Weekly Wrap Up
25 February 2022
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- Australian energy company AGL rejected [PDF] an AU$5 billion takeover bid from international fund manager Brookfield and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.
- Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke did not appear in court after being called as the first defendant in a legal challenge to Federal intervention in the Liberal Party’s NSW state division, with a focus on the delayed preselections of Federal candidates.
- Amid disputes between the NSW Government and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Sydney’s train network was shut down on Monday before resuming on a reduced timetable for the rest of the week.
- The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) released its State of the Nation’s Housing Report 2021-22, projecting further shortages in housing supply for both renters and buyers.
- Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Wage Price Index data indicates an annual growth rate of 2.3 per cent in 2021, compared to inflation of 3.5 per cent in the same period.
- The Federal Government committed $804.4 million to increase strategic and scientific capabilities in Antarctica over ten years.
- Polling data shows that NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns leads Dominic Perrottet as preferred premier 32-29, with 29 per cent of voters undecided.
- The SA Government has entered caretaker period, with parties having now officially launched their election campaigns.
Australia Responds to Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne condemned Russia for commencing military action in Ukraine and followed Western allies in announcing a number of “first phase” economic and financial sanctions. Measures include a ban on business between Australians and multiple Russian banks as well as the prohibition of trade in the transport, energy, telecommunications, oil, gas and mineral sectors in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Mr Morrison also confirmed travel bans and further sanctions will apply to eight unnamed members of Russia’s Security Council. Meanwhile, outstanding visa applications from Ukrainian citizens will be fast-tracked and current visas due to expire will be automatically extended for six months.
Security experts have indicated that Australian businesses may be caught up in Russia’s cyber attacks on Ukraine, but the Prime Minister stated he does not anticipate further retaliation and noted Australia does not have large trading volumes with Russia. Minister Payne and Prime Minister Morrison also confirmed the Australian Government is “working with like-minded countries on further consequences for Russia”.
As Australia’s borders opened to international tourists, restrictions continued to ease across the country. From 11:59pm tonight, mask requirements will end for most indoor settings in Victoria. A similar change took effect in NSW as of this morning. In Queensland, masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings from 4 March and capacity limits will end on all venues and events. The ACT Government has indicated changes to mask requirements will be confirmed next week. Meanwhile, the Federal Government accepted the recommendation of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) for use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 6 to 11 years.
WA will open its borders to fully vaccinated interstate arrivals on Thursday next week.
Outgoing Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims delivered a speech to the National Press Club, outlining areas of reform to better protect Australian consumers. Topics discussed included dominant digital platforms and poor competition outcomes arising from the sale of public infrastructure.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) launched further consultation on its plans to expand the extent and detail of superannuation data it publishes. This includes the datasets that inform APRA’s publications and granular datasets that closely resemble the data reported to APRA.
Chair of the Queensland Treasury Corporation Gerard Bradley AO announced his retirement, which will take effect within six months. Mr Bradley has held this position for 10 years, having previously served as State Under Treasurer.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government has rejected the application for the Offshore Petroleum Exploration Permit (PEP-11) – a proposal to drill for gas off the coastline between Manly and Newcastle. The Prime Minister first advised NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, as well as the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA), of the Commonwealth’s intention to reject the application in December 2021.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) launched the Future Fuels Program, with $127.9 million in funding to be directed towards shifting vehicle fleets to new zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) technology across the next four years.
Following the Federal Government’s formal rejection of the PEP-11 application, NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole announced that NSW will not be supporting commercial applications for offshore coal, mineral or petroleum exploration or mining in NSW waters. The Deputy Premier outlined that offshore exploration will be limited exclusively to projects tackling coastal erosion through beach renourishment.
The Tasmanian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rio Tinto to investigate the future of operations at the company’s Bell Bay aluminium smelter beyond 2025. Rio Tinto has also committed to exploring how it could further decarbonise Bell Bay Aluminium.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government committed an additional $678 million to the Outback Way upgrade across Queensland, WA and the NT. Funding will be used to seal the remaining sections of Outback Way and upgrade priority sections in the NT.
The National Intermodal Corporation Limited (‘National Intermodal’) was established to service Inland Rail and support the development and operation of Australia’s interstate rail freight network. National Intermodal will collaborate with the Federal and state governments as well as the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The Queensland Government announced $1.121 billion in additional funding for faster rail services between Brisbane, Logan, Beenleigh and the Gold Coast. For this project, more tracks will be laid and level crossings will be removed in what will be the first piece of Olympic transport infrastructure.
Feedback is now open on the Northern Territory Infrastructure Framework Position Paper, which sets the vision, purpose and implementation pathways to prioritise government investment in infrastructure. Consultation closes 18 March.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt committed $23 million to fund three Victorian health projects focused on preventing chronic diseases. Two projects are focused on improving outcomes for cardiovascular disease, while the third is a healthy eating program aimed at preventing obesity and chronic disease in children.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese pledged $11.6 million toward a new health clinic in Palmerston, Northern Territory, should Labor win the next Federal Election.
Queensland Health’s Reform Planning Group released a report examining opportunities and challenges arising from the pandemic response. In its report, the Reform Planning Group makes 17 recommendations to the Minister for Health, including a focus on equity in healthcare access and greater integration and collaboration among the health system.
Applications have opened for health and medical research funding under the WA Research Excellence Awards 2022. With up to $10 million available over two years, applications close 14 March.