Weekly Wrap Up
- Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed Australia is in recession, with the first quarter of negative growth in nine years recorded in the March quarter.
- The RBA has held interest rates at 0.25 per cent.
- The Government has today unveiled plans to impose a new security test on all foreign investments in a “sensitive national security business”, regardless of the value of the deal.
- Housing values have fallen by an average of 0.4 per cent across the nation, with five of the eight capital cities recording a fall in values.
- The Federal Court has ruled the Gillard Government’s 2011 blanket suspension of live cattle export was invalid.
- PM Scott Morrison has held a virtual summit with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
- Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert announced the Government will refund $721 million worth of unlawful Centrelink debts raised via the ‘robodebt’ scheme.
- New figures reveal waiting lists for elective surgery in the public health system will not return to pre-pandemic levels until June 2022.
Australia slips into recession
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this week confirmed Australia is in recession, after national accounts figures revealed the economy shrunk by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter due to the impact of bushfires and coronavirus. Whilst Australia must experience two consecutive quarters of negative growth to be in a technical recession, Mr Frydenberg said the current June quarter will more fully reflect the “severe economic impact” of the pandemic and associated shutdowns. The ABS said a collapse in consumer spending on services and falls in government capital expenditure and household construction contributed to the March quarter figures, while spending on goods such as food, medicine and home office equipment rose.
Government announces HomeBuilder program
On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $688 million HomeBuilder stimulus package which will see eligible Australians receive $25,000 cash grants to build new homes or renovate existing properties. The PM said the package will help to “fire up” the construction sector and support jobs by driving new work for carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers and other workers in the sector. However, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he had doubts about how many Australians would take up the grants given the current economic climate, and criticised the scheme for ignoring social housing.
US tensions flare
Australia’s traditionally strong relationship with the US has this week come under strain amid escalating protests across America following the recent death of African-American man George Floyd while in police custody. An Australian reporter and her cameraman were struck by riot police while covering protests, prompting PM Scott Morrison to ask the Australian embassy in Washington DC to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Government was treating the incident as a “very serious matter”, while Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese called for the Australian ambassador to intervene and make an official complaint. Reports suggest the PM was not aware of the incident when he accepted an invitation from US President Donald Trump to join an expanded G7 group of nations meeting in September.
Federal Parliament will return next Wednesday 10 June, while the WA Legislative Council will sit from Tuesday 9 June. National Cabinet will next sit next Friday 12 June.