Weekly Wrap Up
29 July 2022
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- The 47th Parliament met for the first time this week.
- The CSIRO released its megatrends report entitled Our Future World, outlining factors that will shape Australia over the next 20 years including climate change and artificial intelligence.
- Recently appointed US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy arrived in Australia last Friday to begin her posting.
- The Albanese Government selected the members of its Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, a key election commitment.
- Australian Defence Force support in residential aged care has been extended from 12 August to 30 September.
- Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly declared monkeypox a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.
- Senator Tony Sheldon was appointed to the new role of Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery.
- NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Stuart Ayres issued[PDF] a statement denying any decision-making in John Barilaro’s appointment to the State’s US Trade Commissioner role.
- The Federal Government established Biosecurity Response Zones at Australia’s international airports in response to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Indonesia.
- Former NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced he is resigning from the Territory Parliament, two months after leaving his position as Chief Minister.
- Meanwhile, Tasmanian Police, Fire and Emergency Management Minister Jacquie Petrusma announced her resignation from Parliament. Felix Ellis has been promoted to Cabinet to take over Ms Petrusma’s portfolio.
47th Parliament’s first meeting
The 47th Parliament opened on Tuesday, which saw the appointment of the new Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate, and the swearing in of a record 35 newly elected MPs in the Lower House. In the House, Labor MP Milton Dick was elected Speaker, despite a challenge from the Coalition’s Andrew Wallace, 92 votes to 56. For the position of President of the Senate, Labor’s Sue Lines comfortably defeated the Greens’ Dorinda Cox, 54-12. Governor-General David Hurley also delivered a speech outlining the Albanese Government’s priorities, including climate action, industrial relations, aged care reform, and implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
A number of significant pieces of legislation have also been introduced in line with the new Labor Government’s pre-election promises. Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen introduced the Government’s long-anticipated Climate Change Bill, which enshrines the target of a 43 per cent emissions reduction against 2005 levels by 2030. At this time, the Government remains in active negotiation with the Greens and the crossbench for the Bill’s passage in the Senate, as the Coalition has already ruled out voting for the Bill. Meanwhile, moderate Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg and Liberal MP Bridget Archer have indicated they are likely to cross the floor to support the legislation.
On the topic of industrial relations, key legislation introduced includes the Jobs and Skills Australia Bill to establish the Jobs and Skills Australia agency; and the Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill to provide workers, including those casually employed, access to 10 days paid domestic violence leave.
Other significant pieces of legislation introduced includes the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill to allow participants of the cashless debit card to opt out of the scheme; and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill to remove fringe benefits tax to make purchasing an electric vehicle more affordable.
The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill, which implements an number of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, successfully passed the House of Representatives with minimal debate. The Bill is currently being debated in the Senate and is expected to pass next week.
Both Houses of Parliament will sit again next week.
Treasurer’s budget and economic outlook
On Thursday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered an economic statement to Parliament in which he commented on the Australian economy’s “confronting” outlook. The Treasurer’s speech followed the release of latest Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which indicated a 6.1 per cent rate of inflation over the past 12 months – the highest increase since the GST was introduced in 2001.
Mr Chalmers suggested that Australia is facing a “once-in-a-generation challenge” in the face of economic uncertainty and warned that wages will likely be unable to match inflation until 2023-24, with inflation expected to peak at 7.75 per cent by the end of this year before settling at 2.75 per cent in 2023-24. The Treasurer stated that Gross Domestic Product growth is expected to slow to two per cent in 2023-24, down from an expected 2.5 per cent previously predicted. Mr Chalmers also pointed to the “debt burden” his Government has “inherited” and noted increasing interest on debt repayments.
The Treasurer indicated the Government will assist with cost-of-living pressures by supporting wages growth, upskilling workers and implementing childcare subsidies. He stated Australia will be able to “steer [its] way through this difficult period, and seize the opportunities of this new age”.
The Federal Parliament is sitting again next week and the ACT Budget will be handed down on Tuesday. The Victorian Parliament will resume after a five-week winter break, while Budget Estimates will continue for the second week in Queensland.
The Chair of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Wayne Byres announced his intention to resign at the end of October.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released its quarterly enforcement and regulatory update, which outlines the Commission’s activity between April and July.
ASIC placed three stop orders on financial firms due to inadequate target market determinations for their products. This is the first time the regulator has used these powers under the design and distribution obligations, which took effect in October last year.
CommSec published its latest quarterly State of the States report, indicating that Victoria’s economy is the strongest in Australia for this first time since April 2020.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Government has introduced the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Amendment (Powering Australia) Regulations to expand ARENA’s mandate to supporting energy efficiency and electrification technologies.
The Tasmanian Government released findings from three feasibility studies under the Tasmanian Renewable Hydrogen Industry Development Fund. The studies, conducted by Origin Energy, ABEL Energy, and Grange Resources, investigated the feasibility of large scale green hydrogen production projects, ammonia plant producing, methanol for export, and heat processing.
Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio announced a ban on the operation of private, embedded power networks in new residential apartment buildings from January 2023, with limited exemptions for buildings that operate on 100 per cent renewable energy.
WA Minister for Ports Rita Saffioti welcomed the signing of a collaboration agreement between Pilbara Ports Authority and Yara to undertake a feasibility study into ammonia bunkering in the Pilbara.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal and NSW governments awarded Fulton Hogan Construction Pty with a design and construct contract for the fifth section of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass. Major works are expected to commence on the project in October, with the bypass expected to open in 2025.
In NSW, David Chandler announced his intention to resign from his role as the State’s Building Commissioner, with his resignation due to come into effect on 30 November 2022. Chandler was NSW’s first building commissioner, appointed to his role in August 2019 by former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Also in NSW, Laurie Curran Water Pty Ltd was awarded $20.8 million from the State and Local governments to fund a new water treatment plant in Bega.
The QLD Government launched its new Advance Queensland – Innovation for a Future Economy 2022-2032 Roadmap. Outlining $142 million in funding allocations, the Roadmap details innovation and planning priorities for the state ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
WA Minister for Ports Rita Saffioti released a draft master plan of the vision for Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour and its neighbouring recreational harbours. The State Government is seeking feedback on the draft by 4 September 2022.
The ABS published the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, which found that more than two in five Australians will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney announced $6.8 million in funding for women and families experiencing the grief of stillbirth. $4.2 million will be provided to Red Nose Australia’s Hospital to Home program and a further $2.6 million has been allocated to stillbirth education and awareness initiatives.
Researchers from the Kirby Institute conducted blood testing of relevant antibodies and found that at least 46 per cent of adults in Australia had been infected with COVID-19 by the beginning of June 2022. The highest rate of infection among the samples used was in those aged 18-29 years old.
ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith launched Better together: A strategic plan for research in the ACT health system 2022 – 2030 at the 2022 Canberra Health Annual Research Meeting.