Weekly Wrap Up
4 February 2022
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- The first Newspoll of 2022 shows Labor remains ahead of the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis 56-44 – Labor’s biggest lead since the Coalition’s leadership change in August 2018.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has again maintained interest rates at 0.1 per cent, in addition to ceasing further purchases under the bond purchase program from 10 February.
- Meanwhile, RBA Governor Philip Lowe delivered a speech at the National Press Club, where he indicated that an increase in interest rates may be likely later this year if some “uncertainties” are resolved.
- Northern Territory senator Sam McMahon moved from the Country Liberal Party to the crossbench and said she is uncertain about whether she will run in this year’s Federal Election.
- The Federal Government announced an additional $1 billion investment in protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Funding will support measures including climate adaptation technology, water quality programs and water management practices.
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled the nation’s reopening plan, with Australians permitted to travel to NZ from July 2022.
- The Federal Opposition indicated its support for the Kurri Kurri power station and committed to transition the plant to green hydrogen if successful at the election.
PM Addresses National Press Club
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday, where he acknowledged that he and his Government “haven’t got everything right” in dealing with the pandemic. The Prime Minister has since been criticised for his response to questions from the media at the event where he conceded he didn’t know the cost of petrol, bread, or Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs). Tensions emerged when a journalist alleged that former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and a senior Liberal cabinet minister had criticised the Prime Minister in a series of text messages.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted provisional approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be used as a booster dose for those aged 16 and 17 years in Australia. Shortly after, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) extended the recommendation that booster doses be allowed for this age group, with the Government accepting the recommendation and making boosters available. Meanwhile, Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the Government has reduced the interval for booster eligibility nationwide from four months to three months after the second dose of the vaccine. Minister Hunt also confirmed the Government will provide “retention payments” of up to $800 for aged care workers to support their work during the pandemic.
Next week, Federal Parliament will resume for its first sitting of the year.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced its policy and supervision priorities for the next 12-18 months, which include a stronger focus on new and emerging financial risks.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) published its update for the October – December 2021 quarter, outlining ASIC’s activities for that period, including its enforcement actions and efforts to raise awareness of regulatory requirements.
The NSW Government released[PDF] its $1 billion COVID Business Support Package, which includes rebates for the cost of RATs, a support package for the arts and wage subsidies for eligible businesses.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government approved two loans under its Critical Minerals Facility, to be directed towards EcoGraf Limited and Renascor Resources. The loans, totalling $239 million, are intended to promote Australia as an international supplier of critical minerals.
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt and Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price announced Strike Energy’s Project Haber has been granted Major Project Status. The $3 billion urea manufacturing facility in Western Australia will produce up to 1.4 billion tonnes of urea from clean hydrogen and natural gas each year.
WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston launched the $15 million Kalbarri microgrid as an energy solution to provide power to local residents and businesses. The microgrid will use entirely renewable wind and solar energy to supply five megawatts at peak capacity and at least 3.5 megawatts of storage.
Queensland Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water Glen Butcher announced a $17 million state-wide increase to manufacturing, dedicating permanent funding to the Mackay Manufacturing Hub and the Caines Manufacturing Hub. The funding is expected to support up to 6,000 jobs and promote sustainable regional businesses.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal and Victorian governments awarded the contract for the $115 million Western Port Highway upgrade to Downer EDI Works. The project will involve replacing two roundabouts with traffic lights.
The Northern Territory Government released the findings of the Adelaide River Off-Stream Water Storage (AROWS) Detailed Business Case investigating water supply in Darwin. The business case recommended that short term water supply be provided by Manton Dam Return to Service, and long-term water supply be provided by the AROWS project.
The NSW Government opened applications for its $60 million Aviation Attraction Fund program, which aims to build aviation capacity across the state over two years by supporting airlines to return to airports.
Minister for Regional Health David Gillespie announced an additional $14.9 million in funding for OrganMatch, a software system that matches recipients with transplant donors.
Minister Gillespie and Member for Durack Melissa Price confirmed $5 million in funding across rural and remote Western Australia to support training programs for future allied health and aged care professionals.
Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Anthony Carbines committed an additional $9.5 million in funding for respite projects, as well as $2 million for unpaid carers to access training, support and employment opportunities.