Weekly Wrap Up
21 July 2023
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- Latest Newspoll data shows Labor continues to lead the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, 55 to 45.
- Latest Labour Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate remained at 3.5 per cent in June.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed he will visit New Zealand next week for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting.
- Treasurer Jim Chalmers released Australia’s first national wellbeing framework, Measuring What Matters. The framework includes 50 indicators under five themes including healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous.
- Former Secretary of the Department of Human Services Kathryn Campbell was suspended from her current role as a special adviser on the AUKUS project following the release of the final report of the Robodebt Royal Commission.
- The Victorian Government announced a series of reforms to the electronic gambling sector which include reducing load-up limits from $1000 to $100, mandating pre-commitment limits and carded play, and, by mid-2024, enforcing a mandatory closure period for all gaming machine areas in a venue (except the casino) between 4am and 10am.
- Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff stepped down as Minister for Health, but will retain his role as Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing. A new Health Minister is yet to be announced.
The Coalition retained the Federal seat of Fadden at last weekend’s by-election, with Liberal candidate Cameron Caldwell winning the seat. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of former Minister Stuart Robert in May this year. Mr Caldwell defeated Labor candidate Letitia Del Fabbro 63.5 per cent to 36.5 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with a swing of 2.8 per cent to the Liberal National Party. Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the win was because people were “fed up” with increasing cost of living pressures and also said the outcome was an indication of the Queensland State Election results next year, stating “our state more than ever needs a new start”. Meanwhile, Treasurer Jim Chalmers indicated a swing lower than four per cent “would be embarrassing” for Mr Dutton.
Voice ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases
The official cases for the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ vote to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in a referendum later this year were published by the Australian Electoral Commission this week. The pamphlets for both cases were developed by parliamentary groups representing either side of the debate. The official ‘Yes’ case[PDF] targets recognition, listening and better results for Indigenous Australians, centring on the statement “a change only you can make happen”, while the ‘No’ case[PDF] focuses on legal riskiness, divisiveness and unknown consequences, and states “if you don’t know, vote no”. This comes as the latest Newspoll data revealed that the ‘No’ vote is ahead, 49 to 41.
Victoria withdraws hosting rights for Commonwealth Games
On Tuesday, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews confirmed the state will no longer host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, with Mr Andrews indicating that the cost of the Games will exceed $6 billion. Following the announcement, the Premier outlined that $2 billion of the allocated funds for the Games will be reinvested into various sporting projects and social and affordable housing in regional Victoria. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader John Pesutto labelled it a “massive humiliation” for Victoria and has called for the Auditor-General to investigate the Government’s decision. NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania have all ruled out the possibility of hosting the games, citing budget constraints.
Budget Estimates continue in ACT Parliament next week. Elsewhere, the Northern Territory Parliament will sit next week.
The Reserve Bank of Australia published the Minutes of its 4 July Monetary Policy Meeting, where the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 4.1 per cent. The Board’s decision acknowledged that inflation, commodity prices, and shipping prices were all declining.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has opened[PDF] consultation on draft guidance for businesses who choose to make environmental and sustainability claims. The guidance aims to ensure businesses are complying with Australian Consumer Law, reduce instances of greenwashing, and ensure consumers are informed when making a purchase based on environmental claims.
Representatives from consulting firms Deloitte and EY appeared before the Senate Inquiry into the management and assurance of integrity by consulting services. Notably, Deloitte CEO Adam Powick faced questions on the salaries of senior executives of the firm, including his own, and the firm’s complaints handling process. Former ACCC Chair Alan Fels also criticised the Federal Government’s dependence on the major consulting firms.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones addressed the Conexus Group Insurance Dialogue. Mr Jones revealed that the Government will release draft legislation on the objective of superannuation for consultation in the coming months.
The Federal Government announced plans to establish a parliamentary inquiry into insurers’ response to the 2022 floods. Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones stated the inquiry will investigate insurers’ preparedness to respond to the frequency of extreme weather events as well as supply chain issues, skills, and labour shortages, claims handling, and communication with policy holders.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Treasurer Jim Chalmers, alongside RBA Governor Philip Lowe, attended a G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in India. The Treasurer met with international counterparts to discuss sustainable finance and the global economy.
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will travel to Brisbane for the 33rd Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) next week. Discussions will centre on defence and security cooperation, climate and clean energy, and economic resilience.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced additional sanctions on Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion, including 35 entities in Russia’s defence, technology and energy sectors, and 10 individuals, including Russian Ministers and senior officials, and senior military personnel in Belarus.
Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy will make his fifth visit to Papua New Guinea, at the invitation of Prime Minister the Hon James Marape MP and PNG National Rugby League Bid Chairman Mr Wapu Sonk, to support of PNG’s bid to become the next franchise in the NRL.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water opened consultation on draft guidelines to set international best practice benchmarks for use under the Safeguard Mechanism. The guidelines will be used to calculate priority production variables for new facilities and new products from existing facilities. Benchmarks for other production variables will be made at a later date, with the next tranche of benchmarks expected in 2024.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen addressed the Clean Energy Council where he outlined the Government’s proposal to revise Australia’s net zero plan by developing six sector-specific decarbonisation plans. He also announced he has written to the Climate Change Authority asking them to provide statutory advice on Australia’s 2035 emissions reduction targets.
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek opened consultation on a national framework for recycled content traceability. The framework would aim to clarify what data to collect and share, support national harmonisation, and enable Australian governments to set expectations for traceability with consistency.
Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King acknowledged the Federal Court’s decision on the BDAC & Ors v Minister for Resources and Commonwealth of Australia case, regarding the development of a nuclear waste facility on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. The Federal Court ruled in favour of traditional owners to stop the development of a nuclear waste facility near Kimba.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal and South Australian governments announced that Acciona Construction Australia has been awarded the contract to design and construct the Majors Road Interchange Project. The $120 million project involves the construction of new on/off-ramps for the Southern Expressway at Majors Road, with each government committing $60 million.
The Federal and Queensland governments, along with the Council of Mayors South East Queensland (SEQ) have released the SEQ City Deal Implementation Plan. The deal includes $1.8 billion worth of projects to support the region and complement the infrastructure investment for the Brisbane 2034 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The South Australian Government announced proposed reforms to the state’s residential tenancies laws. The changes include prohibiting tenants from being evicted from their rental home without case. The Government is also proposing to increase the minimum notice to end a tenancy from 28 days to 60 days.
HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND EDUCATION
Minister for Education Jason Clare addressed the National Press Club after releasing the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, conducted by Professor Mary O’Kane. The report recommends a guarantee of a Commonwealth supported place for all indigenous students who meet academic requirements, and the abolition of the 50 per cent pass rule, introduced as part of the previous government’s Job-ready Graduates Scheme.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark butler released updates to the Australian cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines. The new guidelines provide information for clinicians on early detection, assessment, and management of cardiovascular disease risk.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles extended Alice Spring’s takeaway liquor restrictions, which limit bottle shop trading hours, limit customers to one transaction per day, and implement takeaway alcohol-free days on Mondays and Tuesdays. The restrictions will be reviewed after 12 months.
The Queensland Government announced that Queensland residents will be eligible for a free flu vaccination from 22 July-31 August. The move comes after an increase in influenza cases in the state.