Weekly Wrap Up
2 June 2023
To receive regular policy and political updates, subscribe to our Weekly Wrap Up here.
- Latest Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that annual inflation rose 6.8 per cent in the year to April.
- Following its Annual Wage Review, the Fair Work Commission announced[PDF] there will be a 5.75 per cent increase in the minimum wage and to national award wages from July.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke at the Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration event for National Reconciliation Week, encouraging a “Yes” vote at the upcoming Voice referendum.
- Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell addressed the National Press Club, where he outlined Australia’s pursuit for a more stable trade relationship with China.
- The former president of the NSW Liberal Party, Maria Kovacic, won pre-selection for the NSW Senate seat that was left vacant earlier this year following the death of late Liberal Senator Jim Molan.
- Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic released two papers outlining potential risks and opportunities in relation to artificial intelligence (AI). A discussion paper on ‘Safe and Responsible AI in Australia’ is open for consultation until 26 July.
- The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre reached an agreement with Crown for the payment of a $450 million fine over historical money laundering breaches at Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.
- At Budget Estimates, the Tax Practitioners Board confirmed it had required a list of names of PwC staff connected to the use of confidential commonwealth tax information. Meanwhile, representatives from the Australian Taxation Office noted that it has been dealing with the matter since late 2017.
The House of Representatives met again this week while the final week of Budget Estimates took place in the Senate. Significantly, the Government’s legislation on the Voice referendum passed the House, 121 votes to 25. The legislation will enable the constitution to be altered to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament, in the event of a majority “Yes” vote at this year’s referendum. Liberal MP and former shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser proposed amendments to the wording put forward for the constitutional alteration; however these amendments were disagreed to.
Meanwhile, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe provided evidence to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for Budget Estimates. Mr Lowe was questioned about the impact of rising rents on inflation and stated that increased housing supply is needed. He also indicated his view that continued increases in interest rates and rent prices are likely to encourage people to “economise” on housing by choosing to live with housemates, as opposed to living in a rental with spare rooms. Mr Lowe emphasised that a behavioural change from renters is likely to assist with the shortage of supply in the rental market.
New WA Premier
WA Deputy Premier Roger Cook will shortly be sworn in as the 31st Premier of the State following the resignation of Mark McGowan on Monday. On Tuesday evening Mr Cook was left as the only contender to replace Mr McGowan as Premier, after Minister for Health Amber-Jade Sanderson withdrew from the leadership contest upon failing to secure majority caucus support. Mr Cook will lead WA with the support of Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti as his Deputy. It has not yet been confirmed which Government MP will assume Mr McGowan’s Treasury portfolio; however Mr Cook is expected to announce a ministry reshuffle in the coming days.
Announcing his intention to resign from both his leadership positions and from WA Parliament, Mr McGown stated that he was “tired”. He pointed to the “relentless” nature and responsibility of political leadership, however emphasised that he felt proud of a number of achievements throughout six years as Premier and 30 in State Parliament. With today being Mr McGowan’s final day in State Parliament, a by-election will soon be held for his electorate of Rockingham.
After arriving in Singapore yesterday along with Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Prime Minister Albanese will tonight deliver a keynote address to the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue. This visit forms part of annual bilateral discussions with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, through which Mr Albanese will focus on the implementation of the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement that was signed in October 2022. The trip marks Mr Albanese’s first official visit to both Singapore and Vietnam, which he will travel to over the weekend after leaving Singapore. The Prime Minister will use his Vietnamese trip to hold talks to promote trade, education and economic ties, emphasising the importance of Vietnam as an economic and strategic partner for Australia.
The ACT Parliament will sit next week, while Budget Estimates will take place in Tasmania.
Treasury announced its decision to pause expansion of the Consumer Data Right into superannuation, insurance and telecommunications, stating that the decision will allow it to focus on its expansion into banking, non-bank lending, and the energy sector.
AUSTRAC and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced that they each accepted a Court Enforceable Undertaking (CEU) from the Bank of Queensland (BoQ). The CEUs aim to improve BoQ’s compliance with AML/CTF laws after it was found to have breached several prudential standards in 2022 and 2023.
Treasury opened[PDF] consultation on the proposed Financial Institutions Supervisory Levies for 2023-24. Treasury proposes to increase APRA’s levies requirement by 3.4 per cent – an increase of $7.2 million. Consultation will close on 9 June.
The RBA published[PDF] Deloitte’s independent review of the October 2022 Reserve Bank Information and Transfer System (RITS) outage – Australia’s real-time gross settlement system, which is critically important to the national payments system. The RBA indicated its intention to formalise the RITS operating model and strengthen its risk management framework.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commenced a public inquiry into the regulation of nine telecommunications services. The inquiry will examine nine services that enable access to Telstra’s legacy access network, interconnection of networks for the purpose of voice calls, the resale of analogue fixed line phone services, data transmission, and ADSL resale.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
The Government announced appointments to an External Advisory Panel that will oversee the implementation of recommendations from the Defence Strategic Review. The Panel will include former respective Secretaries of the Departments of Defence and Finance, Dennis Richardson and Ms Rosemary Huxtable, as well as former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Richard Maude.
During a visit to Detroit, Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell welcomed Australia’s participation in the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Supply Chains Agreement. The Agreement, signed by 13 other IPEF countries, will establish a Crisis Response Network to manage supply chain shortages and enable greater accessibility to critical goods in key sectors such as critical minerals and clean energy technologies. Elsewhere, Minister Farrell confirmed that the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement came into force on Wednesday.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong confirmed an additional $29 million from the Australian Government to support individuals facing food insecurity as a result of conflict and drought in the Middle East and Africa. The humanitarian assistance includes $15 million to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia; $4 million to Yemen; and $10 million to Lebanon and Jordan.
Minister for Defence Richard Marles met with his Republic of Korea (ROK) counterpart Lee Jong-sup and ROK President Yoon on the sidelines of the 2023-Korea Pacific Islands Summit to commit to improving defence cooperation between the two nations.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water released the December 2022 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, attributing a decline in emissions to an ongoing uptake of renewable energy. The update showed that in the year to December 2022, emissions totalled 463.9 million tonnes (Mt CO2-e) of carbon dioxide equivalent – 0.4 per cent lower than the year to 2021, and 24. per cent below June 2005 levels.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Transgrid published the final report in the regulatory investment test for the Victoria – New South Wales Interconnector West (VNI West), a 500kV transmission line connecting the Victorian and NSW energy grids. The assessment, which first started in 2019, confirms that the project may advance, with the preferred option to run between the Dinawan substation in NSW to Bulgana in Victoria’s west. AEMO will continue to hold community consultations to refine the route.
The Queensland and Federal governments entered into a joint venture with consortium partners to invest $117 million in the development of the Central Queensland Hydrogen (CQ-H2) project at Gladstone. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency provided $20 million for the project, while $15 million came from the Queensland Government and the final $81.8 million was from consortium partners. The investment will finance the Front End Engineering and Design study to facilitate a Final Investment Decision by late 2024.
The WA Government opened consultation on a directions paper for the State’s Waste Strategy, which outlines the Waste Authority’s key areas of focus. Following the close of consultation on 11 July, a draft updated Waste Strategy will be developed and then released for consultation later this year.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Government appointed the members of the new Urban Policy Forum, which will advise the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King, on urban policy matters. Professor Barbara Norman will chair the Forum.
The NSW Government reached an agreement with Uber to be part of the official Transport Management Centre incident response process, which will see Uber assist in the movement of passengers when unplanned public transport disruptions occur. As part of the agreement, Uber will also limit surge pricing for passengers affected by disruptions until alternative public transport options are available.
The Victorian Government committed $22.2 million in funding for local governments to conduct flood studies. This includes $10 million for the completion up to 32 flood studies in regional Victoria over the next five years, and $3.9 million to assist councils to incorporate flood studies into planning schemes.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport launched an inquiry into the prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetes and obesity and the effects of this on the Australian population. Submissions to the inquiry close 31 August.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler released draft tobacco control legislation for consultation until 14 July. The exposure bill proposes to update graphic warnings on packaging, require health promotion inserts, and capture vapes in advertising restrictions.
NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park announced a review to evaluate the implementation of security and safety measures to protect frontline health workers from violence. The review will be led by Peter Anderson, who in 2021 undertook a report into hospital security.
Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee released the test results from the evaluation of 17 vape samples currently available on the market. It found all samples contained nicotine, and arsenic and zinc.