Weekly Wrap Up
26 November 2021
- The Federal Government announced Australia’s international borders will reopen from 1 December for fully vaccinated eligible visa holders without requiring a travel exemption.
- The ABS released the 2020-21 national accounts data, outlining how state economies performed over the last financial year. The data outlines the impact of both the 2019-20 bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Finance and Public Administration References Committee released its APS Inc: undermining public sector capability and performance report into the current capability of the Australian Public Service.
- The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will inquire into and report on the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (AUKUS) with its report due on or before 17 December.
- South Australia’s Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan has been elected Deputy Premier. The change follows the resignation of Vickie Chapman who stepped down from the role this week amidst an ombudsman investigation.
Penultimate Sitting Week for Parliament in 2021
Parliament returned this week for its final sitting period of the year. The week began with former House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith returning to the floor of Parliament after a six-year stint in the Speaker’s chair. Queensland LNP MP Andrew Wallace successfully won the vote 70 to 59 to replace Mr Smith and confirmed he would abstain from Liberal party room meetings at least for the rest of this parliament.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison introduced the third iteration of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 which seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity. Concerns have been raised by members from both major parties however, that the Bill contains broad exemptions which could still allow for discrimination against minority parties, particularly the treatment of LGBTQ+ students and teachers by religious schools. It’s expected the Bill will be referred to a Senate committee for further scrutiny.
Once again, the topic of a federal integrity commission came to a head with Independent MP Helen Haines attempting to suspend standing orders in the lower house to allow for debate of her private member’s bill to establish an independent public sector anti-corruption commission. The motion was ultimately lost on a technicality due to not being able to get an absolute majority, however, the vote saw 66 members vote in favour of the debate including Liberal MP Bridget Archer who crossed the floor to vote against the Government. The Prime Minister later used Question Time to defend the blocking of the legislation once again reiterating the Government does not support a NSW-style ICAC describing it as a “kangaroo court”.
In the Senate, five Coalition Senators crossed the floor to vote on One Nation’s COVID-19 Vaccination Status (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2021. Queensland LNP Senator Gerard Rennick, Nationals’ Matt Canavan and Liberals Alex Antic were amongst the Coalition Senators to cross the floor and have previously threatened to withhold support for Government legislation over various concerns. Ultimately the Bill was defeated 44 votes to 5.
Federal Parliament will return next week for the final sitting week of 2021.
Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume addressed the Australian Financial Review Super and Wealth Summit where the Minister spoke to recent superannuation reforms, the compensation scheme of last resort and decentralised finance.
Treasury published its final Review of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) report which outlines 14 recommendations with the majority directed to the AFCA. The Government has since published its response to the review’s findings.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released its September Quarter Superannuation Performance publication and MySuper Statistics, outlining key statistics on how superannuation funds performed in Q3 this year.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) resolved not to oppose National Australia Bank’s (NAB) acquisition of Citigroup’s retail banking operations.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government announced Australia and Germany will collaborate on the development of hydrogen technology and increase future hydrogen exports in Australia with a new joint Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator initiative (HyGATE).
The Government’s package of offshore electricity infrastructure legislation passed Parliament this week. The legislation will establish a regulatory framework around electricity infrastructure projects in Commonwealth waters.
Queensland Minister for Resources Scott Stewart released the draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan for public consultation. The Plan outlines measures to transform the state’s resources sector by 2050 through 43 actions across six key focus areas. Consultation is open until February 2022.
The New South Wales Parliament passed the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 which underpins the NSW Hydrogen Strategy. The Strategy includes investing $70 million to develop hydrogen hubs in the Illawarra and Hunter regions and rolling out a hydrogen refuelling station network throughout the State.
The Western Australia Government announced it will invest up to $117.5 million towards two renewable hydrogen hubs in the Pilbara and Mid-West and have applied for the Federal Government to match the funding.
The Tasmanian Government introduced its Climate Change (State Action) Amendment Bill 2021 which proposes a number of key amendments including a requirement to prepare a climate change action plan and undertake a state-wide climate change risk assessment every five years.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce announced the appointment of seven new members to the Board of Infrastructure Australia, with former Mayor of Tamworth Regional Council Colin Murray to serve as the new Chair from December 2021.
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt announced applications are now open for the Off-farm Efficiency Grants Program, providing up to $150 million in grants for water delivery infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin. Applications close on 27 May 2022.
The Queensland Government announced the development of a $16.1 million road and rail intermodal terminal at InterLinkSQ in Charlton, with the State Government to contribute $12.6 million in funding and Interlink Global Logistics to contribute the remaining $3.5 million.
The Victorian Government announced an additional $9.3 billion of funding towards Suburban Rail Loop East, with works to include 26-kilometre twin rail tunnels and six underground stations between Cheltenham and Box Hill. Procurement of the main works packages is expected to start next year.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the establishment of the National Aged Care Advisory Council, to be made up of 17 members to advise on the implementation of the post-royal commission reforms.
The Federal Government confirmed the establishment of a Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission to oversee the implementation of the next phase of the National Plan to end violence against women and children.
Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Linda Reynolds welcomed the appointment of Ms Tracy Mackey as the new NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner for a three-year term.
NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens released the NSW Disability Inclusion Plan 2021–2025, which includes a whole of government strategy to improve the lives of people with disability.
The WA Government announced $1.45 million in funding towards four research projects under the Clinician Research Fellowships 2021 program.
NT Minister for Territory Families Kate Worden committed $7.5 million over five years for a new domestic violence crisis facility in Palmerston to provide 24-hour support services to women and children fleeing domestic violence.
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