Weekly Wrap Up
6 October 2023
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- At Michele Bullock’s first board meeting as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Board decided to keep the cash rate unchanged at 4.1 per cent.
- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published its second interim report for its inquiry into childcare services, outlining issues of affordability and accessibility within the sector.
- The Federal Government released the effigy of King Charles III that will appear on $1 coins for distribution in 2024.
- The Jobs and Skills Report 2023 was released, which revealed 36 per cent of occupations are in shortage, reflecting a 5 per cent increase from the previous year. The report identified that the most common shortages exist in the Technicians and Trade Workers category.
- Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer announced she will resign from parliament after Premier Jeremy Rockliff requested she make a decision following a series of bullying allegations against her.
- Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan confirmed changes to the Victorian Cabinet, including the appointment of Danny Pearson as the new Minister for Transport Infrastructure and the Suburban Rail Loop.
Changes to Australia’s migration system
On Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles released the review into the exploitation of Australia’s visa system, together with the Government’s response[PDF]. The review was undertaken by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Christine Nixon earlier this year, which found “grotesque abuses” of the migration system, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and organised crime against temporary migrant workers and international students. It also made 34 recommendations, 24 of which the Government agreed, agreed in-part, or agreed in-principle to.
Minister O’Neil announced several reform measures to target issues of exploitation and processing delays caused by non-genuine visa protection applications. Significantly, the Government will increase compliance activities for visa applicants through a new strike force division in the Department of Home Affairs; expand the remit of and make Operational Inglenook permanent, which investigates criminal wrongdoing in the immigration system; and double resourcing for the Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority. The Government also committed $160 million to remodel the protection visa system, which will fund real-time priority application processing; increase judges in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Circuit and Family Court to support caseloads relating to misconduct; and provide more legal assistance services to support applicants.
Voice to Parliament campaigns continue
With eight days until the Voice to Parliament referendum, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigners have increased engagement across the country after early voting commenced this week. ‘No’ spokespeople Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton travelled to Perth and Adelaide this week, where Senator Price made an address in Perth stating, “this vote is ‘no’ to division but ‘yes’ to bringing back our beautiful Australian values”. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed he is “heartened by the campaign and the engagement” and will do “whatever I can” until the polling day.
Queensland, WA, and NSW Parliaments sit next week.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Assistant Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones released draft legislation regarding changes to superannuation tax concessions. Under the proposed legislation, individuals with superannuation balances exceeding $3 million will pay a higher concessional tax rate of 30 per cent from FY2025-26 compared to the current rate of 15 per cent. The consultation period for the draft legislation closes 18 October.
Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Jim Chalmers appointed Mary Reemst to the Future Fund Board of Guardians for a five-year term and announced new reporting requirements for the Board to increase transparency and accountability. Under the new disclosure rules, the Board must regularly publish its investment holdings, including the amounts of cash held in financial institutions, the amount and value of shares in public companies, and the value of investments in properties and infrastructure.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission published an information package regarding the Financial Accountability Regime (FAR). The package aims to support the financial services industry ahead of the FAR taking effect on 15 March 2024 for banks and 15 March 2025 for superannuation and insurance companies, respectively.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk delivered a State of the State Address 2023 on Wednesday in which she heralded Queensland’s economy as ‘the strongest in the nation’. While acknowledging the cost of living challenges in the state, Ms Palaszczuk pointed to higher jobs numbers and stronger private sector as good economic signs for Queensland.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced the appointment of Australian Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls-General. Minister Wong announced the appointments to Australia’s posts in Bali, China, Colombia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Russia, and Sweden.
Minister for Defence Richard Marles hosted the Papua New Guinea Defence Minister the Hon Win Bakri Daki MP for the Australia-Papua New Guinea Defence Ministers’ Meeting to discuss the defence partnership between the two nations. The meeting covered topics such as the Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s integration in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023, and humanitarian support to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
Foreign Affairs Minister Wong announced that Australia would rejoin the Green Climate Fund, reversing the former Coalition Government’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations initiative. Minister Wong said that Australia would announce a contribution by the end of the year.
The UK Government awarded a contract to BAE Systems to build attack submarines as part of Australia’s AUKUS nuclear submarine program. BAE Systems will commence design work and start manufacturing at the end of the decade, with the first vessel expected to be delivered to Australia in the late 2030s.
ENVIRONMENT, RESOURCES AND ENERGY
Minister for Resources Madeleine King released a discussion paper on Australia’s Future Gas Strategy. Industry groups, businesses, trade partners, and other interested stakeholders have been invited to make a submission into the future of gas in Australia’s long-term energy mix. Consultations close on 13 November.
Minister King announced the signing of a Bilateral Agreement between Australia and France to cooperate more closely on critical mineral supply chains. Under the agreement, Australia and France will conduct a joint study focusing on the needs of both countries to obtain critical minerals related to the manufacture of batteries, clean energy technologies, high-tech medical equipment, and defence hardware.
Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek announced that a further $6.4 million will be invested into three new water quality projects aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef. A partnership between the Federal and Queensland Governments, the three new projects are aimed at reducing sediment entering the Reef’s ecosystem while also strengthening the reef’s resilience to climate change and natural disasters.
Western Australian Premier Roger Cook announced that a WA Energy Transition Summit will be held in November and will focus on the state’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Government officials, unions, industry groups, and other stakeholders are expected to participate in the summit to discuss various topics, such as energy infrastructure jobs, regulations, financing, and the role of different sources in the state’s energy mix.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Government released a discussion paper on establishing a Carriage Service Provider (CSP) registration or licensing scheme for the telecommunications industry. The paper proposes to arrange a CSP to increase visibility and transparency and seeks feedback on potential objectives of the scheme. Consultation on the paper closes on 30 November.
Victorian Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Melissa Horne introduced the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 to Parliament, continuing the Government’s gambling reforms. The Bill proposes to mandate gaming machine area closures in all venues excluding casinos between 4am and 10am every day and would expand the Minister’s ability to ban betting on activities outside of Victoria that are not in the public interest.
The NSW Government released its Towards Net Zero Emissions Policy for heavy road and rail freight, which aims to support the industry through the clean energy transition. The first phase of the policy will involve a two-year trial giving extra mass zero emissions heavy vehicles access to the road network.
Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells confirmed the implementation of a new mandate from this week that aged care homes must deliver a sector average of 200 care minutes per resident per day, including 40 minutes of registered nurse care. The policy was recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. From 1 October 2024, mandatory care minutes will increase to an average of 215 minutes of care.
The Victorian Government released the new Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2023-27, which outlines the Government’s roadmap to improve health and wellbeing across 10 priority areas over the next four years. The plan builds on efforts from the previous plan in efforts to reduce ill-health and promote health equity across the state.
Queensland Minister for Health, Mental Health, and Ambulance Services Shannon Fentiman announced an additional independent Commission of Inquiry into DNA testing in Queensland. The Inquiry will continue to investigate concerns which stem from the 2022 Commission of Inquiry on the same issue. The final report will be handed down on 17 November.
New South Wales Health hosted the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Conference in Sydney for 700 healthcare workers as access to voluntary assisted dying becomes available in the state on 28 November 2023 under the NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2022.