Weekly Wrap Up

5 July 2024

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Highlights

  • Labor leads the Coalition 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis, while Anthony Albanese remains preferred Prime Minister over Peter Dutton, according to the latest Newspoll.
  • Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher released the General Government Sector Monthly Financial Statements for May, confirming a $27.2 billion surplus for the 2023-24 financial year.
  • The Federal Government announced a $2 billion strategic partnership with Amazon Web Services to deliver a Top Secret Cloud for Government data.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the Australian Council of Local Government Forum where he emphasised the importance of the Federal Government working with local councils.
  • WA Senator Fatima Payman resigned from the Labor Party over differences in policy positions on the conflict in Gaza. Senator Payman will remain in the Senate as an Independent.

Federal Parliament

The final sitting week before Parliament breaks for its winter recess began with a joint sitting in the Senate to swear in newly appointed Governor-General Samantha Mostyn. In her swearing-in speech, Ms Mostyn vowed to be “an optimistic, modern and visible Governor-General”.

In the House, the Defence Amendment (Parliamentary Joint Committee on Defence) Bill 2024 passed with bipartisan support, despite Coalition concerns over potential crossbench membership on the proposed Defence Committee, the Bill was then later rejected in the Senate. The Nature Positive (Environment Protection Australia) Bill 2024 and related Bills, which seeks to establish a statutory body, Environment Protection Australia, to regulate federal environmental laws also passed. Notably, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh introduced the Taxation (Multinational – Global and Domestic Minimum Tax) Bill 2024, which aims to establish a 15 per cent minimum global tax rate for eligible multinationals with an annual global revenue of at least EUR 750 million (AU$1.2 billion).

Meanwhile in the Senate, the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 passed despite Coalition opposition. The passage of the Bill means live sheep exports by sea from Australia will be banned from 2028. Also passing in the Senate was the Payment Times Reporting Amendment Bill 2024, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Delivering Better Financial Outcomes and Other Measures) Bill 2024, the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (More Support in the Safety Net) Bill 2024, the Creative Australia Amendment (Implementation of Revive) Bill 2024, and the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-Siphoning) Bill 2024.

Future Made in Australia Legislation

With a federal election on the horizon, Treasurer Jim Chalmers introduced the Future Made in Australia Bill 2024 to Parliament, which will legislate commitments made in the 2024-25 Federal Budget on domestic clean energy manufacturing. Dr Chalmers emphasised the Bill’s focus, stating “This Bill is all about realising our genuine advantages and recognising that our future growth prospects lie at the intersection of our industrial, resources, skills, and energy bases”.

The Bill features three primary components: a National Interest Framework, a five-part assessment process to evaluate a sector’s eligibility for funding, and Community Benefit Principles designed to ensure funding benefits the broader community. Together, the Government’s Future Made in Australia (FMIA) package aims to unlock private sector investment in the net zero transition

Additionally, the FMIA package includes measures not specified in the Bill, such as reforms to Australia’s foreign investment framework and the establishment of tax incentives for critical minerals and green hydrogen production. The Bill is expected to dominate the Government’s legislative agenda in the second half of this year.

Coalition announces divestiture powers for supermarkets

Following numerous inquiries into the supermarket sector, the Federal Opposition announced plans to establish divestiture powers in Australian Consumer Law if elected to Government. The announcement follows last month’s Senate vote, where the Liberal Party opposed and the National Party abstained from a Greens-sponsored Bill to establish such powers. Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor assured there would be “appropriate safeguards” to prevent any loss of jobs and services. The Coalition’s plan also includes appointing a Supermarket Commissioner to handle complaints and liaise with consumers, supermarkets, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. A private member’s bill is expected to be introduced when Parliament resumes in August.

Looking Ahead

No Parliaments are sitting next week.


FINANCE

Federal Developments

The Senate Committee investigating the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) tabled its final report recommending ASIC be split into two separate regulators: one for corporations and one for financial services. While Government Senators criticised this measure, they supported the recommendation for ASIC to report data on the handling of alleged misconduct reports.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the latest Retail Trade data, showing retail turnover increased by 0.6 per cent month on month in May. Most non-food related industries experienced an increase in turnover, with clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing rising 1.6 per cent.

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced the Australian Taxation Office will become the first government agency to join the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX). The AFCX coordinates the sharing of data and intelligence across the public and private sector to target and fight financial crime.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission granted interim approval allowing the Australian Banking Association, banks and retailers to collectively provide financial support to cash in transit business Armaguard. The $50 million deal aims to secure the operational stability of the company, but the interim approval only supports the financial component at this stage.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE

Federal Developments

Senior officials from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs met with their counterparts from India, Japan and the US to review progress made since the 2023 Quad Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima. In the meeting, representatives discussed the Quad’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific region in 2024 and reaffirmed support for ASEAN centrality, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

The Department of Defence welcomed Air Marshal Stephen Chappell as the new Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. He will become the 28th Chief of the Air Force, succeeding outgoing Air Marshal Robert Chipman who will assume the role of Vice Chief of the Defence Force on 9 July.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced new appointments for the Ambassadors to Cambodia, Morocco and Nepal, alongside the next Consul-General in Honolulu and the High Commissioner to Vanuatu. Additionally, Amanda McGregor was announced as Australia’s next Special Representative on Afghanistan, who will be based in Qatar and will aim to support the people of Afghanistan against the Taliban.

State Developments

NSW Minister for Industry and Trade Anoulack Chanthivong is on an 11 day mission to Southeast Asia  aimed at securing new investment and trade opportunities for the State. Visiting Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, Chanthivong is set to hold roundtables with government and business leaders from food and beverage, health, education, science and technology sectors. The visit comes in the lead up to the 50th Australian-ASEAN Business Forum in August.


ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY

Federal Developments

Treasury opened consultation on the Critical Minerals Production Tax Incentive and the Hydrogen Production Tax Incentive as part of the Government’s Future Made in Australia package. Both measures aim to attract private capital into the critical minerals and hydrogen sector in order to support the transition to net zero. Submissions for both consultations close on 12 July.

The Federal Government unveiled a $50 million investment aimed at promoting energy efficient technologies, electric vehicles, solar, and batteries for small and medium-sized businesses. Administered via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, eligible applicants will be able to access discounted finance in obtaining low-emissions technologies and reduce their operating costs in the long term.

Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek announced a proposal to expand the protective marine zone around the Heard and McDonald Islands. The islands are sub-Antarctic Australian territories and are listed as World Heritage Sites due to their importance as habitats to a diverse range of wildlife. Consultation is open until 5 September.

State Developments

NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully declared six renewable energy projects as Critical State Significant Infrastructure, meaning they are essential to the economic, social, and environmental future of the state. Projects include transmission for the New England Renewable Energy Zones, the Victoria NSW interconnector, and some pumped hydro projects. The projects are still subject to the government assessment processes.


INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS

Federal Developments

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant announced new industry codes to protect children from class 1C and class 2 material, such as online pornography. The Commissioner issued notices to relevant platforms including app stores, social media entities, and gaming sites to develop the enforceable codes.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) confirmed Telstra and Optus will not renew or enter into any further search engine agreements with Google, citing competition concerns. The decision follows the ACCC’s investigation into Google’s dominance in search services in Australia, as part of the Digital Platform Services Inquiry’s third interim report.

State Developments

The QLD Government pledged to construct a new $700 million bridge to Bribie Island if re-elected at the October election. The proposed bridge would include two eastbound traffic lanes and a transport path for pedestrians and aim to ease the anticipated traffic issues. Scepticism remains around the proposed Bridge, after the QLD Transport Department stated the “existing bridge can sustain traffic for the foreseeable future”


HEALTH AND EDUCATION

Federal Developments

The Federal Government announced an increase in international student visa fees from $710 to $1,600 which came into effect from 1 July. The extra revenue aims to fund other Government initiatives in education and migration, such as changes to student debt indexation, paid prac and FEE-Free Uni Ready courses, and the ongoing implementation of the Migration Strategy.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released its biennial health report, Australia’s health 2024: in brief, presenting a summary of the state of health in Australia. Key findings of the report include: 43 per cent of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced a mental health disorder from 2020 to 2022; $241.3 billion was spent on health in 2021 to 2022; tobacco smoking rates continue to decline while vaping is rising amongst young people; and over 450 new cancer cases were diagnosed daily in 2023.

The House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport tabled its Diabetes in Australia in 2024 report on the state of diabetes mellitus in Australia. The Committee’s inquiry discussed ways to improve access to new diabetes technology and medications, support prevention, delay onset, and better manage diabetes. The report made 23 recommendations to Government which relate to policy areas such as food labelling, unhealthy food marketing, and reforms to the health system.

The Federal Government allocated $20 million to six digital health and research companies through the ANDHealth+ program, funded by the Medical Research Future Fund’s Medical Research Commercialisation Initiative. Each company will receive $3.75 million, alongside hands-on support from leading experts, to expedite the commercialisation of their innovative health technologies and solutions.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney announced the expansion of treatment options under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for individuals with various health conditions. Newly listed medications include: Olaparib for HER2-negative breast cancer, daunorubicin and cytarabine for acute myeloid leukaemia, anifrolumab for systemic lupus erythematosus, and melatonin for insomnia associated with Smith-Magenis syndrome.

 

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