Weekly Wrap Up
7 October 2022
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- The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lifted the cash rate for the sixth consecutive month, increasing it by 25 basis points to 2.60 per cent.
- The RBA also released its bi-annual Financial Stability Review, finding that “tighter” financial conditions have led to increased financial stability risks.
- Together with Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, Treasurer Jim Chalmers indicated the Government will amend telecommunications regulations to increase security for consumers following the Optus data breach.
- The Federal Government confirmed it is planning repatriation for Australian women and children in Syrian detention camps.
- This afternoon, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese delivered an address to an event hosted by the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue where he indicated his support to move SBS to western Sydney.
- The Productivity Commission published its review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. The Commission found that Australia has a housing affordability problem and suggested that governments should redirect support for first home buyers to those facing homelessness.
- The Federal Government announced Dr Kerry Schott AO will lead an independent review into the Inland Rail project.
- Defence Minister Richard Marles declared that the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the national response to COVID-19 has concluded, marking the official end of Operation COVID-19 ASSIST.
- A new Parliamentary Committee was established to examine the Government’s proposed National Anti-Corruption Commission bill. It will be chaired by Labor Senator Linda White, with Independent MP Helen Haines as Deputy Chair.
- Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek released the Government’s Threatened Species Action Plan, which pledges to reserve 30 per cent of land for conservation.
- The criminal trial involving former Liberal staffers Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann commenced in the ACT Supreme Court.
- In Queensland, an independent review into Star Entertainment found the company not suitable to hold a casino license in the state.
- In NSW, Liberal Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones announced she will move from the Legislative Council to contest pre-selection for Rob Stokes’ Legislative Assembly seat of Pittwater, following Minister Stokes retirement from politics.
Ongoing debate over proposed stage three tax cuts
This week, the Albanese Government has faced questions about whether it will proceed with the scheduled stage three tax cuts in light of ongoing warnings from Treasurer Chalmers over “difficult” conditions surrounding this month’s Budget. The scheduled tax cuts are the third in a series of cuts designed to be phased in by the former Coalition Government, these cuts were committed to by the Labor Party while it was in Opposition. If the Government proceeds with the stage three cuts, the threshold for the top tax bracket will be raised from $180,001 to $200,002 and the current 37 per cent tax bracket will be abolished.
The Treasurer has indicated that the upcoming Budget will reflect current economic conditions and will not be adjusted for “political reasons”, but has continued to reinforce that the Government’s policy on the tax cuts “hasn’t changed”. Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher has told media that the Government has not changed its position on the cuts “yet” and is still in the process of finalising this year’s Budget. When asked about the tax cuts yesterday, the Treasurer emphasised that the Budget “will put a premium on responsible economic management”, but did not rule out either maintaining or abandoning the tax cuts.
Media reports from this morning have indicated that the Government will confirm its position on the tax cuts ahead of the Treasurer’s departure on Tuesday for a G20 meeting with finance ministers in Washington.
This afternoon, Treasurer Chalmers delivered a speech to an investment forum in Brisbane where he discussed the country’s economic outlook and upcoming Budget further. The Treasurer was again asked about plans to change the Government’s commitment to stage three tax cuts and stated he has “been clear” on the Government’s position throughout the week, emphasising that this position has not changed. Mr Chalmers also detailed[PDF] that spending on hospitals, aged care, defence and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as interest on government debt, will be the largest costs facing the Federal Government over the next four years.
International relations update
Yesterday, Prime Minister Albanese met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Canberra. The two leaders discussed matters including economic cooperation and action on climate change. Prime Minister Albanese also indicated that Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election. It comes after Mr Sogavare initially labelled Australia’s offer for assistance as an “inappropriate” example of foreign interference.
In other news on international relations, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong has indicated that Australia strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile test over Japanese territory this week. Minister Wong labelled the test launch “reckless and unacceptable” and reinforced Australia’s commitment to work with Japan, the US and the Republic of Korea to “address” threats from North Korea.
The NSW, QLD, ACT and NT Parliaments are sitting next week. The Legislative Council will sit in WA.
The Council of Financial Regulators published[PDF] its advice on a potential policy response to de-banking, including four key policy measures for the government to consider. Measures relate to data collection, transparency, funding, and Government expectations of the major banks.
The Federal Government announced consultation on Australia introducing the OECD two-pillar agreement on corporate tax, which relates to efforts to stop transfer pricing, as well as a global minimum corporate tax rate. Consultation closes 1 November.
The Parliamentary Budget Office released the National fiscal outlook, which examines the budget positions of all eight states and territories as well as the Commonwealth Government.
The Regional Banking Taskforce published its final report, making seven recommendations to Government on how to improve banking services in regional Australia.
The Australian Law Reform Commission tabled its latest report into financial services legislation, with a series of recommendations on how to simplify and improve the existing legislative framework for financial services and corporations.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
At the 2022 Energy Efficiency Summit on Thursday, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Jenny McAllister announced the Albanese Government’s forthcoming National Energy Performance Strategy.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency committed $13.7 million in funding for Fortescue Future Industries Pty Ltd to help support the decarbonisation of Incitec Pivot Limited’s existing Gibson Island ammonia plant. The plant will be decarbonised through the use of renewable hydrogen.
In Far North Queensland, the Green Power Hub in Kaban was officially connected to Queensland’s new SuperGrid. The wind farm project forms part of the Queensland Government’s Energy and Jobs Plan announced last week.
Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio confirmed six new solar farms and four big batteries have been approved as part of Victoria’s second renewables auction. Together, the projects will generate nearly 1,460 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of new renewable energy per year, the equivalent of powering 300,000 homes.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Kristy McBain, announced $50.3 million in funding for 23 projects under the Bridges Renewal Program. Funding will be distributed across state, territory and local governments for projects that enhance bridge access and improve freight transport.
The NSW Government declared the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 meters as Critical State Significant Infrastructure. This will expedite the timeline for NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts’ final decision on the project.
Also in Victoria, the Government committed $200 million for new and upgraded train stations in the western suburbs. Funding has been committed to a new train station at Tarneit West, the next stage of planning of a Truganina station, and an upgrade of the Albion station.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler released a new clinical practice guideline for ADHD. The evidence-based guideline provides a summary of scientific evidence and advice on the identification, diagnosis, support and treatment options for ADHD, including options with and without the use of medication.
The Victorian Government announced it will construct a medical precinct in the newly created suburb of Arden and split the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Royal Women’s Hospital in Parkville in two as part of a significant expansion. The project is expected to be delivered in multiple stages over a 12-year period.
Also in Victoria, the Government matched a commitment made by the Victorian Opposition to fund a new hospital in West Gippsland if it wins the November election.