cyber criminal syndicates.
- Independent Senator David Pocock held a town hall in Canberra featuring Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke to discuss the Government’s Secure Jobs Better Pay Bill set to be debated in the Senate next week.
- Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell indicated Australia’s free trade agreements with the UK and India could be finalised by the end of the year.
- Hospitalisations from COVID-19 increased by 11 per cent over the past week.
- Meanwhile, the Federal Government accepted a recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation that the Pfizer Comirnaty Bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1 vaccine be used as a third and fourth dose for adults.
- The Australian Government also announced a contribution of $50 million to the new global Pandemic Fund, which aims to improve future pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
- The NSW State Emergency Service requested international assistance to respond to ongoing floods across the state. Assistance from New Zealand and Singapore arrived this week.
- Early voting for the Victorian election, due to be held on Saturday 26 November, opened on Monday.
First formal meeting between Australian and Chinese leaders since 2016
On the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali this week, Prime Minister Albanese met with Chinese President Xi Jingping for the first time, ending a six-year diplomatic freeze on formal meetings between the leaders of Australia and China. Mr Albanese raised concern over various matters including human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China’s influence on Russia, Chinese aggression in Taiwan, and the country’s ongoing trade tariffs on Australian imports. He indicated that his discussion with President Xi on the matter of trade tariffs was positive and constructive, but conceded he did not expect an immediate lift on the tariffs in response. Reinforcing that he aims to approach matters with Australia’s national interest in mind, Mr Albanese stated that he seeks a “stable relationship” with China and does not wish to “score domestic political points”.
Commenting on the meeting, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that while the China-Australian relationship has encountered difficulties over the years, it is in the best interests of both countries to improve and uphold the relationship. The Ministry noted that both countries must “rise above disagreements, respect each other and seek mutual benefit and win-win results”. It indicated that China seeks to continue to work with Australia through “constructive and candid” communication and deepen cooperation on matters including climate change, economy and trade.
International summits and meetings
It was a busy week for Prime Minister Albanese as multiple international summits and meetings took place. Mr Albanese joined world leaders in Bali for the G20 Leaders’ Summit, where countries discussed matters including Russian aggression in Ukraine, the transition to net zero, and cost-of-living concerns. The Australia-EU Leaders’ Meeting also took place on the margins of the G20 Summit, with a meeting occurring between Mr Albanese, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Prior to the G20, Mr Albanese attended the Annual ASEAN-Australia Summit and the East Asian Summit in Cambodia, committing[PDF] to cooperate on multiple matters including maritime security, connectivity, and climate action. While at these summits, Prime Minister Albanese announced the upgrade of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement as well as the appointment of Nicholas Moore as Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia.
On the sidelines of the above Summits, the Prime Minister held bilateral meetings with multiple leaders, including US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. When Mr Albanese met with Laos Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh, Australia and Laos committed to entering a Comprehensive Partnership.
The Prime Minister is currently in Thailand for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published the Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting of the Reserve Bank Board, outlining the reasoning behind its recent decision to raise the cash rate target to 2.85 per cent. The RBA also released the Review of the RBA’s Approach to Forward Guidance, which examined the bank’s use of forecasting the future cash rate during the pandemic, as well as into the future.The Federal Government announced it is pursuing bilateral tax treaty negotiations with Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This is aimed at increasing integrity within the taxation system and addressing tax avoidance.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority opened consultation on updated guidance for superannuation trustee governance, including new advice on environmental, social and governance risk factors.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority announced that in its four years of operation, it received over 300,000 complaints and secured customers nearly $900 million in refunds and compensation.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Coming out of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced Australia will be joining more than 10 global partners to launch the first Net Zero Government Initiative. Partners of the initiative have committed to achieve net zero across their own operations, with Australia committing to reach net zero emissions in the Australian Public Service by 2030.
Also at COP27, Minister Bowen outlined Australia will be joining an alliance of Government and private organisations working to grow the offshore wind industry. The Global Offshore Wind Alliance aims to achieve minimum 380 GW of global offshore wind capacity by 2030.
WA Minister for Energy Bill Johnston launched Australia’s first remote renewable hydrogen microgrid in Denham. The Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant will be fully operational in early 2023 and is expected to exceed the average power demands of 100 households.
The Queensland Government committed $45 million to establishing Queensland’s first SuperGrid Training Centre and Transmission Hub in Gladstone.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King approved the Melbourne Airport Master Plan. The Major Development Plan, which will include a proposal for a third runway, is expected to be submitted in early 2023.
The SA Government opened consultation on a review of the State’s Residential Tenancies Act. Consultation on a discussion paper examining the State’s rental laws is open until 16 December, after which time Consumer and Business Services will consider feedback and provide a final report to the State Government in the first quarter of 2023.
WA Minister for Housing John Carey announced the recipients of $39 million in funding through the Social Housing Economic Recovery Package. 12 community housing organisations and local governments for have been awarded a share of the funding to produce more than 150 new social housing properties across the State.
The NSW Government committed $75 million for safety and traffic flow improvements along the Wakehurst Parkway. Community consultation on the works are due to begin in early 2023, with the project expected to include localised widening and additional turning lanes.
The Federal Government invested $25.2 million to establish the National Nurse and Midwife Health Service, a support system that aims to help nurses, midwives and students better manage their health and wellbeing through counselling and referral services. The service will offer free confidential and independent advice, support, information, treatment and specialist referrals by health professionals through in-person and/or telephone consultations.
The NSW Government announced new pharmacy reform that expands the number of vaccinations pharmacists can deliver and medications pharmacists can prescribe. Under the reform, pharmacists will be able to prescribe hormonal contraception as well as medication for conditions including urinary tract infections, skin ailments and ear infections.
The NT Government formed a new Health Advisory Committee that aims to represent the community voice and provide advice to NT health leaders. The Committee includes 11 members from differing backgrounds across all five regions of the Territory.
The Tasmanian Government released its new four-year Transforming Outpatient Services Strategy, which outlines plans to streamline outpatient services. Proposed actions include increasing access to virtual care options, amending administrative processes, introducing a new e-referral system, and providing more support for general practitioners.