Weekly Wrap Up

26 April 2024 

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  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to commemorate ANZAC Day and to walk the Kokoda Track alongside his counterpart PNG Prime Minister James Marape.
  • Annual inflation decreased to 3.6 per cent in the 12 months to March 2024, according to Consumer Price Index data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This marked a 0.1 per cent rise in the March 2024 quarter, higher than the 0.6 per cent rise the previous quarter.
  • Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek announced Australia’s Environmentally Sustainable Procurement Policy, which aims to increase the use of recycled-goods in government procurement projects.
  • Minister for Resources Madeleine King recused herself from future decisions on the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP-11) project. Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic will assume decision-making responsibilities.
  • NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey revealed NSW will “almost certainly” lose its AAA credit rating amidst an $11.9 billion shortfall in the upcoming state budget, which he attributed to the recent GST allocations.

Federal Court Injunction against X (formerly Twitter)

Videos of an alleged stabbing at a Western Sydney church were deemed Class 1 material under the Online Safety Act 2021 for showing “gratuitous or offensive violence with a high degree of impact or detail”. The Federal Court subsequently issued an interim injunction to X to hide the material after it refused to delete the content. For its part, X questioned the authority of the e-Safety Commissioner to issue such orders on content beyond Australian borders. X CEO Elon Musk further posted “the Australian censorship commissar is demanding global content bans!”

Tensions flared as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese labelled Mr. Musk an “arrogant billionaire who thinks he’s above the law” and reiterated that “social media has a social responsibility.” Additionally,  Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Director-General Mike Burgess and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw emphasised that the prevalence of “extremist material online” is a significant security issue in their joint address to the National Press Club. The case has also reignited debate about online safety regulation, including the Government’s proposed legislation to combat mis/disinformation.

The interim injunction against X will remain in place until the court hearing on 10 May.

Treasurer’s Global Economy Outlook

Following his visit to Washington D.C last week, Treasurer Jim Chalmers provided a sobering outlook of the global economy ahead of the Federal Budget. “The global economy is uncertain and unpredictable, fraught and fragile”, Dr Chalmers said at his press conference in Canberra.

Citing “lingering” inflation, “slowing” growth, “rising” tensions, and “fragmenting” supply chains in major economies such as China, Japan, and the United Kingdom, Dr Chalmers revealed that Treasury’s global economic forecasts will be downgraded in the upcoming Budget. As a result, the Treasurer said the Budget will focus on balancing a “nearer term focus on inflation” with a “longer term focus on economic growth.”

Despite the circumstances, Dr Chalmers reaffirmed that he will seek to deliver a budget surplus. The Budget will also prioritise cost of living support, including potential changes to student-loan debts (known as HECS). The Treasurer doubled down on the Albanese Government’s Future Made in Australia Act, which seeks to enhance domestic manufacturing and attract foreign investment in areas related to Australia’s national interests. The Federal Budget will be delivered on Tuesday, 14 May.

Looking ahead

The Victorian, South Australian, and Queensland Parliaments will sit next week.


Federal Developments

The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee held the first public hearing of its inquiry into greenwashing. Witnesses comprised the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Treasury, as well as private sector entities. Matters discussed included the role of regulators in enforcing anti-greenwashing legislation, climate-related financial disclosure rules, and other reforms. A final report is due on 28 June.

As part of the inquiry into insurers’ responses to 2022 major floods claims, the House Standing Committee on Economics published it will hold more public hearings from 7 to 10 May. At the hearings in Western Sydney, the Hawkesbury, and the Central West, the Committee will hear from locals in some of the worst effected regions, including councils, community organisations and businesses. This follows public hearings from regulators, insurance companies and consumer advocacy and legal rights groups.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) published its report on Interlinking Fast Payment Systems for Cross-border Payments. The report details the benefits, design choices and challenges associated with linking fast payment systems across countries. This complements the RBA’s Payments System Board strategic priority of enhancing cross-border payments.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth released the Economic Inclusions Advisory Committee’s second report on alleviating disadvantage for vulnerable Australians. The report makes 22 recommendations related to matters such as working age payments, supporting families and children, the efficacy of the social security system, and the Commonwealth Rent Assistance scheme.


Federal Developments

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles travelled to Türkiye to meet with his counterpart, Minister of National Defence Yasar Guler, and deliver an address at Anzac Day commemorations. The Deputy Prime Minister also went on to the United Arab Emirates, where he met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to negotiate a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and to visit Australian Defence Force personnel deployed in the Middle East.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy announced the Federal Government will invest $500 million in the Joint Air Battle Management System to expand the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force. Contracts with Lockheed Martin Australia and partner companies will deliver new missile defence capabilities and four new air-defence radars. Delivery of the project is scheduled to begin later this year.

The Federal Government announced its investment of up to $30 million for governments and communities across the Pacific and Southeast Asia to build critical skills and deliver new tools to eliminate malaria. This package forms part of the Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative and is in partnership with the Medicines for Malaria Venture.


Federal Developments

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced a $330 million investment under the Powering the Regions Fund to decarbonise heavy industry. Nine emissions reduction projects received funding, including $50 million for Adbri’s lower carbon cement manufacturing project in Port Adelaide. Funding incorporated the first $134 million of the $600 million Safeguard Transformation Stream, which is open for further applications through the Business Grant Hub.

The Federal Government unveiled a tender for renewable energy projects under the Capacity Investment Scheme. The tender aims to procure 6 gigawatts (GW) of new variable renewable energy projects for the National Electricity Market with the first auction to be held in May. As part of the announcement, the Federal and NSW Governments signed a deal to deliver at least 2.2GW of renewable energy to NSW.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) opened consultation for the $1 billion Solar Sunshot program. The program aims to boost Australia’s solar manufacturing industry and bolster global supply chains in the solar market. ARENA and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water are administrating the consultation with submissions due 31 May.

State Developments

The Victorian Government announced a $20 million investment in RayGen Resources, a Victorian company developing solar and thermal water-based energy storage solutions. The technology, which features a thermal water-based storage system, is expected to deliver a high efficiency, scalable energy storage solution.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government appointed Ms Gabrielle Trainor AO and Ms Clare Gardiner-Barnes to Infrastructure Australia (IA) as interim Chief Commissioner and Commissioner, respectively. The appointments form part of the Government’s recent IA reforms that will replace the existing board with three new commissioners and establish a new Advisory Council to support the updated governance structure.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland confirmed the appointment of Mr Kevin Russell as a Non-Executive Director to the NBN Co Limited Board for a three-year term. Mr Russell has decades of experience in the telecommunications industry, including numerous Chief Executive roles, and will commence his role on 22 April.

Governor-General David Hurley reappointed Ms Nerida O’Loughlin PSM as Chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority for a three-year term, commencing 14 October. Ms O’Loughlin was first appointed in 2017 and reappointed in 2022.

State Developments

The NSW Government released the final Sydney Trains Review, which provided 57 additional recommendations to support the city’s future rail network. The review revealed that old train replacements, the integration of Sydney Metro services, and workforce gaps, will put the system under further strain and recommended a fleet support strategy amongst other considerations to address the issues.


Federal Developments

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced $5 million for research into improving the quality and safety of telehealth services. Six projects from Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia, and the ACT will receive the funding via the National Health and Medical Research Council. The projects seek to improve access to telehealth in rural and remote Australia, as well as improving the design and application of virtual emergency department services.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney revealed Australia will collaborate with the United States and United Kingdom in an effort to decarbonise healthcare supply chains. Australia’s health system is responsible for 5 per cent of national carbon emissions with many medicines and health technologies imported from overseas. The collaboration will discuss green procurement and seek to get suppliers to disclose their emissions and subsequent emissions reduction targets.

State Developments

In Queensland, a two-year pharmacy pilot program commenced, enabling pharmacists to treat and prescribe medicines for a range of common health conditions, including shingles, ear infections, eczema, and heart disease risk reduction. Pharmacists will be required to undertake additional training and education to safely administer the pilot.



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