Weekly Wrap Up
30 June 2023
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- Latest Newspoll data was released, showing Labor continues to lead the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis, 54 – 46.
- Latest Consumer Price Index data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that inflation rose 5.6 per cent in the year to May 2023.
- The NSW inquiry into the use and management of consulting services continued its hearings this week, with PwC confirming[PDF] it would reveal the names of staff members involved in the tax breach following its internal investigation.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his condolences on the passing of former Labor Cabinet Minister Simon Crean in a statement earlier this week.
- Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland released draft legislation[PDF] which would expand the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority to address misinformation and disinformation online. Consultation is open until 6 August.
- The Federal Government opened consultation on reporting requirements for climate-related financial disclosure, with submissions due by 21 July.
- A federal parliamentary committee released its final report of its inquiry into the impacts of online gambling, making 31 recommendations including a proposed ban of gambling advertisements.
- The ACT Government handed down its 2023-24 State Budget.
Corruption findings against former NSW Premier
On Thursday, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) released its final report for Operation Keppel, under which it made findings of “serious corrupt conduct” against former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former Liberal MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire. The report stated that Ms Berejiklian was in breach of public trust and the ministerial code for matters relating to an undisclosed relationship with Mr Maguire.
Significant findings related to Ms Berejiklian’s involvement in grant applications within Mr Maguire’s electorate without declaring a conflict of interest, and a determined failure to report any suspicions of his corrupt conduct to ICAC. The inquiry found that during her time as Treasurer in 2016 and 2017, Ms Berejiklian oversaw a $5.5 million grant to the Australian Clay Target Association, and in 2018 she was involved in influencing a $30 million funding allocation to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, both of which were in Mr Maguire’s electorate. Separately, Mr Maguire was found to have “advanced his own private financial interests” by engaging in multiple corrupt activities in relation to a cash-for-visa immigration scheme and improperly using his office to benefit a company in which he had a direct interest that was undisclosed.
Based on the findings, ICAC made 18 corruption prevention recommendations and referred the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to consider the prosecution of Mr Maguire and two of his business associates involved in the corrupt conduct. However, the ICAC did not recommend that the DPP consider pursuing Ms Berejiklian for prosecution, nothing that while Ms Berejiklian’s conduct “constitutes or involves a substantial breach of the ministerial code, it is not so serious that it could be demonstrated to merit criminal punishment”.
Australian support for Ukraine
Earlier this week, the Federal Government committed $110 million in additional military assistance to Ukraine to support its defence capabilities against Russia. The package includes 70 military vehicles, 105mm of artillery ammunition, and $10 million in refugee support for the Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund. Stating the assistance would “make a tangible difference on the battlefield”, Prime Minister Albanese later reinforced his calls for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine. Meanwhile, both Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Birmingham criticised the Government’s commitment, suggesting that more appropriate support could have been provided.
Elsewhere, the High Court of Australia decided to reject an application from Russia to prevent the Australian Government from controlling a site that was leased for a new Russian embassy. The decision came after the Government passed legislation that terminated Moscow’s tenancy on land near Parliament House due to national security risks.
Campaigns on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament have officially commenced following last week’s passage of legislation which would enable a referendum to be held later this year. Both major campaigns – run by Yes23 and Fair Australia – are working to accumulate volunteers, with Yes23 announcing[PDF] it will hold a “National Day of Action” across Australia this Sunday, while the ‘No’ campaign’s leading advocate Warren Mundine has stated it will target “four states mainly”. Prime Minister Albanese also reiterated his confidence in a majority ‘Yes’ vote, after he faced questions following recent Newspoll data indicating the ‘No’ vote is ahead, 47 to 43. The exact date of the referendum is expected to be confirmed when Parliament returns from its winter break at the beginning of August.
Budget Estimates continue in the South Australian Parliament next week. Meanwhile, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will commence its operations this Saturday 1 July.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) published[PDF] its Cost Recovery Implementation Statement for 2022-23. ASIC expects to recover $352 million in regulatory costs via its cost recovery levies and statutory levies for the year.
The Australian Law Reform Commission published[PDF] Interim Report C into its review of the Corporations Act 2001 and the Corporations Regulations 2001. The report focuses on how the legislation is structured and framed and elicits ideas on how it can be simplified.
The Federal Government published[PDF] its response to the Council of Financial Regulators recommendations on policy responses to de-banking. The Government’s response notes that it will work with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the four major banks to collect data on de-banking, and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the banks to ensure transparency and fairness measures are implemented.
The Australian Banking Association developed a Branch Closure Support Protocol which provides steps a bank must follow when closing a branch. The Protocol will come into effect from 1 July.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Richard Marles made his first visit to the Solomon Islands in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, and met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Deputy Prime Minister Marles used this meeting to emphasise Australia’s commitment to its partnership with the Solomon Islands, with a particular focus on regional security and climate action.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed he will host Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Sydney next week for the 8th Australia-Indonesia Annual Leaders’ Meeting. With a focus on economic development and the transition to net zero, the two leaders will discuss areas of cooperation under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between their respective countries.
Air Marshal Darren Goldie was appointed as Australia’s Inaugural National Cybersecurity Coordinator, with his term to commence on 3 July. Air Marshal Goldie, who formerly served as Australia’s Air Commander, will coordinate national cyber security policy and the national response to and preparedness for major cyber incidents.
The Australian Government imposed targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on three men previously convicted for their involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014. Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong confirmed that the Australian Government is committed in its efforts to seek accountability for the MH17 event and will “continue to pursue all avenues available”.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal and Victorian governments announced $51 million for a new electrolyser in Wodonga, Victoria, which will be powered by renewable energy. Construction on the new development is due to begin this year, with the site to be operational by late 2025.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen committed a $100 million investment through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to support the construction of the Waratah Super Battery. The Battery will be delivered by the NSW Government and is expected to be completed in 2025.
The Federal Government invested an additional $7 million in Mirvac’s build-to-rent projects to increase the number of energy-efficient rental apartments in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to 2,200. The build-to-rent projects aim for a minimum 7.5-star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme rating.
The Queensland Government revealed the state’s new Critical Mineral Strategy which includes a $245 million investment into the state’s critical minerals sector. The Strategy aims to establish critical mineral zones around Julia Creek/Richmond and Mount Isa as well as reducing rent for new and existing exploration permits for minerals to $0 for the next five years.
The NSW and Federal governments will partner under the Capacity Investment Scheme to deliver an additional 550MW of firmed capacity, increasing the delivery to almost 1GW of additional dispatchable capacity. It is expected that this will eliminate the forecast shortfall in 2028-29 flagged by the Australian Energy Market Operator. The partnership will support grid-scale dispatchable generation and storage such as batteries, pumped hydro and dispatchable capacity.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Federal, State and Territory governments agreed to a revised National Partnership Agreement for existing HomeBuilder applicants. The agreement extends the deadline for grant applications until 30 June 2025.
The Federal Government provided $20 million through the Broadcasting Resilience Program (BRP) for 107 ABC radio sites used for emergency broadcasting to prevent service failure due to natural disasters.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications revealed the preliminary flight paths and estimated aircraft noise impacts for the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport. The flight paths and estimated noise impacts are accessible through an online interactive Aircraft Overflight Noise Tool.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Gen Kearney chaired the first meeting of the LGBTIQA+ Health and Wellbeing 10 Year National Action Plan Expert Advisory Group, which will co-design a national plan to improve the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people.
The Federal Government announced the establishment of expert advisory panels on childhood mental health, post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, primary health research, and diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Each panel will develop research plans which will guide the design of the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund grant program.
Queensland Health Director-General Shaun Drummond announced his resignation. Former Health Department Director-General Michael Walsh will step in as acting head from July 24.
The NSW Government established the NSW Health System Advisory Council, which will provide independent and impartial strategic clinical advice on key priorities and functions of the health system.
The ACT Government released a report on the adoption of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) models with legislation expected to be introduced in late 2023. Among the findings, the report identified under-18-year-olds as a group needing further investigation regarding access to the proposed VAD options.