Weekly Wrap Up
2 December 2022
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- Inflation rose 6.9 per cent in the year to October 2022, according to latest Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Mike Burgess downgraded Australia’s terrorism threat level to “possible” after eight years as “probable”.
- Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud confirmed his party will not support a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
- In a speech to the National Press Club, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins presented the findings of a major survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission on the topic of sexual harassment at work.
- Treasury released its report on the first year of operation of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.
- The NSW Government reached[PDF] an agreement with the Combined Rail Unions in the State that will see the end of industrial action from train workers.
- Also in NSW, the parliamentary inquiry examining the appointment of former Deputy Premier John Barilaro to a US trade role held another hearing this morning.
In the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, the Government succeeded in passing key pieces of legislation which implement a number of election commitments. Notably, the legislation to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has passed. The legislation passed the Senate with amendments by the Greens to expand the powers of the NACC inspector. The NACC is set to be established by mid-2023.
The Government also secured the passage of its industrial relations legislation through both Houses after negotiating a number of amendments in exchange for the support of Independent Senator David Pocock. These amendments included a review of modern awards and changes to the definition of ‘small business’. Speaking on the legislation during a speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Gala this week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged the difference of opinion between over the bill between key business groups and his Government, noting that “no significant economic reform has ever enjoyed 100 per cent support”. However, Mr Albanese urged industry groups and businesses to set aside differences and continue work on common areas of agreement. The Government has since indicated that it plans to introduce a second tranche of employment law reforms next year to “close the loopholes that are undermining job security and wage growth”.
Other key pieces of Government legislation that passed both Houses this sitting week included the bill enacting recommendations from the Respect @Work inquiry, and legislation that increases the maximum penalties that can be applied for serious or repeated privacy breaches. Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic also introduced legislation to establish the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation, which will oversee the $15 billion National Reconstruction fund announced in the October 2022-23 Budget.
In other parliamentary matters, following last week’s release of the report from the inquiry into the former Prime Minister’s self-appointment to multiple ministries in 2020 and 2021, the House passed a censure motion against Scott Morrison for his actions, making him the first former Prime Minister to be censured by Parliament. Liberal Member for Bass Bridget Archer crossed the floor to support the motion. Mr Morrison later apologised for causing “unintentional offence” and reinforced that he acted as Prime Minister “to the best of [his] ability”.
Meanwhile, the proposed sitting calendar for 2023 has been released[PDF], with Parliament due to resume on 6 February.
Andrews Labor Government secures third term in Victoria
Under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, the Victorian Labor Party was re-elected for a third term at the State Election on the weekend. At the time of writing, Labor has secured 52 out of 88 seats in the Lower House, while the Liberal-National Coalition has won 26 and the Greens have picked up four. Five seats remain in doubt, and one has been deferred for election at a later date due to the recent death of a candidate. Following his second election loss as Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy has resigned as Leader of the Victorian Liberal Party and John Pesutto, Richard Riordan and Brad Battin have announced intentions to nominate for the position.
In its first announcement since its victory, the Andrews Government confirmed work on the Suburban Rail Loop is progressing and trains are expected to be running on the line by 2035. Meanwhile, an announcement on Premier Andrews’ Cabinet is expected to take place in the coming days.
For further analysis on last weekend’s election result, see the latest newsletter in our ‘VIC Election 2022’ series.
No Australian Parliaments will be sitting for the rest of the year.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced that the Consumer Data Right (CDR) has been extended to capture non-bank lending, ahead of further consultation on rules and data standards for the sector.
Also on CDR, Minister Jones introduced the Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2022 into Parliament. This will amend the CDR legislation to allow ‘action initiation’, where customers can authorise data holders to take action on their behalf; for example, changing their personal details across multiple accounts.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe appeared in front of a Senate Economics Committee Estimates hearing on Monday, where he apologised to Australians who relied on his statements regarding future interest rate movements.
This morning, Parliament passed the Financial Sector Reform Bill 2022, which makes a range of changes to financial services legislation. Notably, the Government removed two major aspects from the Bill – the compensation scheme of last resort and the financial accountability regime – citing the need for more consultation.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority released the findings of its first Climate Vulnerability Assessment, which discusses the potential financial impacts that climate change may have on Australia’s five largest banks.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
In the final sitting week of 2022, the Government introduced the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill 2022 to the House of Representatives. The bill will establish Safeguard Mechanism Credits and address incentive overlaps from declining Safeguard Mechanism baselines, Safeguard crediting, and opportunities to create Australian Carbon Credit Units.
Furthermore, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen outlined the Government’s $175 million investment in the $3 billion Golden Plains Wind Farm in Regional Victoria through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The investment is expected to fund 122 of the planned 215 wind turbines.
Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni presented the State Government’s plan to develop one of the world’s largest onshore wind projects with the construction of ACCIONA Energy’s $2 billion wind project. The new 1,000MW Herries Range Wind Farm is being built in Queensland’s MacIntyre Wind Precinct and will create roughly 2,000 MW of renewable energy.
WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston launched the State’s certification and sustainability assessment for battery materials. The Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre Certification and sustainability assessment provides an overview of the variety of scopes and approaches to sustainability in battery materials.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Last Friday Treasurer Jim Chalmers held his inaugural Treasurer’s Investor Roundtable, which focused on affordable housing. At the Roundtable, Housing Minister Julie Collins announced that the Government has signed a new investment mandate for the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to deliver the Government’s social and affordable housing commitments, including the build of 40,000 new social and affordable housing properties.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that the $4.24 billion contract to deliver stage two of Sydney’s Western Harbour Tunnel has been awarded to ACCIONA. Construction of stage one is already underway and further community consultation will take place next year ahead of the commencement of major work on stage two in late 2023.
Sydney Metro awarded the Eastern Tunnelling contract for the Sydney Metro West project to John Holland, CPB Contractors Pty Ltd & Ghella Pty Ltd joint venture. The $1.63 billion contract will deliver 3.5 kilometres of metro rail tunnels between The Bays and Sydney CBD and is the final stage of tunnelling for the project.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk released the Outcomes Report from the State’s Housing Summit held in October. The Report focuses on expanding housing supply and increasing housing support through a $56 million funding commitment for a number of key actions including $11.7 million to expand tenancy sustainment responses to support vulnerable people to maintain their tenancies, and $10 million to deliver more temporary emergency accommodation.
In collaboration with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, the Federal Government updated national guiding principles with the aim of improving the quality and safety of medication management. Areas of focus include residential aged care facilities, the community, and supporting continuity of care at transition points in care.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration opened public consultation on new vaping regulations. Areas being examined include changes to importation and border control laws required to stop illegal products entering Australia; pre-market assessments of vapes to create a regulated source of products for pharmacists and doctors to prescribe; labelling, advertising and flavouring of vapes that make them attractive to children; and stronger identification and regulation of nicotine-containing products. Public consultation closes on 16 January 2023.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced that from 1 December, new and updated medicines will be subsidised for Australians with high cholesterol, chronic heart failure, and a potentially life-threatening blood cell condition, under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The NSW Government announced $13.6 million in funding for a new dedicated 12-bed Palliative Care Unit at Wyong Hospital, as part of the Government’s broader $93 million Enhancing End of Life Care Program.
Tasmania’s Public Health authority raised the state’s COVID-19 Risk Level as positive cases continue to trend upwards. Recommendations of the new declaration include wearing masks in indoor settings, on public transport, or when visiting people at higher risk, as well as taking a booster or fourth dose if eligible.