Weekly Wrap Up
5 May 2023
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- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) increased the cash rate from 3.6 to 3.85 per cent.
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with King Charles III in London, ahead of attending His Majesty’s coronation tomorrow.
- The Prime Minister also confirmed 31 May as the date of entry into force of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement.
- The Federal Government announced that from July 2026, employers will be required to pay employees their super at the time of each pay cycle instead of once each quarter.
- Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus confirmed that the Government will reinstate the role of a standalone Privacy Commissioner.
- This morning, the Federal Government announced that it will introduce legislation to establish a national Net Zero Authority to oversee Australia’s transition to renewable energy.
- Also on energy matters, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen confirmed that the Snowy 2.0 renewable energy project may be delayed by up to two years beyond its original December 2027 target.
- The Federal Government committed $1.48 million toward an education campaign for the upcoming referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
- In the NT, Chief Minister Natasha Fyles declared that fracking will now be permitted in the Beetaloo Basin after releasing the final implementation report from an inquiry into hydraulic fracturing. Ms Fyles indicated that all applications made for gas production in the Basin will be subject to a “rigorous” approval and monitoring process.
- The NSW Liberal-National Coalition Opposition appointed[PDF] the first tranche of its shadow ministry. Timing for the next tranche of appointments has not been confirmed.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers will deliver the Albanese Government’s second budget on Tuesday, and ahead of its release a number of pre-Budget announcements have been made. Significantly, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King confirmed that the Government will launch an independent review into the existing 10-year infrastructure pipeline, which includes $120 billion of project commitments. Aged care will also be a focus of the Budget, with the Government committing to a 15 per cent pay increase for aged care workers across the country. In addition, the Budget will incorporate a tax incentive for small businesses that transition to renewable energy, with a 20 per cent deduction available on spending focused on electrification and efficient energy use.
On the matter of housing, the Budget will allocate an additional $2 billion toward social and affordable housing by increasing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s liability cap to $7.5 billion from July. Minister for Housing Julie Collins also announced an expansion to the First Home Guarantee, Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee and Family Home Guarantee to facilitate home ownership. The Minister also previously confirmed an extension of the deadline for supporting documentation for Homebuilder applications.
Health Minister’s address to the National Press Club
On Tuesday, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler delivered a speech to the National Press Club where he focused on a number of areas for health reform including Medicare, digital health, vaping and smoking.
Minister Butler spoke of the history of Medicare and outlined three priorities for strengthening the scheme: digital health, a partial transition to patient-centred funding in primary care, and an expanded role for nurses, midwives and pharmacists in primary care. He indicated that next week’s Budget will allocate $950 million to digital health, covering an upgrade to My Health Record and establishment of the existing Australian Digital Health Agency as an ongoing entity.
The matter of vaping was referred to as another area of “urgent reform”. Highlighting the prevalence of vaping within the cohort of young Australians, teenagers and children, Minister Butler indicated that the import of vapes for sale in retail settings will be banned and vapes will only be available in plain flavours and accessible with a pharmaceutical prescription. To facilitate this, restrictions on prescribing vapes will be removed. The Minister confirmed that he will also accept advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to prohibit single-use disposable vapes. In addition to vaping reform, the tax on tobacco will increase by 5 per cent each year for three years from September. Minister Butler outlined that these changes will be coordinated across the State and Territory governments.
Federal Government’s housing package
With Federal Parliament resuming on Tuesday following a six-week break, the Albanese Government has been continuing negotiations with the crossbench regarding support for its package of housing legislation, which will establish the Housing Australia Future Fund. Yesterday, the Government secured the support of the two Jacqui Lambie Network Senators in exchange for amending the legislation to provide for a minimum of 1,200 dwellings in each jurisdiction over the first five years of the Fund.
The Greens, whose vote is necessary for the passage of the legislation through the Senate, are yet to confirm their support and have suggested[PDF] that the promised 1,200 homes for each state and territory over five years will not be adequate to meet the Government’s target of 30,000 social and affordable homes. The Greens have reiterated their calls for a national rent freeze but indicated that they are “willing to negotiate”.
Federal Parliament is sitting next week and the Budget will be handed down on Tuesday. Parliament will also resume in the ACT, WA and the NT, and the WA and NT Budgets will be delivered. Elsewhere, the House of Assembly will sit in Tasmania and the Queensland Parliament will meet in Cairns for a regional sitting.
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) issued an infringement notice to Future Super for alleged greenwashing. ASIC has stated that the Fund posted a Facebook ad which may have overstated the positive environmental impact of the Fund.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a draft decision rejecting NBN Co’s Special Access Undertaking (SAU) variation – the second time the ACCC has done so. As the ACCC can only accept or reject the variation request, NBN Co will now have to resubmit its request with variations.
The RBA published its latest quarterly Statement on Monetary Policy, outlining the bank’s assessment of current economic conditions and forecasts for inflation and economic growth in Australia. Notably, Australia’s Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow 1.75 per cent over the year to June 2023 – 0.5 per cent lower than the previous forecast.
Tasmania was named Australia’s best performing economy in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s latest State of the States report. The report noted Tasmania’s strong job market and new dwelling builds.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Ahead of next week’s budget, the Federal Government committed $400 million to establish a Continuation Bonus initiative for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, which will reward four years of service to the ADF with $50,000 bonus payments.
The Government awarded a $46 million contract for the production of up to 80 explosive ordnance disposal robots to Queensland company L3Harris Micreo. The robots will aim to support the safety of Australian sailors, soldiers and aviators by carrying cameras and sensors with an improved ability to find, examine and neutralise improvised explosive devices and explosive hazards.
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic released Australia’s first National Quantum Strategy, outlining methods to improve the country’s critical technology capabilities and economic competitiveness on a global scale. Minister Husic indicated that the Government intends to see quantum industries in Australia produce estimated revenue of $5.9 billion by 2045.
Australian and Singapore Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade joined the 13th Meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee in Canberra to reinforce their bilateral partnerships and commitment to the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting promoted continued joint efforts in relation to trade and investment agreements, national security, science, and climate action, amongst other focus areas.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Resources Madeleine King welcomed a commitment from US-based company Albemarle Corporation to build two additional processing trains at its lithium hydroxide plant in Kemerton, WA. The Minister noted that Albemarle Corporation’s investment in downstream processing of lithium in Australia will mark the largest investment from any company and will see Albemarle become largest producer of lithium in Australia.
The Australian Energy Regulator published its final decision on its Review of incentive schemes for network service providers, finding that incentive schemes provide overall benefit to energy consumers.
AEMO Services, the Consumer Trustee in NSW, awarded Long-Term Energy Service Agreements to two solar farm projects, one wind farm project and one battery storage project as part of its first competitive tender for renewable energy generation in NSW. These projects represent $2.5 billion in investment.
The WA and Federal governments jointly committed $11.25 million to fund three new food organic and garden organic waste facilities in WA. Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council will receive $2 million to build a new FOGO processing plant at the Red Hill Waste Management Facility, while C-Wise Holdings Pty Ltd has been allocated $5.75 million to build a new organic carbon recycling facility in East Keralup and Go Organics will expand the existing facility at Boonanarring with the assistance of $3.5 million in funding.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government matched the Tasmanian Government’s $65 million funding commitment for a planned redevelopment of the UTAS Stadium in Launceston. This additional funding will enable completion of stages 1 and 2 of the project, with stage 1 expected to be finished by early 2025.
The Queensland Government awarded the $48.5 million construction tender for the Moranbah Hospital to Hutchinson Builders. Construction of the hospital is expected to be completed in the first half of 2025.
The NSW Government established the Bus Industry Taskforce to investigate potential improvements to the State’s bus network. Chaired by the former CEO of State Transit Authority, John Lee, the Taskforce will produce its initial findings on 10 July, with an interim report due on 10 October and a final report and recommendations to be delivered by 1 May 2024.
The TGA reduced the maximum size of paracetamol packets permitted for sale. Packets containing 16 tablets or capsules will be available in supermarkets and general stores, while packets containing 50 tablets or capsules will be available in pharmacies.
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy distributed $15.45 million in funding across successful applicants of Round 1 of the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme – Closing the Gap – Major Capital Works program. Significantly, Mamu Health Service Limited in Innisfail, Queensland, has been awarded $4.75 million to construct a new primary care clinic and expand capacity to deliver GP clinics, consultation and waiting rooms and staff spaces.
Minister for Health and Aged Mark Butler outlined that the upcoming 2023–24 Budget will include an additional $19.7 million for expanded access to HIV testing, treatment and information, including $5 million for treatment and care services for First Nations Australians.
Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath unveiled HEALTHQ32 – the State Government’s 10-year vision for the future of healthcare in Queensland. Many of the measures outlined in the vision focus on shifting the health system’s focus from treating illness to maintaining wellness.