Weekly Wrap Up
24 March 2023
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- In NSW, voters will take to the polls tomorrow for the State Election.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the Synthesis Report of its Sixth Assessment Report, stating that “significant global effort” will be necessary to meet climate change targets, requiring a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2035.
- Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic gave an address to the National Press Club, where he discussed matters including the National Reconstruction Fund and the upcoming National Quantum Strategy.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest Census data on homelessness, indicating that an estimated 122,494 people were experiencing homelessness on the night of the Census in 2021.
- NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Deputy Premier Paul Toole paid tribute to late Nationals MP Stephen Bromhead, who died last Friday after 12 years of representing the seat of Myall Lakes in State Parliament.
- On Sunday, the South Australian Parliament will hold a special sitting to mark the final vote on legislation establishing a First Nations Voice to the State Parliament.
First Nations Voice Referendum
On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held a press conference with other key members of his Ministry to announce the question that will be put to Australians at an upcoming referendum on establishing a Voice to Parliament. The Prime Minister confirmed that, based on consultation with the Referendum Working Group, the question will read: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?” Mr Albanese also confirmed the wording of the new chapter proposed for inclusion in the Australian Constitution, which will outline that a new body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Government has indicated that the Voice referendum will be held between October and December this year. By the end of June, the Government aims to pass the legislation that will enable the Constitution to be altered. In response to questions, Mr Albanese also confirmed that the proposed referendum question will be able to be altered when Parliamentary debate occurs on the supporting legislation.
On a related note, during this week’s Parliamentary sitting, legislation governing the machinery of how future referendums are conducted passed both Houses with support from the Liberal Party. Based on this support, Prime Minister Albanese indicated he is “hopeful” that the Liberal Party will end up supporting the Voice legislation, however, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton since reaffirmed that the Liberal Party is yet to arrive at a decision.
This week saw the start of a two-week sitting block for Federal Parliament, with a number of significant pieces of legislation debated. In the House, debate continued on the Government’s legislation to reform the safeguard mechanism, with Greens Leader Adam Bandt reiterating his Party’s desire to see the Government commit to not opening new coal and gas mines. Legislation to establish the National Reconstruction Fund was also introduced to the Senate after passing the House in the previous sitting week. However, negotiations with the crossbench are ongoing, as the Government requires an additional two votes for the legislation to pass, having already received support from the Greens. It is the Government’s intention that both of these pieces of legislation will be put to a vote by the end of next week before Parliament goes on a five-week break.
Also on Parliamentary matters, the Committee examining the Government’s housing legislation package released its final report[PDF], with members of the Greens, crossbench and Coalition all indicating that they do not support the legislation in its current state. The Greens and crossbench Senators, whose support the Government needs in order for the legislation to pass, called for additional investment in social and affordable housing.
The Senate is sitting again today, while both houses will resume on Monday.
Tomorrow, at the NSW Election, Premier Dominic Perrottet is seeking to secure a fourth term for the Liberal-National Coalition Government, while Opposition Leader Chris Minns is aiming to return Labor to Government after 12 years. Latest Resolve Political Monitor polling (paywall) indicates the election is tightening, with both parties sharing a primary vote of 38 per cent. However, Perrottet remains preferred Premier on 40 per cent, compared to Chris Minns on 34 per cent. Minns was also hailed the winner of the final leaders debate on Wednesday night, hosted by Sky News and The Daily Telegraph. Key topics discussed included policies on healthcare and privatisation.
Read our latest election coverage in this week’s issue of ‘NSW Election 2023: Campaign Insights & Analysis’.
Federal Parliament is sitting again next week. Parliament will also sit in Queensland.
On Tuesday, the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Monetary Policy Meeting of the Reserve Bank Board were released. The RBA Board has agreed to reconsider a pause in rate hikes at its April meeting.
Treasury has opened consultation on amendments to the Corporations Act 2001, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and the ASIC Act 2001. The proposed changes would provide ASIC with additional powers to implement and enforce requirements for clearing and settlement services to operate in a way that promotes competition. The changes would also provide the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission additional powers to conduct binding arbitration to resolve disputes.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones released a statement reiterating the importance of implementing the Financial Accountability Regime (FAR) and the Compensation Scheme of Last Resort (CSLR). As of yesterday, these bills have cleared the House of Representatives and will now head to Senate.
The ABS released data revealing household wealth fell by 0.4 per cent ($57 billion) in the December quarter 2022, 3 per cent lower than that of a year ago. Additionally, superannuation balances dropped 6.7 per cent ($247 billion) in value since December 2021 as asset prices declined.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong confirmed the Australian Government will enforce sanctions and travel bans on an additional 14 individuals and 14 entities responsible for human rights abuses in Iran. Those sanctioned include members of the Morality Police, senior law enforcement, and political representatives involved in the treatment of Mahsa ‘Jina’ Amini.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted the Prime Minister of Samoa Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa in Canberra to reinforce the bilateral relationship between the two countries and continue discussions about climate resilience and sustainable development in the Pacific region.
Minister for Defence Richard Marles met[PDF] with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe for the 8th Sino-Australian Ministry of National Defence Working Meeting to discuss issues of regional security and re-establish defence talks with China.
The South Australian Government unveiled[PDF] plans to accelerate a university degree apprenticeship pilot program for the defence industry, through a partnership with the University of South Australia and Ai Group in preparation for the construction of submarines under the AUKUS partnership.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Energy Market Commission has commenced a review of the Retailer Reliability Obligation (RRO). The review will focus on the operation aspects of the RRO including, but not limited to, the Market Liquidity Obligations, the role of the opt-in mechanism and the voluntary Book Build Mechanism. A final report will be released in early 2024.
The Clean Energy Regulator’s Quarterly Market Report for Quarter 4 2022 was released and reveals an increase in renewable energy investment. The Report noted that in 2022, renewables developers committed to building 4.3 gigawatts (GW) of new large-scale wind and solar capacity, which is up almost 50 per cent from the previous year.
The Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development Mark Furner launched the Low Emissions Agriculture Roadmap 2022-2032. The Roadmap, which was developed in consultation with industry, focuses on five pathways including livestock emissions, cropping and horticulture emissions, on-farm energy opportunities, carbon farming and landscape management, and regions and supply chains.
The WA Minister for Environment and Climate Change Reece Whitby and Minister for Ports Rita Saffioti have announced the competition of construction of a solar array on the roof of the Fremantle Passenger Terminal. The 1100 solar panels will provide 100 per cent of the passenger terminal’s power needs during cruise ship operations.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Following the 2022 Independent Review of Infrastructure Australia, the Federal Government introduced the Infrastructure Australia Amendment (Independent Review) Bill 2023 into Parliament. The bill intends to reinstate Infrastructure Australia as the Commonwealth Government’s independent infrastructure adviser.
Also in Parliament, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King presented the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2023. If passed, the Bill will secure an additional $2 billion in financial assistance for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic and Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek have announced a $83 million AquaWatch Australia research mission. The program, involving satellites and ground-based sensors, will grant government, scientists and industry real-time data and predictive analysis of Australia’s waterways.
In the lead up to the 2026 Commonwealth Games, the Victorian Government has launched a jobs pipeline featuring more than 1,200 opportunities for local contractors and suppliers to win contracts. The pipeline covers a range of services including providing sporting equipment and medals, transport, security, catering, temporary infrastructure, telecommunications and more.
Minister for Aged Care Annika Wells introduced the Inspector-General of Aged Care 2023 Bill which will establish an independent body to monitor and investigate the Commonwealth’s administration and regulation of the aged care system. The appointment of a permanent Inspector-General is expected in the second half of this year.
The Terms of Reference were released for the Health Technology Assessment Policy and Methods Review, which will investigate how health technologies are assessed and funded to help ensure that Australia’s subsidy schemes and funding programs continue to meet the needs of Australians into the future.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney opened the first of the Albanese Government’s 20 Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinics as part of a $58.3 million funding commitment. Each clinic will receive $700,000 over four years.
QLD Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath unveiled a partnership with Mater Health, committing $11 million per year in operation funding for Catherine’s House, a centre for new parents experiencing mental health conditions.