Weekly Wrap Up
- The Federal Government implemented a 72 hour travel pause on green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand following three confirmed cases of a South African COVID-19 variant. The pause was extended until Sunday 31 January due to two additional cases.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the labour force figures for December, confirming that unemployment decreased to 6.6 per cent.
- ABS data also reported that inflation rose 0.9 per cent in the December 2020 quarter.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published its interim report on the digital advertising services inquiry, which found a lack of competition in ad tech.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated President Biden and Vice President Harris on their inauguration and spoke to the importance of the United States and Australian alliance, particularly during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
National Cabinet and Vaccines
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed media following National Cabinet last week, outlining progress on the vaccine implementation strategy and reaffirming the Government’s commitment to returning international passenger arrival caps to previous levels by 15 February. Subsequently, Health Minister Greg Hunt provided further advice on the planned delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and called on general practitioners to play a key role. The first recipients will be priority groups including those over 70, adults with underlying medical conditions, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
Further to this, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first vaccine to be approved for use in Australia. Those who receive the vaccine will require two doses, administered 21 days apart. As previously advised, the first vaccinations will be available in late February or early March for priority groups and the Prime Minister confirmed that this is on track, despite production and delivery challenges being felt internationally.
Climate Change and Environment
Environment Minister Sussan Ley addressed the international Climate Adaption Summit, committing Australia to develop a National Climate Resilience and Adaption Strategy. Australia will join more than 118 countries in the Call for Action on Raising Ambition for Climate Adaptation and Resilience. Minister Ley also indicated that Australia plans to commit to the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, which will be launched at this year’s COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November.
Also, the final report of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was published, which found the legislation to be ineffective at protecting items of national environmental significance and unable to address future challenges. Specifically, the report says there is a lack of jurisdictional integration and recommends that new National Environmental Standards be developed.
Shadow Cabinet Reshuffle
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese announced a wide-ranging reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet to better reflect Labor’s key policy positions on local manufacturing, energy infrastructure, public housing and child care. As foreshadowed in the media, Chris Bowen is now Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy and Mark Butler has taken on Health and Aged Care. A number of portfolios have been consolidated, including National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills and Small Business which was allocated to Deputy Leader Richard Marles, while Madeline King’s Trade portfolio now includes Resources.
Other notable appointments include Ed Husic as Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation, Stephen Jones as Shadow Minister for Superannuation, Brendan O’Connor as Shadow Minister for Defence, Julie Collins as Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Senate Leader Kristina Keneally as Shadow Minister for Government Accountability.
Federal Parliament returns on 2 February. The South Australian and Tasmanian Parliaments will also return.
Read more here.