Weekly Wrap Up

24 May 2024

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  • Minister for Resources Madeleine King addressed the Australian Financial Review’s Mining Summit in Perth, where she emphasised the importance of critical minerals in the Government’s Future Made in Australia package.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles travelled to the Solomon Islands to meet with the newly elected Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele.
  • The Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed it is pursuing legal action against Optus in relation to the 2022 data breach.
  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation released the 2023-24 GenCost report, showing that renewable energy remains cheaper than nuclear.
  • The NSW Government confirmed the operations of Eraring Power Station will be extended by two years to 2027, via an agreement with Origin Energy.

National Battery Strategy

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic released the National Battery Strategy (the Strategy) as part of the Future Made in Australia agenda. With the aim of establishing a battery manufacturing industry in Australia, the Strategy is underpinned by five key priorities; build battery manufacturing capabilities, strengthen knowledge and skills for onshore jobs, secure Australia’s place in battery supply chains, be a world-leader in battery sustainability practices, and implement a whole-of-government approach. “What we will see over coming years is a massive growth in demand for batteries…They’re a critical ingredient in Australia’s clean energy mix”, the Prime Minister said.

The delivery of the Strategy will be supported by numerous measures in the 2024-25 Federal Budget. These include $523.2 million to incentivise the production of high-value battery products via the Battery Breakthrough Initiative and $20.3 million as part of the Building Future Battery Capabilities package. Notwithstanding the committed funding, the measures will require legislative approval to be implemented.

Other Budget measures under the Industry, Science, and Resources portfolios have been identified in GRACosway’s Budget overview here.

Shadow Treasurer’s National Press Club Address

Following the Opposition’s Budget reply, Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor addressed the National Press Club to outline the Coalition’s economic framework if elected at the upcoming federal election. Citing moderating inflation and gradually increasing unemployment, Mr Taylor criticised the Government for its “big spending, big government, and [a] big Australia approach”. He asserted that a Coalition government would instead prioritise a “back to basics economic agenda”.

As part of this vision, Mr Taylor proposed several measures, including establishing caps on government spending and implementing “fiscal guardrails”. Notably, he reiterated that the Coalition would reduce net overseas migration by 25 per cent over three years to alleviate housing market pressures. Media reports indicate this is at odds with Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton’s policy of reducing net overseas migration to 160,000 per year – a 34 per cent decrease. Despite this apparent divergence, the Coalition remains committed to “restoring the dream of home ownership”.

Looking Ahead

In the Federal Parliament, only the House will sit next week while a fortnight of Senate Estimates commences. The VIC, and WA (Legislative Assembly only) Parliaments will sit next week.


Federal Developments

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published its minutes from the May Monetary Policy Meeting of the RBA Board where it decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 4.35 per cent. The minutes reveal the Board considered increasing the cash rate in May, as a result of notable updates on the state of the economy since the previous meeting; whilst also noting they have not ruled out future changes in the cash rate target.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released its third National Anti-Scam Centre quarterly update. The report details that scam losses reported to Scamwatch between January and March 2024 decreased by 11 per cent compared to the previous quarter. Additionally, losses reported to the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange dropped by over 40 per cent during the same period.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest measure of retiree statistics and the retirement plans of people aged 45 years and over. According to the new data Australians, on average, still plan to retire between the ages of 65.0 and 65.6 years, which has been the average for close to the whole last decade.

State Developments

In Queensland, Treasurer Cameron Dick outlined the State’s Budget is expected to forecast a deficit of $3 billion for 2024-25 financial year, which is projected to decrease to under $1 billion the following year. The Treasurer attributed this to spending on health, housing, and cost of living relief, which are expected to be the centrepiece of the Budget.

Federal Developments

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to comment on the ICC Chief Prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, stating that he does not discuss overseas court processes that don’t involve Australia. Mr Albanese reiterated the Government’s stance, calling for peace in the region and progress towards a two-state solution.Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to Bangladesh for the first ministerial dialogue with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud MP. The Minister also visited Singapore to meet with Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The Government appointed Mr Gary Cowan as CEO of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, he succeeds outgoing CEO Peter Cai. Mr Cowan was a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and served as Australia’s Representative in Taipei from 2018 to 2021, with previous postings to Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.

State Developments

In line with the renewal of its sister-state agreement with Zhejiang Province in May 2022, the WA Government opened a second Invest and Trade Office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in China.

Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell and Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos hosted the Australian Tourism Exchange 2024 in Melbourne. The event welcomed Australian tourism sellers and international buyers from 37 countries.


Federal Developments

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen reappointed Clare Savage as Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator with Justin Oliver appointed as Deputy Chair. Ms Savage was first appointed as Chair in 2019 and will serve a further three years. Mr Oliver was previously the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s regulatory law division.

The Federal Government announced $24 million in funding for the conservation of threatened native species, with grants of up to $500,000 awarded to 61 projects. These initiatives target the preservation of species such as Quokkas, Corroboree Frogs, Australian Sea Lions and Koalas.

State Developments

The Victorian Government strengthened the authority of Energy Safe Victoria, introducing new obligations for energy companies alongside the enhanced authority. Under the changes, major energy companies that breach general duties will face penalties of up to $1.66 million. The changes under the Electricity Safety Act 1998Gas Safety Act 1997 and Pipelines Act 2005 came into effect on 16 May.

The WA Government released its 2024-2030 Battery and Critical Minerals Strategy aimed at facilitating greater investment in the downstream processing in rare earth minerals. Under the Strategy, the government will prioritise establishing more efficient approval processes, investing in common-user infrastructure, and targeting support for key projects.


Federal Developments

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King released the Transport and Infrastructure Net Zero Consultation Roadmap which aims to reduce emissions in the transport sector by 2050. The roadmap identifies opportunities to decarbonise the sector and is open for consultation until 26 July.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released its eighth interim report as part of the Digital Platform Services Inquiry. The report focuses on competition and consumer issues relating to the use of information by data firms in Australia and supported a potential ban on unfair trading practices.

State Developments

The Victorian Parliament passed tax reform legislation which will replace stamp duty for commercial and industrial property transactions with an annual property tax. The Commercial and Industrial Property Tax Reform Bill 2024 will enable first purchasers of commercial and industrial properties entering the new scheme to access a government transition loan for financing the final stamp duty on their purchase from 1 July.

The NSW Government confirmed it will hold a social media summit in October to discuss the mental health impacts social media has on children and young people. The summit will bring together various stakeholders, including senior officials, policymakers, academics, and representatives from leading social media platforms, to discuss strategies and solutions. A public consultation period will be held ahead of the summit to gather input from the community.


Federal Developments

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler confirmed the Government will amend regulations to prohibit replica versions of weight loss medicines from being manufactured and sold in Australia, following advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The regulations will remove products claiming to be replicas of Ozempic and Mounjaro from the pharmaceutical compounding exemption from 1 October.

The Federal Government announced the launch of the Australian Comprehensive Cancer Network (ACCN)  to improve access to comprehensive cancer care. Comprehensive Cancer Centres will function as core hubs within the ACCN, linking a range of cancer control services nationwide.

State Developments

The Victorian Government announced it will issue a retrospective payroll tax exemption for outstanding or future payments to contractor general practices (GPs) for the period up to 30 June, following a series of consultations with the primary care sector. The Government also confirmed it will provide an additional 12-month exemption for any GP businesses that have already begun paying payroll tax on this basis, as well as for GPs that provide bulk-billed consultations from 1 July 2025.

The NSW Government delivered a wages offer to recruit, reward and retain essential workers, with a 10.5 per cent increase that surpasses projected inflation rates, along with a cost of living supplement. The Government has also established a negotiation avenue for frontline workers, granting access to an independent Industrial Relations Commission for dispute resolution.


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