Weekly Wrap Up

28 March 2024 

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  • Labor leads the Coalition 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis according to the latest Newspoll. Anthony Albanese remains as the preferred Prime Minister over Peter Dutton at 48-34.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its monthly Consumer Price Index data, showing inflation remained steady at 3.4 per cent in the 12 months to February 2024.
  • Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King introduced the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard Bill 2024 into Parliament. The Bill seeks to reduce emissions in new passenger vehicles by more than 60 per cent by 2030.
  • Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Bill Shorten introduced legislation into Parliament that aims to “restore the original intent” of the NDIS to “support people with significant and permanent disability”.
  • While votes are still being counted in the Dunstan by-election, Labor narrowly leads the Liberal Party 50.8 to 49.2 per cent. Dunstan was previously held by former South Australian Premier Steven Marshall on a margin of 0.5 per cent.

Federal Parliament

Parliament returned for its final sitting week ahead of the Federal Budget in May. The Albanese Government found itself under political pressure over border security, with Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles introducing the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024. The Bill seeks to outlaw non-Australian citizens from refusing to cooperate with authorities over their deportation. However, its passage was delayed in the Senate, with the Coalition and the Greens voting to refer the Bill to a Committee.

On energy policy, debate on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 continued with Minister for Resources Madeleine King telling the House that “Australia’s prosperity has been closely tied to the success of the resources sector.” The Bill, among other things, aims to strengthen Australia’s offshore gas regulatory regime while improving safety on offshore sites. Though the Bill passed the House, media reports suggest[paywall] it will be delayed in the Senate following a statement from the Greens that they would not support the Government’s other key climate policy, the New Vehicle Efficiency Standards, if the Government pursued the gas approvals bill.

In the Senate, the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Fair Go for Consumers and Small Business) Bill 2024 passed, while debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share—Integrity and Transparency) Bill 2023 continued. Following increased public scrutiny on the supermarket sector, the Greens introduced the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Divestiture Powers) Bill 2024 in the Senate and Bob Katter introduced the Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2024 in the House. Both Private Members’ Bills seek to establish divestiture powers over concerns of excessive market share in the supermarket sector.

Tasmanian Election
Jeremy Rockliff is likely to continue as the Premier of Tasmania, albeit in a minority government, following the Tasmanian election last weekend. With counting still ongoing, the Liberal Party are on track to win 15 of the 35 seats in the House of Assembly, three short of the 18 seats needed to form majority government. While the Labor Party’s primary vote increased to just under 30 per cent, other minor parties such as the Greens, the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), and Independents recorded an uplift in support. Importantly, the Liberal Party’s primary vote declined by approximately 12 per cent compared to the 2021 state election.

“Tasmanians have delivered a very clear message. I want to assure each and every Tasmanian that we’ve heard it, and I thank you for it”, Mr Rockliff said on election night. Though results are yet to be confirmed, the JLN appear to have secured three lower house seats, effectively providing them the balance of power after Mr Rockliff ruled out a deal with the Greens. Negotiations between the Liberal Party and the JLN over governance arrangements are set to commence in the coming days.

Looking Ahead

Federal Parliament will resume for Budget week from 14 May while no state parliaments will sit next week.


Federal Developments

In a speech to the AFR Banking Summit, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Ms Gina Cass-Gottlieb outlined the ACCC’s recommendations on various policy areas pertaining to competition, consumer rights, mergers and scams. Ms Cass-Gottlieb emphasised the ACCC’s focus is on consumers in the financial and banking sector in the current “economically turbulent times”.

The Federal Government introduced the Treasury Laws Amendment (Financial Market Infrastructure and other measures) Bill 2024 to Parliament. If passed, the Bill will require relevant corporations to make disclosures relating to climate in accordance with sustainability standards made by the Australian Accounting Standards Board. The Bill also includes several reforms to financial market infrastructure, including strengthening the RBA and ASIC’s regulatory powers, and establishing a crisis management and resolution regime.

Following a 14-month inquiry into promoting economic dynamism, competition and business formation, the House Standing Committee on Economics tabled[PDF] its report “Better Competition, Better Prices” in Parliament. The Committee made 44 recommendations on broad-ranging issues impacting financial services, mortgage brokers, digital platforms, the aviation sector, and retail markets.

Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh introduced legislation to deliver Stream 1 of the Quality of Advice review. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Delivering Better Financial Outcomes and Other Measures) Bill 2024 proposes to create a framework to allow for financial adviser fees to be deducted from a member’s super account, which if passed, is likely to give the superannuation sector greater control over people’s retirement.

Federal Developments

The Federal Government expressed concerns over China-backed cyber attacks that have targeted UK institutions and parliamentarians. The Government stressed that foreign digital interference has implications for the Australian electoral system and praised the ongoing security efforts of the Australian Electoral Commission and the Cyber Security Strategy.The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released its review of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS), finding its effectiveness and scope limited. Recommendations include updating definitions, reviewing current exemptions to the scheme, creating new enforcement options and a review of the Government’s resourcing of the scheme. The Committee also recommended a broader review of Australia’s espionage and foreign interference laws.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government introduced legislation to establish a Net Zero Economy Authority (the Authority) as an independent statutory body. The Authority will aid private and public investment, facilitate job creation, and promote skills and community development to support the net zero transformation. The Government also committed $189.3 million over four years to resource the Authority, with $53.3 million per year beyond 2027.

In an address to the Australian Domestic Gas Outlook Conference 2024, ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey highlighted demand for gas is predicted to decline in quarter three of 2024 due to additional renewable energy capacity, but warned of potential shortages from 2027. Ms Brakey emphasised the role of the Gas Market Code in ensuring fair pricing and long-term supply.

State Developments

In Queensland, Minister for Energy Mick de Brenni released the Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Roadmap, which sets out a path for renewables in regional Queensland. The roadmap focuses on community engagement in the rollout of new 12 REZ’s, with the Central Queensland region expected to host the first official REZ. The QLD Government allocated $20 million to the Regional Economic Futures Fund to endorse community engagement in the rollout of renewables.

The WA Government opened applications for the third round of the Clean Energy Future Fund, with $21.7 million in grants available. Preference is given to projects that are led by First Nations people; enhance energy efficiency; improve electricity network security and resilience; reduce diesel electricity generation; and offer long-duration energy storage. Applications close 10 June.


Federal Developments

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee will inquire into the shutdown of the 3G mobile network and telecommunications services accessibility. The Committee will investigate the economic and social impact of Australians who use 3G networks for medical or disaster purposes in regional or rural Australia. The final report will be tabled on 30 November.

The Federal Government’s $500 million Housing Support Program (HSP) is accepting applications under its first stream for developmental projects aimed at improving planning capabilities to increase housing supply. Projects must demonstrate how they align with the National Cabinet’s National Planning Reform Blueprint. Stream 2 of the HSP which focuses on enabling infrastructure and amenities will open for applications in May.

State Developments

The NSW Government commenced public consultation sessions into its Land Acquisition Review. The review will be led by the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure and aims to identify potential legislative changes and improvements to public infrastructure and land acquisition procedures. Consultation closes on 3 May.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government hosted the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Ministers Roundtable. Following the meeting, the Albanese Government committed to building and strengthening the community-controlled health sector and developing a First Nations Schedule to the National Health Reform Agreement.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney announced $5 million in targeted research grants to complement the National Health and Climate Strategy. The grants will focus on climate-related health impacts and seek to accelerate interventions specific to climate disasters in Australia, including smoke from bushfires and extreme heat.

State Developments

The Queensland Government will invest $31 million into rolling out a new statewide Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) immunisation program. The free program will be offered to over 70,000 newborns, infants and young children from next month. RSV is the most common cause of infant hospitalisation in Queensland.


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