Weekly Wrap Up

19 April 2024 

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  • Australia’s unemployment rate increased to 3.8 per cent in March, according to new labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese released a statement to condemn Iran’s attack on Israel, stating that “Australia continues to support regional security, including that of Israel”.
  • The Federal Government committed $400 million in loans as part of its Future Made in Australia Plan to support a new alumina processing facility in Queensland and $185 million to accelerate stage one of a graphite development in South Australia.
  • The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report recommending amendments to the Government’s Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024, which seeks to issue an enforceable removal pathway to non-citizens, suggesting it “engages and limits numerous human rights” in its current form.
  • The Liberal Party retained former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook in a by-election on Saturday. Simon Kennedy was elected with over 70 per cent of the vote.
  • Major supermarket executives faced questions during a Senate inquiry into price gouging and treatment of suppliers in the sector. Greens Chair Nick McKim criticised Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci for refusing to disclose the company’s return on equity stating it possibly “opens up a range of sanctions” against Mr Banducci.

Response to Sydney knife attacks

The Federal and NSW Governments responded to two separate knife attacks in Sydney this week. The first stabbing incident occurred at the Bondi Junction Westfield shopping centre, which saw a man identified as Queenslander Joel Cauchi kill six people and injure several others. NSW Premier Chris Minns labelled the incident a “violent and horrifying attack on innocent people” and committed up to $18 million to support a coronial inquiry as part of an NSW Police investigation. NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb confirmed the investigation will assess the offender’s motivations including whether he targeted women, which Police Commissioner Karen Webb labelled “obvious”. The NSW Government and Waverley Council confirmed a candlelight vigil will be held at Bondi Beach on Sunday 21 April to commemorate the victims.

Following this, a separate police operation was launched after a teenager allegedly stabbed a bishop at a church in Wakeley and over 50 police officers were injured during a subsequent riot. NSW Police declared it a terror incident and the NSW Premier convened a meeting with Western Sydney faith leaders calling for “care and compassion to all”. Various politicians raised concerns about false claims spreading on social media relating to the two events, prompting Federal Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland to confirm she will introduce legislation later this year to combat misinformation and disinformation online. Meanwhile, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant issued X and Meta with legal notices to take down “violent” videos of the stabbings online. Elsewhere, NSW Premier Chris Minns suggested the Government may consider tightening its knife laws, stating “I’m not prepared to rule anything out”.

National Defence Strategy 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles delivered the Government’s first National Defence Strategy alongside an updated Integrated Investment Program. Significantly, Minister Marles confirmed that defence spending will be raised by $50.3 billion over the next decade to increase the future capability of the Australian Defence Force. The Minister confirmed that Australia is facing “the most complex strategic circumstances since the end of World War II” due to increased uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific region. As part of the Integrated Investment Program overhaul, Marles outlined the Government will update its undersea warfare spending, which includes $53 to $63 billion over the next ten years to acquire submarines as part of the AUKUS agreement. He also confirmed $51 to $69 billion to expand the surface combatant fleet, and other measures including the creation of a targeting enterprise and long-range strike capability improvements, increased investment in space and cyber capabilities, air operations, missile defence and guided weapons and explosive ordinance.

Nature Positive Plan

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek announced the second stage of the ‘Nature Positive Plan’ (NPP), which aims to reform the Government’s environmental protection measures. The plan will establish Environment Protection Australia, an independent body which will manage development decisions and enforce existing environmental regulation. Minister Plibersek confirmed legislation to establish the authority will be introduced over the coming weeks, however noted that the next stage of NPP reform will be delivered in tranches, to support “both businesses and nature”. The Minister also committed almost $100 million to accelerate environmental approvals for projects.

Looking Ahead

No parliaments are sitting next week.


Federal Developments

Treasurer Jim Chalmers travelled to Washington DC to attend the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting and IMF – World Bank 2024 Spring Meetings. The Treasurer met with international counterparts to discuss global inflation and sustainable finance.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced CEO Warren Day is leaving to join the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Executive Director of Regulation and Supervision Greg Yanco will be appointed as ASIC’s Interim CEO effective 1 June.

Treasury opened consultation on proposed changes to the Payment Times Reporting Act 2020 that would reduce burdens for reporting entities with obligations and introduce additional incentives for large businesses to improve payment times to small businesses. Consultation is open until 22 April.

Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced the Compensation Scheme of Last Resort (CSLR) has begun to process claims for compensation payments from eligible consumers. The CSLR will provide compensation of up to $150,000 to consumers who have an unpaid determination from the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Federal Developments

Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing Tim Ayres travelled to Singapore and Malaysia to lead Australia’s first delegation to the Australia-Southeast Asia Business Exchange program. While in the region, the Assistant Minister will meet with government and business representatives to discuss trade and investment opportunities focusing on the clean energy transition. The Federal Government committed $25 million to assist with logistics and operations for the Solomon Islands Joint Elections. The funding supported the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission to deliver training and voter awareness initiatives, and support voter registration.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy announced the initial purchase order of processed Australian steel from Australian steel manufacturer Bisalloy Steel. Minister Conroy stated that Bisalloy Steel will process steel at its Port Kembla facility for Newport News Shipbuilding.

The Federal Government signed a $139.5 million contract with Boeing Defence Australia to upgrade the Royal Australian Airforce’s fleet of P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The upgrades will support continued interoperability with Australia’s allies and will result in the recruitment and training of more than 50 apprentices and supply chain trainees in South Australia.


State Developments

The Queensland Government announced it will establish a renewables code of conduct to ensure renewable energy developers conduct genuine engagement with landholders and communities during project development. The code will be co-designed with key stakeholders from the energy, environment, and agriculture sectors and will also consider findings from the Commonwealth’s Independent Community Engagement Review.

The Queensland Parliament passed the Government’s Clean Economy Jobs Bill 2024 and the Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Act 2024, which will legislate a 80 per cent renewable energy generation target by 2035, and enshrine emissions reduction targets of 75 per cent by 2035 and net zero by 2050. The laws also ensure public ownership of energy assets and introduce a Job Security Guarantee and Fund to support workers during the transition to renewables.

The WA Government committed $67.2 million in the upcoming State Budget for the Forest Management Plan to support the discontinuation of commercial native forest logging. The investment will fund the development of a new forest health monitoring program and implementation of emerging technologies.

The WA Government passed its Electricity Industry Amendment (Alternative Electricity Services) Bill 2023, which will ensure fair pricing and transparent information for all electricity customers. The Bill will amend the Electricity Industry Act 2004 to establish an Alternative Electricity Services (AES) registration framework to regulate all electricity models including embedded networks and solar as a service.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government committed $320 million to upgrade tracks in Nagambie and Wahring as part of the Stage 3 Shepparton Line Upgrade project. The project will replace over 13 kilometres of ageing tracks to increase capacity and accessibility for VLocity trains.

State Developments

Victorian Minister for Housing Harriet Shing announced the Government has approved the planning of 522 new homes in South Yarra as part of its Ground Lease Model project. The homes will be funded under the Federal Government’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build program and will deliver a 34 per cent increase in social housing.

The Queensland Parliament passed land reform legislation to empower local councils with more authority to manage their use of land in trust. The Land and Other Legislation Amendment Bill No 2 will streamline the state’s land administration framework by simplifying administration processes and enforcing companies to pay local government rates.


Federal Developments

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic unveiled the Medical Science Co-Investment Plan, which identifies investment opportunities across the medical science industry. The Plan aims to leverage Australia’s medical manufacturing and research capabilities to improve its clinical trials and therapeutic expertise.

The Department of Health and Aged Care released the second issues paper on the Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of Practice Review to improve the effectiveness of primary care health professionals. Issues Paper 2[PDF] proposes eight reform options relating to workforce design, development and planning, legislation and regulation, and funding and payment policy. Consultation is open until July with a final report due by end of October.

Minister for Education Jason Clare announced $15 million to directly assist students at not-for-profit Community Language Schools. The funding will provide schools with the ability to purchase educational equipment and improve access to the schools.

State Developments

The WA Government appointed Dr Shirley Bowen as the new Director-General of the Department of Health; she will commence the role in May. Dr Bowen was previously the Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Notre Dame, and the Chief Medical Officer of the ACT.


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