Weekly Wrap Up
25 August 2023
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- Minister for Water and the Environment Tanya Plibersek coordinated a new deal with the NSW, SA, Queensland and ACT governments to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The agreement[PDF] will extend the deadline for water recovery projects and enable the Federal Government to buy back more water entitlements.
- The Federal Government confirmed it will invest over $1.7 billion to acquire new advanced long-strike missiles from the United States to support Australia’s defence capabilities.
- The Government also committed $200 million to fund sporting infrastructure and equipment for women’s sport, in the wake of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
- NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park released the terms of reference for the Government’s Special Commission of Inquiry into the funding of healthcare in the state.
- The Victorian Government agreed to pay $380 million to compensate Commonwealth Games bodies following the Government’s decision to withdraw its hosting rights.
Release of Intergenerational Report
Treasurer Jim Chalmers yesterday released the sixth Intergenerational Report, which provides an outlook of Australia’s economic direction and budget spending over the next 40 years. Significantly, the report suggests that by 2063 the economy will be 2.5 times larger, have slower productivity growth, and face a rise in long-term spending pressures. Mr Chalmers stated these factors will be influenced by “five transformative forces” – an ageing population; technological and digital transformation; climate change and the net zero transition; growth in the care economy; and geopolitical risk and fragmentation.
The report indicates that population growth is expected to slow by an average of 1.1 per cent per annum while the number of people aged over 65 is likely to double, which will result in “a smaller share of working-age people”. This will contribute to long term costs, with health and aged care, the NDIS, and interest on government debt set to become the fastest growing spending categories for the government by 2062-63. The report also suggests economic output will be negatively impacted by rising heat exposure caused by climate change. Meanwhile, critical minerals exports will become an essential Australian commodity as the nation transitions to net zero.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh announced the establishment of a Competition Taskforce to review Australia’s competition policy settings. The review aims to lift dynamism, productivity, and wages growth in the Australian economy in efforts to relieve cost of living pressures and provide more choice to consumers. Assistant Minister Leigh stated increasing competition is “good for consumers, good for workers, good for farmers, good for small businesses and good for Australia”. The review will be conducted over two years and involve targeted public consultation, with key panel members including Chief Executive of the Grattan Institute Danielle Wood and former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims.
Victorian, South Australian, Western Australian, Tasmanian and Northern Territory Parliaments are sitting next week. Elsewhere, Mr Albanese will be in Adelaide next week to announce the date for the Voice to Parliament referendum.
Treasury opened consultation for the Independent Review of the Franchising Code of Conduct, which aims to evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory settings in relation to franchising. Submissions are due by 29 September.
The Reserve Bank of Australia and the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre released[PDF] a report on the findings from a joint research project that explored the potential use cases for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in Australia. From the research project, four key themes emerged for potential use cases for a CBDC.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced the appointment of three new ASIC Commissioners. Simone Constant (Chief Risk Officer, Institutional Bank and Markets at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia), Alan Kirkland (CEO of Choice), and Katherine O’Rourke (First Assistant Secretary of the Small and Family Business Division in the Department of the Treasury), will all leave their current posts to start terms as Commissioners in the coming months.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong visited Vietnam this week to meet with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and her Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son to discuss ASEAN economic and security relations. The ministers will also hold the fifth annual Australia-Vietnam Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres joined the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting in Jaipur and the B20 Business Summit in New Delhi. While in India, Mr Ayres also progressed talks on the Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
The Government announced the upgrade of the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), signed by Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts on the sidelines of the 55th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting. The agreement supports Australian exporters and investors as well as supply chain resilience and digital technology adoption.
The Government will invest $1.6 billion to expedite the acquisition of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, delivering on a key recommendation of the Defence Strategic Review. This will more than double the number of HIMARS and bring the total number of HIMARS to 42.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen met with Pacific Climate Ministers in Fiji to discuss cooperation on climate change action, including water security, the renewable energy transition, and opportunities for hydrogen.
Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio revealed changes to the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Program aimed at making renewable energy technology more accessible to Victorian households. The scheme will now include a higher eligibility combine income threshold of $210,000.
The Victorian Government passed legislation to enable the continuation of reforms into the way minerals are mined and managed across the state. The amendments are set to commence on 1 July 2027.
The City of Sydney Council agreed to insert new clauses into its planning rules requiring new homes and businesses to include all-electric appliances instead of gas. Similar measures are already in place in Waverley and Paramatta councils.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King opened applications for the regional Precincts and Partnerships grants program. The program will support investment in development, planning and infrastructure projects for regional precincts, and will be delivered over three years with $100 million available for 2023-24.
The NSW Government confirmed the Department of Planning and Environment will be split into two new entities: the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water; and the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure. The Government separately announced the appointment of Janelle Saffin MP as Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery.
The NSW Government increased the number of social and affordable homes from 34 to 50 per cent for the renewal of Waterloo Estate. The project will also require that a minimum of 15 per cent of all new homes are dedicated for Aboriginal people. The renewal will commence in mid-2024.
HEALTH, SOCIAL SERVICES AND EDUCATION
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced the Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce Review to consider ways to better help health practitioners work to the full extent of their skills and training. The review will be conducted by ex-Health Workforce Australia CEO and previous Deputy Secretary (Commonwealth Departments of Health, Veterans’ Affairs, and Home Affairs) Professor Mark Cormack.
Minister Butler confirmed $103 million for two pilot programs that support victims of family, domestic and sexual violence as part of priority actions under the ‘National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032’. The programs will be delivered by Primary Health Networks across Australia.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released physical violence statistics from its 2021-22 Personal Safety Survey, which indicated seven million people aged 18 years and over experienced physical violence since the age of 15. It comes as the Government conducted a national roundtable on justice responses to sexual violence, the outcomes of which will inform the terms of reference for the upcoming Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence, commencing in late 2023.
Minister for Education Jason Clare released the Government’s response to the first ever Review of the Australian Research Council Act 2001. The Government agreed, or agreed in principle, to all 10 recommendations, including the key recommendation of establishing an Australian Research Council Board.