Weekly Wrap Up
28 October 2022
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- The Australian Bureau of Statistics published its latest monthly Consumer Price Index Statistics, indicating that inflation rose to 7.3 per cent over the past year.
- This morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced that homeowners in areas prone to flooding in NSW’s northern rivers region will be eligible to sell their property to the government as part of a voluntary $800 million housing buyback scheme.
- Australia became a signatory to the Global Methane Pledge, a non-binding voluntary commitment that marks an intention to work collectively with other signatories to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030.
- The Federal Government announced it will join the UK in providing training to Ukrainian troops, with the deployment of up to 70 personnel from the Australian Defence Force to the United Kingdom due to take place in January 2023.
- Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe self-referred herself to Parliament’s Senate Privileges Committee following the revelation she was romantically involved with a high-profile bikie while a member of Parliament’s Law Enforcement Committee.
- The Federal Court dismissed[PDF] an application from the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union for an urgent hearing on the legality of the proposed union action to deactivate Opal card readers at rail station gates in NSW. A hearing on the matter has been proposed for February or March 2023.
- NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced[PDF] he will retire from politics at the 2023 State Election after 32 years as a Member of Parliament.
- Also in NSW, Transport Minister David Elliot indicated[PDF] he will not run in next year’s election following the abolition of his electorate of Baulkham Hills.
- Meanwhile, Victorian Minister for Employment Jaala Pulford declared she will not re-contest Victoria’s election on 26 November.
- The Victorian Government will enter caretaker mode on Tuesday, marking 25 days until the state election.
- Energy ministers across Australia are meeting this afternoon.
Albanese Government’s first budget
On Tuesday evening Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered the Albanese Government’s 2022-23 Federal Budget, unveiling an improvement of $41.1 billion to the Budget’s bottom line. A key focus of the Budget was funding Labor’s election commitments with a total of $22 billion of savings achieved through a number of significant spending reductions across multiple portfolios. During his speech, Dr Chalmers warned that the October Budget comes at “a time of great challenge and change”. To address increasing cost-of-living concerns, the Government unveiled a “five-point plan” focused on cheaper childcare, expanding paid parental leave, cheaper medicines, more affordable housing and “getting wages moving again”.
In addition to Labor’s pre-election commitments, the Budget also included a national Housing Accord that aims to produce one million new houses in collaboration with state and territory governments and private investors, including the superannuation sector. For more information, please see our detailed Budget analysis.
In his Budget-in-reply speech on Thursday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton suggested the Budget was a “missed opportunity” to alleviate cost-of-living pressures, with a particular focus on energy prices. Criticising a lack of relief for increasing energy costs, Mr Dutton claimed that the Albanese Government’s Budget will add to electricity prices by 56 per cent and lead to a 44 per cent rise in gas prices. The Leader of the Opposition used his speech to outline the Coalition’s ambitions to integrate nuclear technologies into Australia’s energy mix as a means of adding to energy security and decreasing costs. He also expressed concern with the Albanese Government’s cancellation and reallocation of a number of the former Coalition Government’s infrastructure programs. The NSW Coalition Government echoed these concerns, with NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean suggesting[PDF] that the Federal Budget “robbed” NSW of promised projects and funding.
Parliamentary sitting week
While the Budget served as the centrepiece of this sitting week, a number of key pieces of legislation were introduced. On Thursday, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke introduced Labor’s much anticipated Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022, which implements many of Labor’s election commitments relating to industrial relations as well as the outcomes from the Jobs and Skills summit held in September. While the bill has not yet passed either House, Greens Leader Adam Bandt has signalled his Party’s vote is “essential” for the bill to pass through the Senate and will look to support the bill in a form that enables workers to balance work and caring responsibilities. Also on the topic of industrial relations, the Government’s bill that legislates an annual ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave for all employees passed both Houses.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus also introduced legislation on privacy breaches in response to recent cyberattacks within Optus, Medibank and MyDeal. The legislation will significantly increase penalties for repeated or serious privacy breaches and broaden the Australian Information Commissioner’s powers to resolve privacy breaches.
Senate Estimates are being held today. The SA Parliament is sitting next week, while the ACT Parliament will hold its annual report hearings. The Robodebt Royal Commission’s first block of public hearings will commence on Monday.
The Senate commissioned a new inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The two-year inquiry will look into ASIC’s law enforcement record and capability.
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee handed down[PDF] its final report into provisions of the bills to establish the Financial Accountability Regime and the Compensation Scheme of Last Resort. The Final Report recommends the passage of all four bills without amendment.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released[PDF] its 2022 Annual Report. Governor Phillip Lowe noted in the report that the past year has seen the return of high inflation as a major policy concern and that the RBA’s Board is committed to making sure that the current period of higher inflation in Australia is only temporary.
Meanwhile, under a Freedom of Information request, the RBA released modelling[PDF] that suggests property prices could fall 20 per cent by the end of 2024 due to rising interest rates.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government announced it will be working with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and AGL Energy to investigate the feasibility of retrofitting gas-fired power stations to create energy storage facilities using thermal storage technology.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has reported new records in the September quarter, with investment in renewables resulting in an all-time instantaneous renewable generation record of 64.1 per cent on 18 September. This 2.2 percentage point rise from the last record comes alongside a new average record for grid-scale solar and wind generation up 7 per cent from Q1 2022.
NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean launched the NSW Government’s $360 million Net Zero Industry and Innovation Investment Plan, which supports partnerships with the manufacturing and mining sectors in efforts to reduce emissions.
Victorian Minister for Energy, Minister for Environment and Climate Action and Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio released the Clean air for all Victorians Strategy. The strategy is the State’s first plan to address air pollution, with the Government claiming its sustainable and cost-effective approaches will target air pollution over the next decade.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt announced the expansion of the $35 million Horticultural Netting Program, allowing primary producers across NSW to access grants of up to $100,000.
The Victorian Government increased the Victorian Homebuyer Fund, committing a further $1.1 billion to the shared equity scheme. This will allow a further 7,000 people to apply for the program where the Government contributes up to 25 per cent of the purchase price in exchange for an equivalent share in the property.
The NSW Government announced $50 million in funding to help regional and rural councils fix the increasing number of potholes brought on by this year’s extreme wet weather.
The NT Government awarded a $20 million construction tender for the Jabiru Health Centre to C and R Constructions. The project forms part of the Government’s $135 million Jabiru Futures Package and is expected to begin in November 2022 and be completed in late 2023.
The Federal Government’s legislation to reduce the maximum cost of general scripts under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by 29 per cent passed the Parliament. It will come into effect from 1 January 2023.
The NSW and Victorian governments each committed $225 million to redevelop the Albury Base Hospital, adding to $108 million already jointly invested by the NSW and Commonwealth governments towards the $558 million project.
Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas launched the Victorian Sexual and Reproductive Health and Viral Hepatitis Strategy 2022-30, which aims to improve sexual reproductive health and viral hepatitis prevention, screening and testing, treatment, and care.
The ACT Parliament passed the legislation decriminalising the personal possession of small amounts of commonly used illicit drugs from late October 2023.
The Queensland Government committed to invest more than $42.35 million over four years to expand the Clinical Hub, an initiative that aims to improve ambulance availability, reduce pressures on emergency departments, and increase health system capacity.