Weekly Wrap Up
23 September 2022
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- Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Education Jason Clare announced an ACCC inquiry into rising childcare costs.
- The Federal Government extended COVID-19 funding for healthcare providers and aged care homes until the end of the year
- Natural disaster professional Brendan Moon was appointed as Australia’s first Coordinator-General for National Emergency Management.
- Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Bill Shorten announced former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes will lead a review into outstanding legal appeals over NDIS funding.
- In NSW, the public servant who appointed former Deputy Premier John Barilaro to the state’s US trade commissioner role, Amy Brown, was terminated as secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade.
- Leader of the NSW Labor Opposition Chris Minns removed MP Tania Mihailuk from his frontbench following allegations Ms Mihailuk made against a colleague under parliamentary privilege.
- Amid ongoing disputes between the NSW Government and Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), the RBTU abandoned plans to disable opal readers across the state this week but has not ruled out future action.
- Mask mandates on public transport have been removed in SA, NSW, QLD, and VIC.
Mourning of Queen Elizabeth II
Following yesterday’s National Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, Federal Parliament is sitting today to allow condolence motions for Her Majesty. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese returned from the UK on Wednesday after attending the Queen’s funeral in London, and yesterday paid tribute to Her Majesty during her National Memorial Service at Parliament House. Mr Albanese marked the service “a most fitting memorial to a magnificent life”, stating that the Queen “was a rare and reassuring constant in a world of change”. Other attendees at the National Memorial Service included Leader of the Federal Opposition Peter Dutton, State and Territory Ministers, Members of Federal Parliament, High Court Justices, and members of the foreign Diplomatic Corps.
Treasurer’s update on upcoming Budget
In a press conference at Parliament House on Tuesday, the Treasurer provided an update on the upcoming October Budget. He confirmed that the Final Budget Outcome for 2021-22 will be released on Wednesday next week and confirmed the fuel excise will be reintroduced on the same day. Mr Chalmers indicated that the ACCC and the Government are not anticipating a full 23-cent-per-litre increase to petrol prices once the excise relief is lifted, as “hundreds of millions of litres of fuel” will have already been purchased at the lower prices. He also said the ACCC will increase its fuel price monitoring.
Significantly, the Treasurer stated that October’s Budget will show a $50 billion improvement to the Budget bottom line compared to March projections but conceded this was driven by “temporary factors”. Mr Chalmers largely attributed this improvement to higher-than-expected commodity prices leading to increased returns from Australia’s mineral exports but indicated that prices have “already begun to drop”. The Treasurer encouraged the public “not to see the improvement of 2021-2022 as an ongoing improvement”.
Climate Week in the US
This week, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen attended climate week at the United Nations General Assembly and represented Australia at the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Pittsburgh in the United States. In an address to the American Australian Association Benefit Dinner, Minister Bowen stated that Australia “is back” in terms of climate action and pointed to “domestic debates over climate” under the former Coalition Government. He affirmed that Australia is working towards a target of 82 per cent of electricity being derived from renewable energy by 2030 and noted the recent passage of the Government’s climate change bill that legislates a 43 per cent reduction on 2005 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
During his speech, Minister Bowen emphasised the importance of collaboration on climate action between the US and Australian governments. This morning, he announced that he and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry have signed a Letter of Intent to increase US private investment in Australia’s clean energy industries.
The Treasurer and Minister for Finance will release the Final Budget Outcome for 2021-22 on Wednesday and the fuel excise will be reintroduced on the same day. The Federal, South Australian and Tasmanian Parliaments are sitting next week.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones opened consultation on two components of the Consumer Data Right – its expansion to telecommunications and general maintenance. Consultation closes on 14 October 2022 and 31 December 2022, respectively.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released the minutes of the September Monetary Policy meeting of the Reserve Bank Board, outlining the policy rationale behind its decision to increase interest rates. Meanwhile, RBA Head of Domestic Markets Jonathan Kearns delivered a speech to the AFR Property Summit discussing the impact of rising interest rates on both residential and commercial property.
The RBA also published its review of the Bond Purchase Program, which was implemented to lower the structure of interest rates during the pandemic, and involved the purchase of a total of $281 billion of Australian, state and territory government bonds between November 2020 and February 2022.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard announced that the ACCC is actively reviewing businesses who make false or misleading claims with respect to their environmental initiatives.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Origin Energy Limited announced it will divest 100 per cent of its Beetaloo Basin interests and intends to exit its upstream exploration permits. An agreement has been reached with Tamboran (B1) Pty Limited to divest Origin’s interests in the Beetaloo Basin for a royalty on future production over the life of the field and an upfront consideration of $60 million.
The WA Government accepted all recommendations from the Parliamentary Inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry. A code of practice for mining and construction accommodation will be created, along with a number of initiatives aimed at upskilling the industry and providing support for victims.
The WA Government opened consultation on the proposed phase-out of a new list of single-use plastic items from February 2023, with further bans proposed on items including takeaway coffee cups and lids for cups, bowls and takeaway food containers. Consultation will include a series of information sessions and closes on 18 November 2022.
Also in WA, Minister for Hydrogen Industry Alannah MacTiernan welcomed ENGIE and Yara Pilbara Fertiliser’s final investment decision on the Yuri Project. A renewable hydrogen plant will now be built in the Pilbara region and supply hydrogen and electricity to Yara Pilbara Fertiliser’s nearby liquid ammonia facility.
Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio released the Victorian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report 2020, which found that the state’s emissions fell to nearly 30 per cent below 2005 levels in 2020.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek approved the first of 20 NSW water resource plans as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The plans outline how much water can be extracted from the river.
The Victorian Government released its business case for an above-ground Melbourne Airport train station, which includes a broadened scope for a new station in Keilor East as part of the airport rail link project. The Victorian and Federal governments previously committed $5 billion each in funding for the project.
The Queensland Government published its five-year Queensland Strategy for Disaster Resilience. The strategy outlines core services, products, infrastructure and mitigation activities to protect Queensland from future natural disasters.
The NSW and Federal governments opened applications for the $100 million Critical Producer Grant Program, which aims to support the recovery of primary producers affected by recent flooding events in NSW by providing funds to rebuild disaster resilient infrastructure. Applications close on 30 June 2023.
The Federal Government awarded $31.5 million to multiple COVID-19 research projects in the latest round of funding under the Medical Research Future Fund. One of the studies, named the PROPHECY project, was awarded $6.3 million and will research COVID-19 vaccines and infection, aiming to ultimately improve the care and outcomes for vulnerable groups as future variants of the virus emerge.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler distributed $14 million in funding among 12 healthcare research projects. Funded projects include research into eliminating Hepatitis C in Australia, improving treatment of children with cerebral palsy, and a digital platform focused on improving youth mental health services.