Weekly Wrap Up
25 November 2022
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- Victorians will head to the polls tomorrow for the State Election.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joined NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet in flood-hit Eugowra to announce the availability of disaster recovery grants of up to $50,000 for small businesses and not-for-profits.
- The Australian Government welcomed the District Court of The Hague’s finding that three men were guilty of contributing to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014.
- The Government also celebrated the release of Australian Professor Sean Turnell from unjust detention in Myanmar after nearly two years.
- Former High Court Justice Virginia Bell released her findings from the inquiry into Scott Morrison’s appointment to five additional ministries, finding that the former Prime Minister’s appointments in 2020 and 2021 were “unnecessary”. Prime Minister Albanese has stated his Government will accept all six recommendation’s in Justice Bell’s final report into the matter.
- Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Dr Philip Lowe stated that wage growth needs to track below inflation in Australia in order to avoid an inflationary spiral.
- A new block of public hearings for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability commenced this week.
- Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek indicated the Government has accepted the recommendations of a Parliamentary Inquiry examining the destruction of a sacred rock shelter at Juukan Gorge in WA and will legislate new protections for Indigenous heritage sites.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission granted authorisation for supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and ALDI to cooperate as part of a ‘Soft Plastics Taskforce’’ to examine solutions for the recycling or management of plastics following the recent suspension of REDcycle.
In the penultimate sitting week scheduled for the year, the Government introduced and passed a number of key pieces of legislation. Significantly, legislation to fulfil one of Labor’s central pre-election promises of establishing a National Anti-Corruption Commission passed the House of Representatives with a number of amendments. However, Independent MP Dr Helen Haines was unsuccessful in moving further amendments to the bill that she believed would strengthen the Commission. Dr Haines’ proposed amendments included removing the “exceptional circumstances” test for public hearings. Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to join Dr Haines, the Greens and other Independent MPs in support of several of these amendments, which did not have the support of the Labor Government or Coalition Opposition. The legislation is now expected to be introduced to the Senate next week.
The Government’s industrial relations bill was introduced in the Senate on Monday after passing the House last week but is yet to proceed to debate. Key crossbench Senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie indicated they wanted to wait for the report from the Parliamentary Committee inquiring into the bill, before deciding whether or not to support it. The pair has also called for more time to consider to bill. The report was subsequently released on Tuesday and recommended that the bill be passed with a series of amendments. The Senate has also agreed to sit for two additional sitting days to allow for more time to scrutinise the bill and is sitting today as well as next Friday. While the Government has secured the Greens’ support for the bill, it still requires the vote of at least one additional member of the crossbench in order to pass.
In other parliamentary news, legislation providing greater childcare subsidies passed both Houses, as did legislation establishing a High Speed Rail Authority as a statutory agency to oversee the delivery of high speed rail system within Australia. The Government also negotiated with the crossbench to pass legislation that will make electric cars cheaper.
On Saturday last week, Prime Minister Albanese concluded a busy week of international summits and meetings at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok. Mr Albanese noted that APEC member economies comprise approximately three quarters of Australia’s trade, and agreed to collaborate with other member countries on matters including advancing the digital economy. During his time at APEC, Prime Minister Albanese met with the US Vice-President as well as the Prime Ministers of Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada, and New Zealand, and jointly condemned North Korea’s launch of ballistic missiles. Also on the sidelines of the Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Mr Albanese met with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and agreed to elevate the countries’ relationship to a Strategic Partnership.
In other international relations news, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles met with his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defence ministers’ meeting this week. Mr Marles indicated that the meeting demonstrated “a sense of optimism” among both Australia and China on the progress of the bilateral relationship. This follow’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. Elsewhere, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin will visit Australia next week to meet with Prime Minister Albanese and address the Lowy Institute. This will mark the first visit by a Finnish Prime Minister to Australia.
The Victorian Election will be held tomorrow where the Andrews Government will be seeking a third term. A Resolve Strategic poll released by The Age on Tuesday shows Labor is ahead of Matthew Guy’s Coalition on a two-party preferred basis of 53-47 per cent, while over a quarter of the electorate has indicated an intention to vote for a party other than Labor or the Coalition. A significant proportion of the electorate has also already voted, with 1,634,151 Victorians having cast votes at early voting centres and 272,779 postal votes returned as of 6pm yesterday. Read our full election coverage in this week’s issue of ‘VIC Election 2022: Campaign Insights & Analysis’.
Federal Parliament is meeting next week for the final scheduled sitting week of the year. Parliament will also sit in SA, WA, QLD, the ACT and the NT, and the Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee is due to meet in Tasmania. Victorians will head to the polls tomorrow for the State Election.
Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones unveiled new transparency requirements for Superannuation funds, aligning reporting requirements with those of public companies.
Minister Jones also opened consultation on three options for regulating Buy Now, Pay Later products, ranging from tightened self-regulation to full inclusion under the Credit Act. Consultation is open until 23 December.
The panel responsible for the Review of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published an update on its progress, outlining the emergence of some key themes related to monetary policy, forecasting and governance. Meanwhile, the RBA Payments System Board met and discussed numerous issues, including competition in the debit card market and cyber resilience.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced an investment of $500 million through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to establish the Powering Australia Technology Fund. This fund will aim to help Australian businesses develop projects and technologies that reduce emissions and will leverage off an additional $500 million investment from the private sector.
In the first round of the National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge, the Government awarded nearly $30 million in grant funding to farmers and land managers to help facilitate measurement of carbon levels in soil. Funding was distributed across eight projects.
The Consumer Data Right launched for the Energy sector, allowing consumers to more easily share data between energy providers.
Queensland Minister for Resources Scott Stewart granted approval to two steelmaking coal mines in Central Queensland. Construction works are expected to begin in early 2023 on Future Resources’ approved Fairhill and Wilton projects, with coal production set to begin within six months.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King announced the establishment of a Net Zero Unit within the Department. The Unit, led by Ian Porter, will investigate how the infrastructure portfolio can work to achieve net zero and improve the resilience of transport networks against extreme weather events.
Minister King also opened consultation on a draft regulation impact statement on fuel quality standards, with proposed changes intended to provide a pathway for the adoption of Euro 6D standards. Consultation is open until 16 December.
The Federal Government distributed $18 million in funding across nine new projects under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program. Projects that received funding will upgrade truck stop rest areas as well as roads used in freight routes.
The NSW Government accepted all 102 recommendations of Infrastructure NSW’s State Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2042: Staying Ahead. The strategy outlines Infrastructure NSW’s independent advice to the NSW Government on the state’s needs and strategic priorities for infrastructure over the long term.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced a $10 million skin cancer prevention campaign to be delivered in partnership with the Cancer Council. The campaign will seek to highlight SunSmart behaviours.
Queensland Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath dismissed the Mackay Hospital and Health Service (MHHS) Board and appointed Karen Roach as Administrator. Minister D’Ath stated that she was not satisfied the Board was able to implement the recommendations of a recent report into MHHS’ obstetrics and gynaecology unit, including “the cultural change needed across the hospital”.
Also in Queensland, Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment Cameron Dick welcomed biopharmaceuticals company Aegros’ announcement that it will build a new $352 million manufacturing facility in Greater Springfield, focused on processing human plasma and developing and manufacturing therapeutic blood products.
NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard released the Master Plan for the proposed $300 million Rouse Hill Hospital. With the State Significant Development Application already lodged, works are expected to commence in early 2023.