Weekly Wrap Up

31 May 2024

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  • Inflation rose  to 3.6 per cent in the 12 months to April 2024, according to Consumer Price Index data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • The Federal Government signed an agreement with the European Union to cooperate on strengthening critical minerals supply chains.
  • Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic published the National Robotics Strategy, which aims to support the use of autonomous technologies in Australia’s economy.
  • The Federal Government confirmed that China lifted its trade suspension on five Australian meat processing facilities. Australian lobster exports to China remain suspended.
  • SA Premier Peter Malinauskas returned from a visit to the US where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries to strengthen supply chains for AUKUS-related manufacturing.

Federal Parliament

With Senate estimates commencing for the fortnight, only the House sat this week. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles faced questions from the Opposition over the Government’s handling of migration cases whereby convicted criminals were allowed to remain in Australia. This occurred as, pursuant to Ministerial Direction No. 99, immigration officials were required to more heavily weigh an individual’s ties to Australia when approving visas. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed the Direction will be “revised” to ensure “the protection of the community.” The Minister also stated he is reviewing and overturning certain visa decisions in light of the changed approach.

On the legislative agenda, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Delivering Better Financial Outcomes and Other Measures) Bill 2024 was debated in the House. Among other things, the Bill reforms the provision of financial advice, including rules relating to conflicting renumeration and consumer consent requirements. The Bill passed the House on Wednesday.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek introduced environmental legislation to the House. The Nature Positive (Environment Protection Australia) Bill 2024 seeks to establish Environmental Protection Australia as the national regulator to oversee Australia’s environmental regulations, including (but not limited to) plastics, packaging, water, and cultural heritage.

The Administrative Review Tribunal Bill 2024, the Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023, and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 also passed the House following their passage through the Senate.

Government’s Statement on Rafah
As the situation in Gaza continues to intensify, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong released a statement on social media emphasising that “Israel must not proceed with its operation in Rafah.” Minister Wong also stated that “Hamas must release all hostages…and lay down its arms.”Following Australia’s vote in the United Nations to grant Palestine additional member rights, questions have been raised as to whether Australia will join other countries such as Ireland and Spain in recognising Palestinian statehood. That very question was put to the Parliament when Greens Leader Adam Bandt moved a motion for the House to “recognise the State of Palestine.”The Government, the Opposition, and some members of the crossbench all voted against, resulting in the defeat of the motion 80 to 5. Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts reiterated that the Government “will be guided by whether recognition will advance the cause for peace” and that Hamas “has no role” in the future governance of Palestine.

Looking Ahead

Senate estimates continues next week meaning only the House will sit. The NSW, SA, and ACT Parliaments will sit next week. SA Treasurer Stephen Mullighan will also hand down the State Budget on 6 June.


Federal Developments

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the latest Retail Trade data, showing retail turnover increased by 0.1 per cent month-on-month in April 2024. All industries experienced a rise in turnover, except for food retailing and clothing, and footwear and personal accessory retailing, which decreased by 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

Secretary to the Treasury Dr Steven Kennedy PSM delivered a post-Budget address to the Australian Business Economists. Dr Kennedy spoke to Australia’s economic and fiscal outlook with a focus on structural spending pressures, competition policy and climate change policy.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a final determination granting authorisation with conditions to the Australian Banking Association, the Customer Owned Banking Association, banks, retailers and other industry participants to continue developing arrangements for cash-in-transit services. The authorisation will expire by 31 October.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee published[PDF] its final report into bank closures in regional Australia. The report made eight recommendations including: recognising access to financial services as an essential service, investigating the feasibility of a publicly owned bank; and establishing a program to underwrite the establishment of ‘community bank’ branches.

Federal Developments

Minister for Defence Richard Marles attended the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, discussing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Whilst in Singapore, the Minister also participated in the 12th Five Power Defence Arrangements Defence Ministers’ Meeting, convened by Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK.The Australian Government announced $2.5 million in humanitarian aid to Papua New Guinea following a landslide that occurred in Enga Province. Australian experts will travel to the nation to provide management and geohazard assessment services, and the Australian Defence Force will provide logistical support.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong expressed Australia’s “strong objections” to the guilty verdicts handed down to members of NSL47, a pro-democracy advocacy group in Hong Kong. Australian citizen Gordon Ng is among the members sentenced. Minister Wong reasserted that Australia will continue to raise concerns about the “systemic erosion of Hong King’s rights, freedoms, autonomy and democratic processes.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles announced Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) and an AECOM and Aurecon Joint Venture as the concept design partners for the new Nuclear-Powered Submarine Construction Yard (NPSCY) in South Australia. The NPSCY project is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and will support the construction of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.


Federal Developments

Dr Iain Ross AO was appointed acting Chair of the Net Zero Economy Agency, commencing 1 June. He replaces outgoing Chair the Hon. Greg Combet AM. Dr Ross will also take on the position of inaugural Chair of the Net Zero Economy Agency, subject to the passage of legislation through Parliament. Dr Ross previously served as President of the Fair Work Commission, a Judge of the Federal Court, and Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The Standing Committee on Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water handed down its report on plastic pollution in Australia’s oceans and waterways. The report includes 22 recommendations including the harmonisation of single-use plastic bans and the establishment of national waste collection standards.

State Developments

The NSW Government will rollout over 600 EV charging points across 16 local government areas. The NSW Government will invest $4.1 million for the roll out alongside $8 million in matched private investment. The Government will also release an updated NSW EV strategy later this year.The Queensland and Federal governments announced progress on Great Barrier Reef water quality targets. The report card for 2021 and 2022 showed significant progress is being made on particulate nutrient targets, which was attributed to better land management and sugarcane farming practices reducing nitrogen fertiliser run-off.


Federal Developments

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King released draft outlines for the National Urban Policy. The Policy provides an overview of the Government’s plan to increase liveability, equity, productivity, and resilience in urban areas. Consultation is open until 4 July.

State Developments

The Queensland Government appointed Emma Thomas as interim CEO of the Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Game Venue and Legacy Delivery Authority, commencing from 1 July. Her appointment follows the recent passage of legislation to establish the agency, which will oversee the tendering and management for the construction of games venues ahead of the 2032 Olympics.

The Queensland Government established a $350 million fund to support infill development and accelerate housing projects in existing urban areas as part of its ‘Homes for Queenslanders’ plan. The Incentivising Infill Development Fund will cover infrastructure costs for projects in under-utilised or vacant areas. Applications open on 10 June.

The NSW Government released updated housing targets for the state to build 377,000 new homes over the next five years. The targets have been issued to 43 local government areas across the state. Alongside this, the Government will establish a $200 million incentive program to fund more green space for councils that meet or exceed their housing targets.


Federal Developments

The Federal Government launched the National Occupational Respiratory Disease Registry to help eliminate preventable respiratory diseases and improve workplace health and safety. The registry will require occupational and environmental medicine physicians and respiratory and sleep medicine physicians to report silicosis cases to the registry.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and the NSW Government announced $47.8 million for frontline services to support women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, under the Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence National Partnership Agreement 2023-25. The Minister also commenced a consent campaign to reduce the incidence of sexual violence in Australia.

State Developments

The Queensland Government announced $1.44 billion for the Cairns and Hinterland Health and Hospital Service as part of its upcoming Budget. Funding includes $60 million for the planning and development of the Cairns Health and Innovation Centre to support medical research and education opportunities.

The NSW Government launched the Same day and Short stay Joint Replacement pilot, which will allow eligible orthopaedic patients to return home the day after their procedure. The program seeks to improve patient experience while reducing wait list times at hospitals.


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