Weekly Wrap Up
2 September 2022
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- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited Germany, France and the UK for the first time since assuming office.
- In the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Marles welcomed an announcement from the UK Government that Royal Australian Navy submariners will be trained alongside Royal Navy crews aboard the HMS Anson submarine as part of the AUKUS partnership.
- At the national Building Ministers’ Meeting last Friday, federal, state and territory Ministers agreed to update the National Construction Code to increase the energy efficiency requirements for new builds from six-stars to seven-stars.
- The Federal Government appointed former High Court judge Virginia Bell to lead an independent investigation into former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s appointment to multiple ministries in 2020 and 2021.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek announced the establishment of a biodiversity certificates scheme that will reward landowners for restoring and managing environmental assets.
- Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt launched the new National Emergency Management Agency, which combines the capabilities of Emergency Management Australia and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency to coordinate the response to and preparation for emergencies.
- Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen and Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek attended the G20 Climate and Environment Ministerial Meeting in Indonesia.
- The Victorian Government announced it will provide scholarships to all new domestic nursing and midwifery students in 2023 and 2024.
- Also in Victoria, latest Newspoll data was released, showing that in the lead up to the November State Election, Labor leads the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis of 56-44.
- In light of ongoing disputes with NSW rail unions, the State Government informed union leaders of its intention to terminate existing enterprise agreements if industrial action continues after “close of business” today.
- The NSW and Victorian governments unveiled a joint partnership to establish an additional 25 urgent care services in each state, in an attempt to reduce pressure on emergency departments.
- In Tasmania, the independent Report into Workplace Culture in the Tasmanian Ministerial and Parliamentary Services found that two-thirds of parliamentary staff had witnessed discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. The Government and Opposition noted a Committee will examine the report’s recommendations.
Jobs and Skills Summit
The Federal Government’s two-day Jobs and Skills Summit will conclude this afternoon, with 146 participants[PDF] across industry, business, and state and territory governments having gathered to discuss issues including skills shortages, productivity, wages growth, and facilitating the workforce return of women. In his opening address to the Summit, Prime Minster Albanese noted a $1.1 billion commitment to create an additional 180,000 fee-free TAFE places for 2023, with costs to be shared between the federal, state and territory governments with the aim of increasing training and providing job entry more quickly.
Significant outcomes reached on the first day of the Summit included a commitment from the Federal Government to draft legislation to introduce multi-employer bargaining, as well as modifying the Better Off Overall Test. This legislation will allow deals that cover multiple employers, however some employers have expressed concern that this may lead to an increase in industrial action. The Government has also pledged to strengthen the power of the Fair Work Commission to intervene in lengthy or unfair bargaining and amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to provide greater access to flexible working arrangements and unpaid parental leave, as well as additional worker protections against adverse action, discrimination and harassment.
A key focus of the Summit today has been the role of migration in addressing skills shortages. This morning, the Government committed to lifting the permanent migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 a year and also allocated $36.1 million to clear visa backlogs.
All ideas that have been generated at the Summit will be fed into an employment white paper to be published in the next 12 months, which is intended to shape the future of Australia’s labour market. Other interested stakeholders will also be invited to make a submission towards the development of the white paper. The Government has now released a document[PDF] of outcomes from the Summit and indicated it will begin accepting submissions for the white paper later this month.
PM’s National Press Club address
On Monday, Mr Albanese delivered his first address to the National Press Club since Labor’s win at the May Federal Election, coinciding with the mark of the Albanese Government’s first 100 days in office. The Prime Minister reinforced his Government’s commitment to implementing its key election commitments, including improving aged care, implementing climate change action, providing cheaper childcare, and supporting pay increases for workers. In response to media questions, Mr Albanese confirmed the Government will maintain its commitment to implement stage three tax cuts, despite calls from unions and the Greens to reconsider this position.
National Cabinet update
At its meeting on Wednesday, National Cabinet agreed to reduce the COVID-19 isolation period from seven days to five days for positive cases with no symptoms, provided these cases do not work in high risk settings including aged care. Additionally, the mask requirement for domestic flights will be removed from 9 September. Housing affordability was noted as a topic for discussion at the next “in person” National Cabinet meeting.
Budget Estimates will continue in NSW next week, while the SA Parliament will resume after an eight-week winter break. The Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments will also sit.
The Reserve Bank of Australia released its 2022-26 Corporate Plan, outlining the Bank’s objectives, planned activities and how it will measure performance.
The Financial Regulator Assessment Authority tabled its final report into the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s strategic prioritisation, planning and decision making, surveillance and licensing functions. It made four recommendations to the Commission.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics published new statistics that show the value of new housing loan commitments fell 8.5 per cent to $28.4 billion in July 2022.
Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Deputy Chair Helen Rowell delivered a speech to the Risk Australia 2022 conference, where she discussed risk culture and how to ensure better risk governance outcomes.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) published its 2022 Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO), outlining potential electricity reliability concerns requiring urgent responses across the National Electricity Market over the next 10 years.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen released the Government’s March 2022 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, noting a 1.5 per cent rise in emissions in the March quarter from the same time last year.
Queensland Minister for Resources Scott Stewart approved the mining leases for Stage Three of the New Acland project. Minister Stewart also noted the project requires additional associated licences for water from the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.
NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean outlined that the State Government’s Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone has attracted $43 billion worth of potential investment in response to the Government’s call for expressions of interest from green manufacturing and large-scale energy projects. 44 projects have been registered so far and are expected to deliver 17 gigawatts of generation and storage capacity.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government announced an additional $75 million investment from its Emergency Response Fund for a range of flood mitigation and infrastructure resilience measures in NSW. The funding will target the 62 NSW local government areas that were disaster-declared after the February-March flood event and includes $40 million of fund grants for flood mitigation projects including home raising.
In Victoria, a Parliamentary Budget Office investigation found that continued investment into the State Government’s Suburban Rail Loop East and North, which would run from Cheltenham to Melbourne Airport, is likely to result in a net social cost. The analysis estimated that the benefit to cost ratio would fall between 0.6 – 0.7.
The NSW Government launched the Greater Sydney Water Strategy (GSWS), which aims to save water across Greater Sydney through the implementation of improved water efficiency, leakage management and reuse programs. The GSWS outlines the option to expand the Sydney Desalination Plant or build a new desalination plant.
The NSW Government opened consultation on proposed changes to legislation relating to fire-safe construction. With consultation closing on 7 October, the Government is seeking feedback from industry to refine proposals aimed at improving building regulatory standards across the state.
The final report from the Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery commissioned by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the Medical Board of Australia was released. All 16 recommendations made in the report to improve patient safety in the sector have been accepted by Ahpra and the Medical Board.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced the recipients of $31.5 million in funding through the Medical Research Future Fund to support increased understanding of COVID-19. 14 research projects have received funding to focus on finding new ways to treat the disease, understand its longer-term impacts and better manage it in the future.
The WA Government committed to providing access to free period products for secondary students across all public schools in the state from Term 1 of next year. The WA Government is the last jurisdiction in Australia to carry out this initiative and will soon undertake a procurement process for the provision of these products.
The Victorian Government’s draft Mental Health and Wellbeing Outcomes and Performance Framework is now open for consultation. Stakeholders have been invited to provide feedback on the draft framework until 25 September.