Weekly Wrap Up
5 August 2022
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- The first Newspoll published since the election indicates Prime Minister Anthony Albanese leads as preferred PM over Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, 59-25.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increased the cash rate by 50 basis points for the third month in a row, bringing it to 1.85 per cent.
- Prime Minister Albanese released the proposed referendum question and the draft wording for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament at the Garma Festival.
- The Federal Government launched an independent Defence Strategic Review into Defence’s force posture and force structure over the next ten years.
- The Productivity Commission released the interim report for its 5-year Productivity Inquiry, demonstrating that Australia’s productivity is increasing at its lowest rate in 60 years.
- This morning, consultation opened on the Government’s planned measures to increase multinational tax transparency and integrity, which the Labor Party first announced as a pre-election commitment.
- ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr handed down the 2022-23 Territory Budget, revealing an estimated net debt of $6.5 billion in 2022-23.
- The ACT Government also announced it will phase out fossil fuel gas by 2045 by moving to electrify Canberra.
- The Federal Court found that WA Premier Mark McGowan and former Federal MP Clive Palmer defamed each other with comments made in 2020 regarding the state’s border closure.
- Meghan Quinn PSM was appointed as the new Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
- The Federal Government accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s recommendation to make the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine available to at-risk children aged between six months to five years.
- At its meeting yesterday, National Cabinet agreed to continue working together to manage COVID-19, Monkeypox and the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in Indonesia.
- Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly suggested that Australia is over the peak of its COVID-19 winter outbreak.
Second sitting week of the parliamentary term
Climate change and social security were at the forefront of the Government’s legislative agenda for the second sitting week of the 47th Parliament. Legislation implementing recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission was the first to pass both houses after initially passing the House last week. Treasury legislation also passed the Parliament this week. Significantly, the Government agreed to an amendment[PDF] in the Treasury legislation from the Greens that lowers the tax reporting threshold for Australian private companies to an annual turnover of $100 million.
Meanwhile, the Government’s climate change bill passed the House with a number of amendments, including an assurance that the 43 per cent emissions reduction target can be increased over time, as well as an assurance that the target cannot decrease. Government agencies will also be required to take climate targets into account when advising on projects to fund, and greater accountability measures will be imposed on the Climate Change Authority. In addition, at an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Greens Leader Adam Bandt outlined that while the Greens will support the amended Bill, they will continue in the “fight” to stop the Government from approving new coal, oil and gas projects that “would blow the government’s weak climate targets”. The Bill is now expected to pass through the Senate when it sits again in September. Consistent with its long-communicated position, the Liberal-National Coalition Opposition voted against the Bill.
The Government’s legislation repealing the cashless debit card also passed the House, as did legislation increasing the income limit for the seniors health card. Legislation amending social security laws for participants of the Self-Employment Assistance program also passed the Senate.
Response to interim gas report
Following the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) latest Interim report as part of its gas inquiry 2017-2025, Treasurer Jim Chalmers encouraged gas producers “to do the right thing by Australians” to ensure that Australia’s domestic gas supply is secure. Finding that the east coast gas market’s outlook has “significantly worsened” over the past year, the ACCC report forecast[PDF] that the market is facing a gas shortfall of approximately 10 per cent of demand in 2023. The ACCC indicated that exporters must divert gas to the domestic market in order to avoid this shortfall. In response, the Federal Government has opened consultation on ways to improve the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) and strengthen Australia’s domestic energy supply. Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Minister Madeleine King has also announced the Government will extend the ADGSM from 2023 until 2030.
NSW Government instability
The NSW Perrottet Coalition Government has faced a number of controversies this week. On Sunday, Premier Perrottet removed Minister for Small Business and Minister for Fair Trading Eleni Petinos from Cabinet following bullying allegations. Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello has now assumed Ms Petinos’ responsibilities.
On Wednesday, Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Minister for Tourism and Sport, and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres resigned from Cabinet and as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party following questions over whether he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct. These questions relate to Mr Ayres’ alleged involvement with former Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s appointment to the role of NSW Trade Commissioner to the US. Mr Ayres has maintained that in his view, “no such breach has occurred”. A new Deputy Leader will be elected at the next party room meeting and three Cabinet Ministers have gained additional responsibilities following the resignation of Mr Ayres, as follows:
- Alister Henskens will assume the additional portfolios of Enterprise, Investment and Trade, and Sport. He is currently the Minister for Skills and Training and Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology.
- Ben Franklin will assume the additional portfolio of Tourism. He is currently the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Regional Youth.
- David Elliott will assume the additional portfolio of Western Sydney. He is currently the Minister for Transport and Minister for Veterans Affairs.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary inquiry into Mr Barilaro’s appointment will continue its fifth day of public hearings today. Premier Perrottet has also indicated he is expecting the report from the independent review into the appointment “very shortly”.
The NSW and WA Parliaments will resume next week after respective six-week winter breaks. In the ACT, Budget Estimates will begin next Friday.
This morning, the RBA released its quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy, outlining its assessment of current domestic and international economic trends as well as forecasts for inflation and economic growth. Notably, inflation is forecast to reach 7.75 per cent by the end of the year.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) published the findings of its latest climate risk self-assessment survey, which explored how APRA-regulated entities aligned their practices with the agency’s practice guide released last year.
The Council of Financial Regulators released an updated version of the Cyber Operational Resilience Intelligence-led Exercises framework following a successful trial of the program.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released its annual compliance and enforcement report for 2021-22, highlighting the total $35 million in civil penalties paid by energy businesses due to AER’s enforcement action.
Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton has announced the Opposition will establish an internal policy process to investigate the development of nuclear energy and its potential use in the Coalition’s climate change policy for the next election.
The NSW Government will be directing the Consumer Trustee to run a new tender in the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap aimed at ensuring the State has the necessary firming infrastructure to provide cheap, reliable and clean energy.
The Tasmanian Government released its Tasmanian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report, detailing the State’s emissions by sector and its net zero emissions progress. The report shows the State had net emissions of negative 3.73 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020.
Publicly-owned Queensland retailer and energy generator CleanCo has come to an agreement with Scentre Group to provide Westfields across the state with renewable energy.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has received the final report of the Independent Review of the ‘Brisbane New Parallel Runway Flight Paths Post Implementation Review (PIR)’. The Department is now considering the report and its recommendations to manage aircraft noise around Brisbane Airport.
In Victoria, Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne released eight pre-approved maps for the heavy vehicle industry. The maps provide information on where mobile crane operators can travel across the state’s road network.
WA Premier Mark McGowan released the state’s first 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy, ‘Foundations for a stronger tomorrow’, following an extensive two-year consultation by Infrastructure WA. The Strategy makes 93 recommendations, including improving data sharing and increasing sustainability practices.
The Federal Government launched a targeted text message campaign to people living with a disability and their carers, highlighting the availability of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose and anti-viral treatments.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announced three new listings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, including the extension of spinal muscular atrophy medicine Spinraza for adult patients.
In the ACT, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith declared that the Territory Government will invest $4.6 million over four years to ensure all Canberra residents can access free medical and surgical abortions up to 16 weeks. The service will be available from early 2023 to all ACT residents, including those without a Medicare card.
Key health measures in the 2022-23 ACT Budget released this week include a $37.5 million package towards mental health services in the region, including an expansion of perinatal mental health screening and suicide prevention programs.
The South Australian Government extended its free flu vaccination program until 31 August 2022. This is the second time the program has been extended since it was launched in May.