Weekly Wrap Up
25 March 2022
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- This week, in partnership with the Victorian Government, the Federal Government confirmed an agreement with Moderna for the production of up to 100 million Australian-made mRNA vaccines annually.
- The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended an additional booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for groups considered “at greatest risk of severe illness” from Coronavirus, including those who are above 65 years of age or severely immunocompromised.
- Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese rejected calls for an inquiry into bullying allegations made against Labor Senators Penny Wong, Kristina Keneally and Katy Gallagher following the death of Senator Kimberley Kitching.
- In a bid to return to politics, Nick Xenophon, former leader of SA Best, announced he will run for the Senate at the upcoming Federal Election.
- Nearly half of the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park was returned to Traditional Owners after the Federal Government finalised six Aboriginal land grants across the NT.
- Former NSW Liberal MP Gareth Ward has been suspended from Parliament following the commencement of criminal proceedings against him.
- Together with NBN Co, the Federal Government committed $750 million to upgrade NBN fixed wireless services across up to one million premises.
- NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole established an independent inquiry into the recent floods in the state, examining the causes of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from the event. Meanwhile, the NSW Parliament also launched a Committee to examine the NSW and Federal governments’ response to the floods.
- Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews announced the launch of Australia’s National Plan to Combat Cybercrime and a new cybercrime centre led by the Australian Federal Police.
- Together with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Financial Services Jane Hume opened consultation on proposed new crypto asset licensing and custody requirements.
New SA Premier unveils first cabinet
The SA Labor Party secured a landslide victory at the State Election last weekend, with Premier Peter Malinauskas’ first Cabinet sworn in yesterday. Premier Malinauskas, Deputy Premier Susan Close, and Treasurer Stephen Mullighan will lead the new Cabinet, continuing in their long-standing portfolios.
Mr Malinauskas has retained[PDF] the membership of most of his shadow cabinet in the transition to government, however there are a number of key changes in his 15-person Cabinet. Notably, Independent MP Geoff Brock has been granted the portfolios of Local Government and Regional Roads, despite Mr Malinauskas having secured a strong Labor majority in the House without needing to rely on Mr Brock’s support to form Government. Additionally, former Federal Labor MP Nick Champion has been elevated to Cabinet in his first term as a member of the South Australian Parliament. Mr Malinauskas has stated that his ministry “blends experience and fresh talent and will importantly also include an independent MP sitting at the Cabinet table.”
For further analysis on last weekend’s election result, see our latest edition of ‘SA Votes’.
Spotlight on international cooperation
As Russian aggression in Ukraine enters its second month, the Federal Government provided Ukraine with an additional $21 million in defensive military assistance, an extra $30 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, and over 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to support the nation’s energy security. Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne also imposed a ban on Australian exports of alumina and aluminium ores to Russia as a sanction to limit Russia’s capacity to produce its “critical” export of aluminium.
In other international news, the Federal Government finalised an agreement, first made in 2013, for New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees in Australia’s offshore detention system annually for three years.
Meanwhile, at the second India-Australia Virtual Summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi agreed to establish a new Centre for Australia-India Relations in a bid to strengthen strategic cooperation. Commenting on the announcement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne referred to India as “one of Australia’s most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The Federal Budget will be handed down on Tuesday. The NSW, QLD and NT Parliaments will sit next week.
Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume opened consultation on digital economy regulation settings regarding the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Decision Making (ADM).
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) initiated proceedings against Meta, alleging it engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by allowing scam cryptocurrency investment advertisements on Facebook featuring prominent Australians. Also at the ACCC, Gina Cass-Gottlieb commenced her term as Chair of the Commission, taking over from Rod Sims.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) released an information sheet targeting influencers who promote financial products and services online. This followed survey results which indicated that 64 per cent of young people reported changing their financial behaviour as a result of following a financial influencer.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government announced that the $1.16 billion Kalgoorlie Nickel Project, a critical minerals mine and processing plant, will be granted Major Project Status.
The NSW Government is now accepting expressions of interest from large, grid scale battery project developers to be a part of the construction of the 700-megawatt Waratah Super Battery.
Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni announced that the State Government has allocated $28.9 million to a renewable hydrogen demonstration plant and refuelling facility in Brigalow. IHI Engineering Australia has been appointed by publicly owned CS Energy to construct the Kogan Renewable Hydrogen Demonstration Plant, with work on the site set to begin in six months.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government confirmed $5.4 billion has been allocated in the upcoming Budget to build the Hells Gate Dam in North Queensland. Funding is subject to the completion of the final stage of the business case, expected in June.
Together with the Council of Mayors South East Queensland (SEQ), the Federal and Queensland governments signed the SEQ City Deal to deliver $1.8 billion worth of infrastructure projects across the region. Key projects include new transport links to the Gabba for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics; resource recovery infrastructure to transition the region to a circular waste management economy; and digital connectivity projects to improve telecommunications infrastructure.
The Federal Government indicated that the upcoming Budget will include $336 million to upgrade the Pacific Highway in Wyong, NSW. The upgrade will expand the width of highway, replace the road bridge, and integrate public transport services and parking areas.
Infrastructure Australia published its industry reform roadmap, Delivering Outcomes, which outlines ways to address long-term challenges facing the infrastructure sector. Challenges noted include poor productivity, the increasing number of insolvencies and cost overruns, and delays in the delivery of major projects.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt confirmed the Government has extended the review period for the updated National Medicines Policy (NMP). Stakeholder submissions to the review will continue to be accepted until after the Federal Election.
Minister Hunt also announced a $708.6 million investment for local doctor training opportunities over the next four years as part of the continued Specialist Training Program. The Program supports training positions outside conventional metropolitan teaching hospitals, with at least half occurring in regional, rural, and remote locations.
The Federal Government invested $150 million toward technology-based solutions to end family, domestic and sexual violence and support women’s safety. The package will finance trials for electronic monitoring of high-risk offenders, as well as increased security assessment tools and online safety initiatives.
The Victorian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to share mRNA research and advance the development of RNA-based therapeutics.