Weekly Wrap Up

19 March 2021
  • Health Minister Greg Hunt returned to work this week after being discharged from hospital.
  • Attorney-General Christian Porter will return to work on 31 March. The Attorney-General has engaged legal counsel to commence defamation proceedings in the Federal Court.
  • Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will take a leave of absence for at least six weeks to recover from his injuries. During this time, Deputy Premier James Merlino will continue as Acting Premier.
  • Former Finance Minister Hon Mathias Cormann was appointed Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue leaders confirmed their commitment to a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific region at the first summit on Saturday.
  • The WA Labor Party secured a landslide victory at the State Election last weekend and Premier Mark McGowan has announced the Cabinet for his second term.

Another sitting week over

Attorney-General Christian Porter’s industrial relations legislation, the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, was debated in Parliament this week and passed the Senate with significant amendments. Reforms to the definition of a casual employee remain, as well as the pathway for a casual employee to convert to permanency. However, a number of provisions were removed from the Bill due to pressure from the cross bench. These included amendments to the ‘better off overall test’ (BOOT) requirement, length of Greenfields Agreements and the approval time of enterprise agreements. The Bill will now progress through the House.

Elsewhere in Parliament, many Senators and MPs attended the March4Justice in Canberra to support equality and justice, and to end gendered violence. The organisers demanded a number of immediate actions from the Federal Government. As a result, the Prime Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne have requested a private meeting to discuss the matters further.

COVID-19 one year on

18 March marked one year since the Governor-General authorised the Biosecurity Emergency Declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia has since made significant efforts in its recovery, with the unemployment rate dropping to 5.8 per cent – well below the peak of 7 per cent in July 2020. Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout program commences on Monday with over 6 million people expected to be eligible. The Commonwealth is also investing an additional $1.1 billion to the National COVID-19 Health Response Strategy to continue efforts until 31 December.

Due to a concerning increase of cases in Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister announced targeted support of 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID vaccines for the country’s essential health workforce and additional supply of PPE.

Looking ahead

The Queensland, NSW, Northern Territory and Tasmanian parliaments sit next week, and the Federal Parliament will hold Senate Estimates.

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