Weekly Wrap Up
3 December 2021
- The Federal Government announced a pause to international borders reopening due to the Omicron strain of COVID-19. Australian borders will remain closed to international travellers until 15 December.
- The ABS released the economic activity statistics for the September quarter, showing that Australia’s Gross Domestic Product fell by 1.9 per cent.
- The Parliamentary Budget Office published its annual National fiscal outlook, which examines the position of Commonwealth, State and Territory budgets.
- The Attorney-General’s Department released the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2021 exposure draft for public consultation.
- The Victorian Parliament passed its Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021, 20 votes to 18, with the new pandemic laws to come into effect from 16 December.
- The Queensland Parliament passed its Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Arrangements Bill 2021 which will establish an independent Organising Committee for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Parliament Finished for 2021
Federal Parliament returned for its final sitting week of the year where once again the Coalition’s legislative agenda was subject to further disruptions. The Government’s controversial religious discrimination legislation has faced further delay over concerns that some Liberal MPs might not support the passage of the bill. The legislation has since been referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 4 February 2022.
Similarly, the Government pulled back on its ambitions to pass its Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021 prior to next year’s election following Senator Jacqui Lambie publicly announcing she would not support the legislation. Senator Lambie joins the ranks of Labor, the Greens and Independent Senator Rex Patrick who also oppose the Bill, making it a significant hurdle for the Coalition.
Federal Parliament did however unanimously pass the Autonomous Sanctions Amendment (Magnitsky-style and Other Thematic Sanctions) Bill 2021 in an Australian first. The legislation will allow the government to sanction individuals and foreign countries who commit human rights abuses and follows the United States, United Kingdom and European Union who already have similar legislation in place.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the release of the highly anticipated Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces[PDF] report. The report includes 28 recommendations and highlights the need for a new code of conduct for MPs and their staff to be enforced by an Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission. In its findings, the report reveals that one third of people working in commonwealth parliamentary workplaces have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Following the release of the report, fresh allegations of ministerial misconduct with regard to a previous staffer were raised against Liberal MP and Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge. The Prime Minister has since told Parliament he has asked Mr Tudge to step down while an independent review sets out to investigate the allegations. Employment Minister Stuart Robert will assume Mr Tudge’s ministerial responsibilities in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced he will not contest next year’s election. In his valedictory speech to parliament this week, Mr Hunt cited the desire to spend more time with his wife and children as the reason behind his decision to retire after 20 years in politics. Similarly, embattled Liberal MP Christian Porter announced he would also resign from politics after deciding not to recontest the federal seat of Pearce next year.
The Government released its proposed 2022 Sitting Calendar which will see Federal Parliament resume on 8 February 2022, with the next Federal Budget set for 29 March.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the Financial Regulator Assessment Authority (FRAA) has commenced its first review into the effectiveness of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) finalised its prudential guidance to APRA-regulated entities on how best to manage the financial risks caused by climate change.
APRA also released its new bank capital framework that has been developed over the last four years and aims to strengthen the domestic banking sector against future financial crises.
Ms Liza Carver has been appointed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for a five year term commencing on 1 March 2022.
RESOURCES AND ENERGY
The Federal Government launched its new Corporate Emissions Reduction Transparency report that tracks companies’ performance against their voluntary emissions reduction targets.
A new voluntary Code of Conduct for gas suppliers and users has been finalised to help ensure that the market is operating fairly. The Code will commence on 1 June 2022.
The Australian Government released the National Gas Infrastructure Plan[PDF] which sets out a long-term development pathway to 2040 locking in supply for households and manufacturers.
The June 2021 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory revealed Australia’s emissions have fallen 2.1 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year.
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales Paul Toole announced the establishment of Australia’s first Critical Minerals Hub near Dubbo and launched NSW’s Critical Minerals and High-Tech Metals Strategy.
The South Australian Government has committed another $11.5 million to extend its Accelerated Discovery Initiative until 2025. The program co-finances mineral exploration activities with a focus on supporting innovative technologies, collaboration and new exploration concepts.
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND WATER
The Federal Government extended the Tourism Aviation Network Support initiative until 28 February 2022, providing discounted airfares to select regions across Australia.
The Federal and NSW Governments awarded $40 million in grants to five water infrastructure projects under the National Water Grid Connections Funding Pathway.
The Victorian and Federal Governments appointed Laing O’Rourke as the construction partner for the Bridge Inn Road Upgrade.
Western Sydney Airport is calling for expressions of interest for a development partner on the first stage of its on-airport business precinct. Expressions of interest will close on 25 January 2022.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the Federal Government would invest over $37 million in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnostic services, and launch a new national awareness campaign about the condition.
Minister Hunt also announced $56 million in funding to improve the quality of end-of-life and palliative care, with $37 million to be distributed to Primary Health Networks to expand the Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care program.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) released the 5th edition of The White Book, which provides guidelines to help practitioners identify and respond to patients impacted by domestic and family violence.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission handed down Volume 1 of its review into Ambulance Victoria, finding evidence of widespread discrimination, bullying and harassment.
The NSW Government announced an additional $500 million in funding for health infrastructure and health services in regional NSW, with funding to be split across a number of projects.
NT Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing Kate Worden announced $15 million to assist existing services support victims of domestic and family violence.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith released the 20-year masterplan for Canberra Hospital, outlining how it will evolve to meet future community needs.
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